University of Vermont

High Schoolers Flex Neuroscience Smarts at VT Brain Bee

Participants in the 2013 Brain Bee
Participants in the 2013 Brain Bee held at the UVM College of Medicine on February 9, 2013. (Photo by Jennifer Nachbur)

A group of 30 students representing eight high schools from across the state of Vermont participated in the fourth annual Vermont Brain Bee on Saturday, February 9, 2013 at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. Three students took top honors at the event, which included written, practical and oral examinations, as well as a keynote lecture and neuroscience student discussion panel.

Nora Enright, a sophomore from Otter Valley Union High School in Brandon, Vt., clinched first place, which includes funding to travel to and compete in the National Brain Bee in Baltimore, Md., March 2 to 4, 2013. Champlain Valley Union High School senior Gabriel Peck Frame qualified for second place, and John Mlcuch, a senior from Mount Abraham Union High School in Bristol, came in third place. All of the Brain Bee participants received a certificate at the conclusion of the event.

In addition to Otter Valley, CVU and Mount Abraham, this year’s Brain Bee also included participants from Rice Memorial High School in Burlington; Vergennes Union High School; Stowe High School; Middlebury Union High School; and Burlington Technical Center. Many of these schools have Brain Science or Neuroscience clubs that helped students prepare for the Bee all year-long.

Brain Bee participants completed a half-hour written test in the College’s Medical Education Center, a half-hour practical test that included several “wet” specimens and took place in the Pathology Lab, as well as preliminary and final Oral Bee Rounds. For the first time in the event’s four-year history, all of the participants – versus two-thirds to three-quarters as in years past – qualified for the Oral Bee Rounds.

During the lunch break, Brain Bee attendees listened to a keynote presentation by Alexandra Potter, Ph.D., UVM assistant professor of psychiatry and psychology, titled “Adolescents, Impulsivity and Brain Function.” Following the Oral Bee Rounds, students heard a panel of UVM neuroscience undergraduate and graduate students discuss their educational and research experiences, as well as future plans.

Rae Nishi, Ph.D., UVM professor of neurological sciences, director of the Neuroscience Graduate Program, and director of the Neuroscience, Behavior and Health (NBH) Initiative, and Mark Stefani, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at Middlebury College, developed the exam questions for the Brain Bee. Nishi and Eugene Delay, Ph.D., UVM associate professor of biology, served as judges of the Oral Bee Rounds. Additional Vermont Regional Brain Bee committee members include Lisa Bernardin, M.S., a traumatic brain injury survivor from Middlebury and Vermont Brain Bee coordinator; John Green, Ph.D., UVM associate professor of psychology; George Wellman, Ph.D., UVM associate professor of pharmacology and president, Vermont Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience; Sharon Leach, Ph.D., clinical neuropsychologist and licensed psychologist at the Stern Center for Language and Learning; and Hallie Davis-Penders, NBH Initiative assistant.

The 2013 Vermont Brain Bee was co-presented by the Vermont Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience and the Neuroscience, Behavior and Health Initiative at UVM. Learn more about the Vermont Brain Bee.