University of Vermont

University Communications

Vermont's First Brain Bee Tests High Schoolers' "Neuro-Knowledge"

Release Date: 02-12-2010

Author: Jennifer Nachbur
Phone: 802/656-7875 Fax: 802-656-3961

A traumatic brain injury incurred 24 years ago piqued Middlebury, Vt., resident Lisa Bernardin's fascination with the brain. "I feel fortunate to be alive and functioning with my brain intact," says Bernardin, who initiated the concept of a Vermont Brain Bee after reading about the 2009 International Brain Bee winner in the Brain Injury Association of America's quarterly magazine The Challenge. She contacted the Vermont Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience outreach coordinator Rachael Hannah, a doctoral candidate in UVM's Neuroscience Graduate Program, and the event became a reality.

Thanks to Bernardin's and Hannah's efforts, as well as the support of UVM neuroscience faculty, graduate students, the Vermont Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience and several contributors, the University of Vermont hosted the First Annual Vermont Brain Bee on February 13. A total of 19 high school students from Champlain Valley Union, Middlebury, Mount Abraham, Harwood and Vermont Academy participated in the half-day-long competition at the College of Medicine's Medical Education Center. Following opening remarks, contestants took a written test, participated in brain anatomy tours, listened to a presentation on stem cell treatment for stroke and a panel discussion on working in the field of neuroscience, followed by the live competition and an awards presentation.

Middlebury High School senior Sarah Longchamp was the winner of the Vermont Brain Bee. She will participate in the National Brain Bee, which will be held in Baltimore, Md., on March 19 and 20 in conjunction with national Brain Awareness Week.

Currently, about 50 regional Brain Bee events take place in the United States each year, but according to Bernardin, none have been held in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. The winner of the U.S. Brain Bee is eligible to participate in the International Brain Bee.

In addition to Hannah, other UVM members of the Vermont Brain Bee organizing team include Diane Jaworski, Ph.D., associate professor of anatomy and neurobiology, and Holly Stradecki, research technician in anatomy and neurobiology. Supporters for the event include Chroma, Fisher Scientific, Med Associates Inc., Vermont BioSciences Alliance, Vermont Cancer Center, and the UVM Bookstore. For more information about local Brain Awareness Week activities scheduled for March 2010, visit VT Society for Neuroscience.