When Dana Peterson, Ph.D., an associate professor of anatomy and neurobiology, started working at NEOMED three years ago, she arrived with a fierce desire to encourage high school students who had an interest in neuroscience. A competition sounded like it could be a good start, but Dr. Peterson hoped to give students the chance to explore neuroscience more deeply than they would at a one-day event. So, Dr. Peterson started with the Brain Bee, founded by Dr. Norbert Myslinski in 1998, and customized it by offering high school students tutoring on the NEOMED campus.
Since starting with 12 local chapters in North America, Brain Bee has grown to stretch across 50 countries on six continents. The winner of each local competition has the chance to move onto the regional level. Each of those winners moves on to the international competition.
“I think the NEOMED Brain Bee is unique in the entire United States because we offer monthly tutoring sessions,” says Peterson. “It’s not just the competition; we are really trying to help high school students that are interested in neuroscience to learn about neuroanatomy and neuroscience.”
The NEOMED Brain Bee offers tutoring sessions once a month on Saturday mornings starting in August. For the first two hours, students review the official Brain Bee study guide. The last hour is devoted to a so-called wet lab, where the students are taught using actual human brains and spinal cords.
Brain Bee topics— including emotions, vision, hearing, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, schizophrenia, depression and addictions—overlap with topics explored in NEOMED’s five research focus areas.
While examining human organs isn’t part of regional competitions, it is part of the national competition. Perhaps that is why previous regional winners have driven from as far as Columbus to participate in the tutoring sessions! These sessions and wet labs have helped to distinguish NEOMED in the world of Brain Bee competitions.
“I think Brain Bee helps you meet other students of high school age that have the same kind of interests that you do,” says Dr. Peterson. “It helps build their self-confidence. You get the chance to master something that’s fairly academically challenging.”
Approximately 35 to 50 competitors will take on this academic challenge at NEOMED’s third annual Brain Bee competition, to be held on Saturday, Jan. 14. Everyone is encouraged to come and support the competitors during the oral competition, which starts at 1 p.m. in NEOMED’s Watanakunakorn Auditorium. For more information or to get involved in the Brain Bee, visit dental.umaryland.edu/brainbee.
-- Gabrielle Biltz is a senior at Bio-Med Science Academy and an intern in the NEOMED Office of Public Relations and Marketing.