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UMass Medical School hosts high school Brain Bee on Saturday

GSBS students help Worcester Tech competitors ready for the race

  Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences students Devyn Oliver, left, and Monika Chitre

Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences students Devyn Oliver, left, and Monika Chitre 

The 13th annual Central Massachusetts Regional Brain Bee for area high school students will take place on Saturday, Feb. 9, at UMass Medical School.

Dozens of students will vie for the top position, the chance to compete in the national Brain Bee and ultimately in the international competition. This year’s class of competitors will include biotechnical students from Worcester Technical High School who have been working with Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences students through a series of special “shop talks” to reinforce what they are learning in class.

“We wanted to provide an opportunity for graduate students to share their excitement of neuroscience with local high school students and gain exposure to teaching,” said Devyn Oliver, a fifth-year PhD candidate at the GSBS.

“We also wanted more involvement from local students in the Brain Bee,” said Monika Chitre, also a fifth-year PhD candidate in the GSBS. “The shop talks and tutoring sessions have helped to create that opportunity.”

Oliver, a member of the Claire Bénard and Michael Francis labs, and Chitre, of the Patrick Emery Lab, have spearheaded the program and outreach to Worcester Tech.

Since early December, a small, dedicated team of Worcester Tech biotech students have been coming to the Worcester campus to spend a couple of hours each week combing through the Brain Facts book and honing their neuroscience knowledge. There they spend time with a rotating team of graduate students who review, prep and make learning brain facts interesting and fun in advance of the competition.

Co-sponsored by the Department of Psychiatry and the Neuro Nexus Institute, the annual Central Massachusetts Regional Brain Bee competition, which includes 78 students representing area high schools, requires participants to take a 25-question written test, identify 10 areas of the brain in three-dimensional models and diagnose neuropsychiatric disorders in five “patients” portrayed by actors. The 10 top-scoring students then participate in an oral round-robin to determine the winner.

Elinor Karlsson, PhD, assistant professor of molecular medicine, will deliver the keynote address “Citizen Science, Pet Dogs and the Complex Genetics of Behavior” about her research on canine genetics.

The Central Massachusetts Brain Bee is open to high school students from Hampden, Hampshire, Worcester, Franklin and Berkshire counties, as well as students who attend schools in the western half of Middlesex County. There is no cost to participate and no limit to the number of students who may attend from any given school.

The event begins at 1 p.m. with the written test; parents, friends and colleagues are welcome to attend the keynote presentation and oral competition beginning at 2:30 p.m.

Sheldon Benjamin, MD, interim chair and professor of psychiatry, will preside over the ceremonies, culminating at 4 p.m. with the presentation of the Andrew M. Sheridan Young Neuroscientist Award to the winner. The winner and a chaperone will also receive a 3-day trip to the U.S. National Brain Bee in Baltimore in March.

The Brain Bee is a nationwide program created by the Society for Neuroscience to bolster high school student interest in medical and laboratory neuroscience careers. To learn more, visit the Central Massachusetts Regional Brain Bee website.