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Ananya Kumar of Hopkinton wins Central Massachusetts Brain Bee

UMass Chan Medical School hosts 16th annual competition for high school students

Hopkinton High School student Ananya Kumar was the winner of the 16th Annual Central Massachusetts Brain Bee, hosted virtually by UMass Chan Medical School on Saturday, Feb. 5. Created to encourage high school students to learn more about the neurosciences, the annual Brain Bee competition is sponsored by the Departments of Neurobiology and Psychiatry and the NeuroNexus Institute at UMass Chan.

Pictured during the 2022 Central Massachusetts Brain Bee are (clockwise from top left) David Weaver, PhD; Michael Sheridan with a potential future Brain Bee contestant; Sheldon Benjamin, MD; winner Ananya Kumar; and runner-up Sanjana Pulaparthi.

The runner-up was Sanjana Pulaparthi of Westborough High School. Rounding out the top five finishers in the field of 19 competitors were Lakshita Dutta and Robert “Bobby” Hammer of Grafton High School, and Keira Mooney of Worcester Academy. Other schools represented were Acton-Boxborough Regional High School, The Bromfield School in Harvard, Leicester High School, Saint John’s High School in Shrewsbury, St. Mark’s School in Southborough, Shrewsbury High School and Westford Academy.

The Brain Bee is a nationwide program created to foster high school student interest in neuroscience, including careers in medicine or research. Central Massachusetts high school students competed for the opportunity to represent the region in the U.S. National Brain Bee, which will be held remotely on April 9. The winner at the national event will represent the United States at the 2022 International Brain Bee to be held in Paris, France, in July.

In addition to recognition for excellence and the opportunity to compete at the U.S. National Brain Bee, the Central Massachusetts Brain Bee winner receives the Andrew Sheridan Young Neuroscientist Award. This award was established by Michael and Shirley Sheridan in honor of their late son Andrew, who had a passion for neuroscience. The Sheridans have participated in every Central Massachusetts Brain Bee since its inception.

The competition comprised a written exam administered through an online testing application and Zoom. The questions included multiple choice and short answer questions on nervous system anatomy, function and diseases, and diagnosing several disorders of the nervous system from written descriptions.

Each Brain Bee features a lecture on a relevant development in neuroscience. This year’s participants heard Ika Noviawaty, MD, assistant professor of neurology and neurosurgery, deliver the keynote address “My brain is playing tricks on me.” Her talk about epilepsy prompted an animated question-and-answer period.

The Central Massachusetts Brain Bee was organized by Sheldon Benjamin, MD, professor of psychiatry, David Weaver, PhD, professor of neurobiology, and Jean Shelton, executive assistant to the chair of neurobiology. Seven Morningside Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences students served as exam proctors, and UMass Chan Information Technology assisted with setting up and administering the online exam and running the competition on Zoom.

Two local competitors were able to join in from considerable distances—one from Kansas and the other from California. These fell short of the distance record set in 2021, when a local student competed in the Central Massachusetts Brain Bee from the United Arab Emirates.