Search Close Search
Page Menu

2024 Brain Bee

Rebecca Ahn and her parents. Brain Bee Participants  Sheldon Benjamin with participants

Group Photo  Another Group Photo

The Bee Mascot David Weaver and Rebecca Ahn

Read The University's Story

Photos clockwise from top left. Rebecca Ahn and her parents (D.Weaver), The participants (D.Weaver), Sheldon Benjamin, MD with participants (D.Weaver),Group Photo of participants, (T. Le), Second group photo of participants (T.Le), the Brain Bee Mascot (T.Le), Rebecca Ahn and David Weaver (T. Le).

Another successful Brain Bee.  Here are the details. 

Natick resident Rebecca Ahn, won the competition held here on March 16, 2024.  She is now the recipient of the Andrew M. Sheridan “Young Neuroscientist Award.”

The award is named in memory of Andrew Sheridan, a graduate of St. Mark’s High School who was a neuroscience major at Hamilton College who shared his enthusiasm for the field with his parents before his untimely death in 2007.  Michael Sheridan, Andrew’s father, and a perennial Brain Bee volunteer joined David Weaver. M.D., and Sheldon Benjamin, M.D. in awarding the Andrew Sheridan Young Neuroscientist Award to Rebecca.

Rebecca, who attends the Stanford Online High School, will represent the Central Massachusetts Region at the 2024 USA National Brain Bee, taking place on April 19-21, 2024, at the University of Central Florida.  Her trip will be sponsored by the UMass Chan Medical School’s Departments of Neurobiology, Neurological Surgery, Neurology, Psychiatry, and Radiology as well as the NeuroNexus Institute.

High school students from Central Massachusetts first completed a written exam, testing their knowledge of the nervous system structure and development, brain areas, neurotransmitters, and nervous system diseases, among other topics, all based on a primer Brain Facts.

The top ten competitors then proceeded to the oral Brain Bee, where participants were eliminated upon giving 3 incorrect answers. Sixteen rounds of short-answer questions were required to eliminate all but Rebecca, the 2024 champion, who still had not missed a question.

The runner-up was Parnitha Karapakula of Shrewsbury High School and Varsha Alladi of Acton-Boxborough Regional School District placed third. Rounding out the top five were Nitya Vishwanath of Algonquin Regional High School and Shamini Biju of Shrewsbury High School.

Sheldon Benjamin, M.D., Professor and Vice Chair for Education in the Department of Psychiatry, served as the Master of Ceremonies.  David Weaver, Ph.D., Professor of Neurobiology, Director of the Graduate Program in Neuroscience, and Executive Director of the NeuroNexus Institute organized the event.

The Keynote Lecture was delivered by Anastasia Khvorova, Ph.D., Professor in the RNA Therapeutics Institute and the Remondi Family Chair in Biomedical Research, who gave an inspiring lecture entitled “RNA as a Drug to Treat Nervous System Diseases.”

The day’s events also included presentations from three current UMass Chan graduate students:

Wenjia Huang (Alexandra Byrne Lab, Department of Neurobiology; Interdisciplinary Graduate Program) presented “Towards Functional Repair of Injured Neurons.”

Megan Fowler-Magaw (Daryl Bosco Lab, Department of Neurology; Neuroscience Program) presented “Stressed Out Cells: How Protein Behavior During Cellular Stress Contributes to Neurodegeneration.”

 Sophia Liu (Phillip Tai/ Guangping Gao lab, Gene Therapy Center; Program in Neuroscience) presented “Gene Therapy for GM3 Synthase Deficiency.”

We are grateful to all the many volunteers who contributed to the event. These include Michael Sheridan, Sarita Thatipamula, Anoushka Lotun, Timmy Le, Mythili Subbanna, Krishna Anand, Melanie Barbini, Thuyvan Luu,  Hillary Nna , Kennedy O’Hara, Anboushka Lotun and Dave Weaver. 

The judges for the Oral Competition were Takeiya Lynch, M.D., Chief Resident in Psychiatry and Peter M’Angale, Ph.D., Instructor in Neurobiology.  The scorekeeper was Megan Fowler-Magaw.

 We are also extremely grateful for the skilled assistance of Evan DeLuca (IT/AV), Jose Dones (EBS) and Felicia Leriche (Police & Security) and the support of their supervisors.