Mount Mansfield Union High School Student Wins 11th Annual Vermont Brain Bee
High school student “brainiacs” from across the state participated in the 11th annual Vermont Brain Bee (VBB) held Saturday, February 15, 2020, at the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont (UVM). The yearly event features several rounds of competition, as well as neuroscience exploration opportunities for high school students interested in how the brain functions.
The day’s competitive activities included a written quiz and practical quiz involving the identification of laboratory specimens, an initial oral bee round, and a final oral bee round. Neuroscience experts and UVM Larner College of Medicine faculty members Nicholas D’Alberto, Ph.D., assistant professor of neurological sciences, and Anthony Morielli, M.D., associate professor of pharmacology, served as judges for the event.
D’Alberto, a member of the VBB planning committee, said “I was very impressed with the breadth of knowledge these students have about neuroscience and their ability to understand such complicated topics.”
The 2020 first-place award recipient was Theresa Christiansen, a junior from Mount Mansfield Union (MMU) High School. Second-place honors went to Isabel Cohen, a senior from Champlain Valley Union (CVU) High School and third-place went to Trey Michael, a junior from South Burlington High School (SBHS). The three winners were among a total of 36 students from nine Vermont high schools. In addition to MMU, CVU and SBHS, students came from Essex High School (EHS), Mount Abraham Union High School (Mt. Abe), Middlebury Union High School (MUHS), Rice Memorial High School, Long Trail High School, and Saint Johnsbury Academy.
Top performing teams, of four students each,from the schools at the 2020 VBB were as follows: 1st place: CVU; 2nd place: SBHS; and 3rd place: Long Trail School. This was the first-ever Vermont Brain Bee competition for students from the Long Trail school in Dorset, Vt.
“It is a unique and innovative opportunity for our students that combines rigor with fun in a challenging yet progressive and encouraging way,” said Long Trail school adviser Natalie Coe. “I couldn’t believe that we got to see real human brains, and . . . what an incredible neuroanatomy lesson. That was so much more useful than just a textbook photo or drawing. We will be back next year!”
In addition to the competition portions of the event, attendees viewed neurological and psychiatric case presentations by UVM Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Howard Center child and adolescent psychiatrist Feyza Basoglu, M.D., and Stern Center for Language and Learning neuropsychologist Sharon Leach, Ph.D., that focused on substance use disorder, ADHD and anxiety; obsessive-compulsive disorder and Tourette’s; and ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) pseudobulbar affect.
The students also heard a lunch keynote presentation, titled “Translating thought into blood flow in the brain,” by UVM University Distinguished Professor and National Academy of Science member Mark Nelson, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Pharmacology and an internationally recognized researcher in the field of brain blood flow.
“Hearing about current research firsthand and seeing real specimens are two opportunities that are hard to come by in [high] school,” said Sophie Dauerman, a CVU senior and Neuroscience Club member who has participated in multiple Vermont Brain Bees.
Third-place winner Trey Michael, a junior at SBHS, said “Every year…the quality of the tests improves, and so do the presentations and case analyses. The Vermont Brain Bee has been one of the greatest scholarly inspirations of my life.”
2020 VBB winner Theresa Christiansen will attend the U.S. Brain Bee Championships in Rootstown, Ohio at Northeast Ohio Medical School. The event was originally scheduled to take place March 27-29, but now will be held in the spring of 2021 in conjunction with the 2021 National Brain Bee winners.