Seeking Canada’s next top brain researcher Annual contest spawns new generation of scientists
Hamilton - High school students from across Canada will converge on McMaster University next week to compete for the right to be called the best brain in Canada.
The students, all winners of their regional competitions, will be tested on their knowledge of neuroscience and their skills at patient diagnosis and neuroanatomy. Topics cover memory, sleep, intelligence, emotion, perception, stress, aging, brain-imaging, neurology, neurotransmitters, genetics, and brain disease.
The competition begins May 29. Participants are winners of their regional Brain Bee competitions in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, London, Waterloo, Guelph, Hamilton, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Halifax, and St. John’s.
Judith Shedden, associate professor in McMaster’s Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour, started the McMaster Brain Bee eight years ago. Now chair of the CIHR Canadian National Brain Bee Committee, she says the purpose of the competition is to encourage a career in one of the great frontiers of scientific research.
It appears to be paying off. Many Brain Bee competitors and winners have gone on to careers in medicine and neuroscience, including Ayan Dey (Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour), Sanket Ullal (Biology), and Sean Amodeo (Health Sciences), all of whom are completing undergraduate degrees at McMaster.
“The Brain Bee laid the foundation,” says Ullal, who is starting his fourth year in Biology. “And it’s definitely given me an edge in research and school projects.”
Dey is starting his fourth year in the Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour program. “The Brain Bee was my first real exposure to the field of neuroscience and I’ve been hooked ever since.”
Amodeo, last year’s Brain Bee champion, is in his first year in Health Sciences. “I wanted to learn about one of the most rapidly growing areas of science. The Brain Bee got me interested in neuroscience and inspired me to pursue a career in brain research.”
The CIHR Canadian National Brain Bee is supported nationally by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).
“This championship allows the brightest students in Canada to gather and measure their knowledge about the brain, the most complex structure in the known universe,” says Anthony Phillips, scientific director at the CIHR Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction. “These talented students represent the future in this field.”
Winners receive trophies and scholarship awards of $1,500, $1,000, and $500. The first-place winner will represent Canada at the International Brain Bee on August 12-15, 2010, in San Diego.