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School of Medicine Columbia

South Carolina high schools students compete in inaugural SC Brain Bee

UofSC School of Medicine Columbia hosts first South Carolina Brain Bee

The University of South Carolina School of Medicine Columbia hosted the inaugural South Carolina Brain Bee, a competition held to motivate and inspire high school students to become interested in learning more about the brain and to consider career-related fields such as neurology and psychology.

Sarah Tryon, a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Neuroscience, organized the event along with support from undergraduate students Gabriel Zimmerman and Amanda Manea, who serve as officers in the Undergraduate Neuroscience Club. A host of volunteers from across the UofSC campus also helped plan and coordinate the event.

“I became familiar with Brain Bee as an undergrad student on a Fulbright Grant in Germany,” says Tryon. “When I returned to the states, the German national coordinator asked if I could help with the national and international teams, so I helped conduct the Brain Bee in 2015. It stayed in the back of my mind to put one on here.”

The day-long virtual event tested students’ knowledge on a wide range of topics involving the brain, including neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, as well as neuroimaging techniques, neurotransmitters and neurophysiology.

Students took a written test, participated in a neuroanatomy practical and a patient diagnosis, with UofSC School of Medicine students and post-doctoral fellows playing the role of the patients.

Winners of the South Carolina Brain Bee are:

  • First Place: Devin Laye, Governor’s School for Sciences and Mathematics, Hartsville, South Carolina;
  • Second place: Hali Lujan-Gonzales, Kaiserslautern American High School, Department of Defense Educational Activity  
  • Third place: Charlotte Halford, Academic Magnet High School, Charleston, South Carolina

Laye represented South Carolina at the USA National Competition held in April at Northeast Ohio Medical University.Tryon feels it is important to continue the Brain Bee competition to expose more students to the neurosciences.

“The current science academic standards in South Carolina do not mention neuroscience even once in grades K-12,” Tryon says. “Our long-term goal is to motivate more students to pursue brain-related research or brain-related health care professions. Our state needs more bright students to pursue these fields as we grow an aging population and meet a critical need.”

Tryon received a grant for the Brain Bee as part of a Brain Awareness Week Grant from the Dana Foundation and sponsorship from the UofSC School of Medicine Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Neuroscience. Tryon hopes to invite more high schools to participate next year.

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