UBC hosted the 15th Annual Vancouver Brain Bee on Saturday, April 29th, where 22 local high schoolers participated in the regional competition at the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health (DMCBH). The neuroscience-themed written and oral challenges are designed to test the students’ knowledge on the brain and nervous system to stimulate interest and excitement about brain research.

The Brain Bee is held in over 35 countries around the world, with local, national and international competitions. In Vancouver, it is jointly hosted by the DMCBH, UBC Neuroscience Graduate Student Association, Life Science Institute Neuroscience Research Group, BC Chapter of SfN, NeuroDevNet, Canadian Institutes of Health Research and UBC Let’s Talk Science.

The event included an introductory lecture delivered by Dr. Mark Cembrowski, neuroscience research lab tours, an introduction to UBC’s Undergraduate Neuroscience Program by Dr. Steven Barnes, and a neuroanatomy lecture delivered by Dr. Claudia Krebs.

The top five winners of this year’s Brain Bee were: Arla Xiao, Crofton House Secondary School (1st place); Jennifer Zhang, Richmond Secondary School (2nd place); Solana Chen, Mulgrave Secondary School (3rd place); Victor Zhao, St. George’s Secondary School (4th place); and Leo Qi, Lord Byng Secondary School (5th place).

Arla Xiao found participating in the Brain Bee to be a “rollercoaster ride” of emotions, but what she enjoyed most was studying for the competition to delve further into her interests outside of her high school studies. She is fascinated specifically by neuropathology and embryology, but wants to broaden her interests and explore other subjects as well after receiving advice from UBC faculty member Dr. Jennifer Kong.

Another highlight of the Brain Bee for Arla was meeting Dr. Claudia Krebs after following her UBC neuroanatomy series online. She hopes to one day become a neuropathologist.

“In addition to the investigative nature of the job, I also really enjoy teaching, which, from what I could tell, is a large component of medicine.” says Arla.

Arla went on to compete in the CIHR Canadian National Brain Bee in Hamilton, Ontario on May 20th and placed third overall.

Top 3 winners of the CIHR Canadian National Brain Bee in Hamilton, Ontario featuring Vancouver representative Arla Xiao (3rd place) on right.

“Attending the national Brain Bee was nothing short of exciting! Aside from the competition itself, I was also very happy to engage with others who shared my passion for neuroscience.” says Arla.

Inspired by the Vancouver Brain Bee event, a new opportunity for high school students starting in the fall created by graduate students and post-doctoral fellows in UBC’s Graduate Program in Neuroscience is “UBC Neuroscience Circles.” This hybrid neuroscience lecture series aims to build a foundational understanding of neuroscience and its applications in research while fostering curiosity, creativity, and a sense of community. Stay tuned for more information in the near future.

Neuroscience research lab tour for high school students at the Vancouver Brain Bee at DMCBH.