Fostering the neuroscientists of tomorrow

This April, high school students from across the city will compete in the annual Edmonton Brain Bee - a neuroscience trivia competition. Hear from last year's winner about her experience.

04 January 2019

Qin Tong Wu, a Grade 10 student from Old Scona emerged victorious at the Edmonton-based event. Sponsored by the Neuroscience and Mental Health Institute, she won a paid summer internship with the Sipione Lab. Qin also went on to win second place at the National competition held in Hamilton, Ontario which landed her $1000.The Brain Bee sees high school students competing to answer questions on neuroscience drawn from Neuroscience: Science of the Brain an e-textbook containing information going well beyond what is taught in the high school curriculum.

While the competition is tough, the opportunity provided to the winner is invaluable. Qin shared that she enjoyed the chance to meet people who are following a career that she one day hopes to pursue. "I really liked talking to everyone in the lab. The work we were doing was very interesting, but I also enjoyed learning from the variety of students. People had come from all over and had different end goals, but they were all very willing to show me what they were working on and why it was important."

Qin conducted research in Dr. Simonetta Sipione's lab. Sipione and her team are investigating Huntington's disease - a hereditary disorder that causes the progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain which eventually affects all areas of function (movement, speech, cognition, and mental wellness). During the internship Qin was able to contribute to the team's daily duties such as restocking supplies, as well as conduct basic experiments, such as preparing cell cultures. Overall she was able to gain a better understanding on what it is like to work in a research lab.

As one of the youngest Brain Bee competitors, Qin shared that her experience went beyond an opportunity to learn about science. "The competition forced me to practice self-studying. In junior high your homework is always laid out for you, but as you go into high school, and definitely in university, the expectations are higher." She also appreciated all the first hand insight and advice on applying to university, course loads, and post-secondary life in general.

Qin, now in Grade 11, still has time before she begins to fill out university applications; however her time in the Sipione lab left her feeling certain that she is meant to pursue a career in neuroscience, and the University of Alberta is her top choice of where to study.

The Neuroscience and Mental Health Institute is hosting the next Brain Bee on Thursday, April 4.

Do you know a high school student who is interested in neuroscience? Encourage them to take part in the Edmonton Brain Bee. Check out the details and register by visiting the Brain Bee event page.