The Brain Bee is a neuroscience competition for teenagers that aims to motivate students to learn about the brain and inspire them to pursue careers in science.
More than two decades ago, Norbert Myslinski, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at the University of Maryland in Baltimore, wondered how he could better foster young students’ interest in the brain—and potentially encourage more young people to pursue careers in neuroscience. As they matriculated to university, he realized the vast majority of high school students got little, if any, education on the nervous system. After some brainstorming, Myslinski came up with the idea for a competition, much like the National Spelling Bee—but this event would focus solely on the brain.
“It really was [Myslinski’s] vision to have the Bee evolve into a truly international initiative—and it’s become that now,” says Astrid Eberhart, executive director of the International Brain Bee (IBB). “But, even from the very beginning, the mission was to encourage high school students to foster their interest in the brain and encourage them to continue their education and pursue a career in neuroscience.”
With that primary objective in place, it’s easy to wonder if the IBB is meeting its mission to cultivate the next generation of neuroscientists. After all, there may be many reasons why students aged 13-19 might decide to compete in such an event. Some may sign up for their local brain bee for extra credit in biology or to try something new and interesting with friends. Others may be thinking about finding a new activity to help jazz up their college applications. Yet, while there are no hard and fast statistics about how many IBB participants ultimately go into neuroscience, it’s clear that the IBB is helping competitors, at the very least, understand the possibilities of different careers in the sciences after taking part in the program. In fact, several of the IBB winners have gone on to pursue a variety of different careers with a neuroscientific bent. Here’s a look at five winners—and where they are now.