TJ Freshman is Brain Bee National Champion
Wins Second Place for US
Soren Christensen, TJ ’18, a rising sophomore, just missed clinching the 2015 International Brain Bee (IBB) title by half a point when, in the fifth and final round (the live Q&A), he lost to the Australian national champion on her home turf. Soren brought home second place for the US, beating out over 20 other countries’ national champions. The 17th IBB took place from August 20th to 26th in conjunction with the International Society for Neurochemistry meeting in Cairns, Australia.
In order to qualify for the IBB, Soren had to win the TJ Brain Bee, the DC Regional Brain Bee — sponsored by the Society for Neuroscience — and finally the National Brain Bee.
The IBB, founded in 1999 by University of Maryland Neuroscience professor Dr. Norbert Myslinksi (pictured with Soren at the National championships) is the world-wide neuroscience competition for high school students. There are currently about 150 local Brain Bee coordinators in 30 countries that conduct annual competitions for approximately 30,000 student competitors.The Brain Bee covers brain development and function, including sensations, intelligence, emotions, movement, and consciousness; diseases and disorders of the brain — Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, schizophrenia, epilepsy, depression, and addictions — research techniques, and medical technology. The local competitions are based on Brain Facts, a publication downloadable from the Internet and available in 20 languages. The National Bee includes six sections given over two days: a written section; a laboratory practical with real human brains; a nervous system tissue-identification challenge using microscopic images; MRI brain image analysis; patient diagnosis, where actors simulate patients with various brain disorders; and an oral Q and A section. To prepare for the national and international competitions, Soren supplemented Brain Facts with another book, Neuroscience: The Science of the Brain, and various Internet sources.
Soren became interested in neuroscience while in middle school. “After reading about happiness and all of the different disorders that cause people to not be able to feel good, I couldn’t stop myself from learning more about the huge, growing variety of topics neuroscience has to offer,” Soren explained. As soon as he got to TJ, he joined the Neuroscience Society, an 8th period club that begins the year by having the students lecture each other on different neuroscience topics that will show up on the TJ Brain Bee. “After attending my first meeting, I was hooked. Although I was skeptical about actually winning, I really wanted to try my best and see how far I could go.”
At TJ, Soren also participates in Future Problem Solvers and is a co-founder and instructor of the Science Crew, an after-school science program for local elementary school students.
In addition to the right to represent the US at the IBB, Soren’s winnings from the National Brain Bee included $1,500 and a Society for Neuroscience-sponsored summer research fellowship with a distinguished neuroscientist. Soren worked this summer with Dr. Juan Saavedra in the Department of Pharmacology and Physiology at Georgetown University Medical Center.
As a national winner, Soren is disqualified from competing in the Brain Bee a second time, but he plans to continue pursuing his interest in the subject. He is already looking forward to the possibility of conducting his senior research project in TJ’s Neuroscience Lab. “There are so many cool animals, devices, and materials in there,” he said.