Community Faculty & Staff STEM

Record turnout for WashU's Brain Bee competition

A swarm of competitors from across the St. Louis region tested their brain power at Washington University’s 9th annual St. Louis Area Brain Bee, held Feb. 16 on the Danforth Campus.

This year’s neuroscience competition consisted of 58 students – making it the largest turnout ever. Twenty-nine high schools were represented in the competition.

The goal of the Brain Bee is to expose students to the study of the brain and engage with those who may be interested in pursuing neuroscience as a career. Participants first take a written multiple-choice test. The top 12 finalists then advance to the oral round. 

Persistence paid off for this year’s winner – Rincon Jagarlamudi, a 10th grader at Marquette High School in the Rockwood School District. He took home the grand prize, a year after coming in fourth place in the competition. He secured the win by knowing that approximately 1.5 million individuals in the United States are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The second-place finisher was Shelei Pan, a junior at Ladue Horton Watkins High School, who was also a repeat competitor.

Rincon Jagarlamudi, a 10th grader at Marquette High School in the Rockwood School District, winner of the 2019 St. Louis Area Brain Bee.

As the top finisher, Rincon was awarded a summer research fellowship at WashU, and an all-expenses paid trip to the National Brain Bee this April in Baltimore, Maryland. There he will vie for a chance to match wits on a worldwide stage at the International Brain Bee Championship in South Korea in September.

Heading into the national Brain Bee contest, Rincon will have a wonderful adviser at his side. Last year’s St. Louis champ, Akhil Kondepudi, has offered to mentor Rincon as he prepares for the national bee. Akhil won the national competition and then represented the United States at the World Brain Bee Championships in Berlin, Germany. 
The St. Louis competition is organized by neuroscientist Erik Herzog, a professor of biology in Arts & Sciences and the chair of the university’s Institute for School Partnership’s Faculty Fellows program. He was thrilled with the record turnout. He says it reflects the growing popularity of the competition and speaks to WashU’s efforts to build a solid foundation for the future of neuroscience.

“Some students have done this for the past couple of years and they’re here again,” he said.” That’s really encouraging for the future of neuroscience! The high level of intelligence, energy and enthusiasm of students at such a young age is inspiring.”

The exams were not the only events of the day. Students participated in a panel discussion with neuroscientists and took part in live physiology demonstrations, led by undergraduate students in Synapse, WashU’s neuroscientist club. Brain Bee student coordinators Siddhartha Rana and Ankit Choudhuryalso offered tutorials in advance of the competition. 

For more information, please visit the SLABB website.

February 19, 2019 | by, Myra Lopez