Arts & Sciences

Like a spelling bee, but for neuroscience: WashU Brain Bee set for Feb. 16

From the WashU Institute for School Partnerships

Erik Herzog was starting to get concerned. He was deep into the oral portion of the 2018 St. Louis Area Brain Bee and the unthinkable was on the horizon: He was running out of questions.

“The contestants had never performed so well in the past,” said Herzog, professor of biology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis. “The competitors went to about 58 questions, and I had about 10 more left.”

Luckily, Akhil Kondepudi of Ladue Horton Watkins High School clinched the competition with the winning answer to the question: “Sonic hedgehog is important for the development of what part of the nervous system?” The answer was spinal cord, the judges also accepted cerebellum.

Herzog, Brain Bee organizer, moderator and chair of the university’s Institute for School Partnership’s Faculty Fellows Program, said the situation speaks to the exceptional skills of the participants. He’s continually impressed how the competitors seem to do better year after year. With that memory still fresh on his mind, he’s ready for this year’s competitors.

“I have more questions. I have harder questions,” he said. “I need to be ready for the student who doesn’t get anything wrong in the first 33 questions.”

  Read more and watch at the ISP.