Brain Bee Challenge Victorian State Final

Melbourne hosts the 2017 Australian-New Zealand Brain Bee Challenge Victorian State Final

On Wednesday 19 July, one hundred and seventy-five Victorian Year-10 students and thirty-two teachers from as far as Donald (281km) and Bright (321) gathered last month at the University’s Ian Potter Auditorium (Kenneth Myer building) to participate in the 2017 Australian-New Zealand Brain Bee Challenge State Final. This annual event, hosted by the Melbourne Neuroscience Institute (MNI), University of Melbourne and the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health (FINMH), and further sponsored by Monash University and RMIT University, was once again a huge success with the buzz of excitement palpably evident in the eyes of all attendees.

Professor Geoff Donnan of the FINMH welcomed the gathering to the Victorian “home of the brain” and introduced Emeritus Professor Frederick Mendelsohn who provided the Plenary address telling the students of his own personal path and “life in brain science”.

Quizmaster Dr Tom Keeble launched the main business of the Brain Bee Challenge, and excitement built over who would emerge the State’s Individual and Team finalists. Prizes this year included a giant model of the human brain, trophies, cash and a range of wonderful classic and contemporary neuroscience books sponsored by Readings.

The tension was broken momentarily as keynote speaker A/Prof Mirella Dottori enthralled attendees by describing her latest research into brain organoids: “mini-brains in a dish”. Then it was back to business… results after tense competition in the Team Challenge were: 1st - The Mac.Robertson Girls’ High School; 2nd - Mentone Girls' Secondary College; and 3rd - Methodist Ladies’ College.  Congratulations to all!

A highpoint of the day for both teachers and students were the pre-lunch tours of the Harry Brookes Anatomy Museum, the DAX Centre gallery and various neuroscience laboratories. Once again the volunteering tour leaders deserve special commendation for inspiring the students with their infectious enthusiasm for science and research. After lunch the tables were turned as the teacher’s challenged their neuroscience knowledge by competing in a friendly game of Neuro Trivial Pursuit - much to their student’s delight!

Before the Final Challenge began, Dr Jess Nithianantharajah, Head of the Synapse Biology & Cognition laboratory, Florey Institute of Neuroscience and University of Melbourne gave an inspirational address, describing her career pathway towards her laboratory’s aim of “Connecting the dots in the brain”. Our 2016 State Champion, Miss Alysha Wanigaratne of John Monash Science School also described her year as Champion, and her experiences attending the Australian Neuroscience Society annual conference last December.

After a closely contested round amongst eight finalists, Miss Elaine Cheung of The Mac.Robertson Girls’ High School emerged the Individual State Champion for 2017.  Congratulations runners up from Methodist Ladies’ College and The Mac.Robertson Girls’ High School, and indeed to each of the final contestants (and their teachers)! All those involved in this excellent event should feel deservedly proud of their efforts to promote interest in brain science, which clearly remains at a high level of excellence in the State of Victoria.