On Saturday, February 11, Moretown resident Hannah Woodruff and about 25 other high school students competed in the third annual Vermont Brain Bee at the University of Vermont College of Medicine.

Students from across the state were tested on their knowledge of the intricate structure and function of the human brain through a half-hour written test, a lab practicum with several “wet” specimens and a preliminary and final oral bee, with the final structured in a “Jeopardy” game show type of format.

UVM neuroscience graduate students chaperoned groups of high school competitors to and from the written and practical exams, led brain “tours” and question-and-answer sessions in the UVM College of Medicine’s anatomy lab in the Given building and graded the written and practical exams.

During the lunch break, student participants (accompanied by their teachers and parents) listened to a keynote presentation by Jeremy Sibold, Ed.D., assistant professor of rehabilitation and movement science, titled “Go to Your Happy Pace: The Relationship between Exercise & Mental Health.”

The final round of the oral bee included seven students, including Hannah Woodruff of Harwood. Her fellow competitors included students representing CVU, Mount Abraham Union High School, Otter Valley Union High School, and Stowe. Woodruff was the third-place winner, following Charlotte resident Evan Trus, a sophomore at CVU who took second place, and first-place winner Liam Kelley, a CVU senior from Williston who will go on to compete in the National Brain Bee in Baltimore, Maryland, in March.

The written exams for the competition were prepared by Rae Nishi, Ph.D., UVM professor of anatomy and neurobiology, director of the Neuroscience Graduate Program, and chair of the UVM Neuroscience, Behavior and Health Spire steering committee, and Mark Stefani, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at Middlebury College, who also served as judges of the oral rounds of the Bee. Additional Brain Bee committee members included Lisa Bernardin, a traumatic brain injury survivor from Middlebury and coordinator of the event; Anthony Morielli, Ph.D., UVM associate professor of pharmacology and current president of the Vermont Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience; Sharon Leach, Ph.D., clinical neuropsychologist and licensed psychologist at the Stern Center for Language and Learning; and Hallie Davis-Penders, UVM Neuroscience Graduate Program assistant.

Although some of the students involved are planning to pursue careers in medicine, the main goals of the competition are to help students understand themselves through study of the brain, applying what they learn to their own lives and bringing the information back to their peers at school.