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Local student competes at national Brain Bee competition

Posted by Kate Rogers on August 8, 2023 in News
Shabad Kaur represents Halifax, Nova Scotia at the CIHR Canadian National Brain Bee at McMaster University. (photo: Donna Waxman, McMaster)
Shabad Kaur represents Halifax, Nova Scotia at the CIHR Canadian National Brain Bee at McMaster University. (photo: Donna Waxman, McMaster)

A competition at Dalhousie in the spring catapulted a local high school student to McMaster University to compete nationally. 

The Brain Bee, held internationally for over 35 years, tests students in grades nine to 12 on their knowledge of neuroscience research, with a goal of attracting bright minds to the field. On March 8, 2023, after an intense round of short answer, identification, and multiple-choice questions, Shabad Kaur, a grade 12 student from Halifax West high school was announced as the winner of the 2023 Halifax Brain Bee.

Shabad, who recently graduated from the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program, developed an interest in neuroscience from a very young age. 

“At age nine, although my anatomical knowledge about the brain and its physiology was limited, being introduced to a three-pound organ that controls our entire body was something that sparked my enthusiasm,” she recalls. “And then the catalyst for my interest in brain research started with a science fair held by the province when I was in grade eight where I chose to focus on how the psychological phenomenon known as Pareidolia is related to dementia.”

Shabad continued her exploration into neuroscience through other science fairs, lab events, and even biology class, further fostering her interest. While preparing for the Halifax Brain Bee, she juggled her IB work with mock exams, and Brain Bee review. The content of the Brain Bee preparation, however, was of such interest, she never felt like she was studying. 

“The Brain Bee resources were so distinctive and intriguing,” she says. “I was ecstatic to win the competition but knowing that I would have the opportunity to continue to learn about neuroscience was an incredible feeling.”

Representing Halifax

After her success at the Halifax Brain Bee, she traveled to McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario to represent Halifax at the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) Canadian National Brain Bee. The winners of the 18 regional Brain Bees faced off on May 20, competing in four tests of their knowledge of the brain and nervous system. Though she didn’t win the national competition, a prize that went to Mark Piasecki from Winnipeg, Shabad is grateful for the incredible opportunity she had to compete, and for the chance to tour McMaster’s psychology and neuroscience research centre.  

“I couldn't help but feel motivated and invigorated when the tour ended,” says Shabad. “It not only improved my understanding of the field, but it also fueled my desire to compete the following day.” 

Making an impact

When fall semester begins in September, Shabad will begin her postsecondary education in Dalhousie’s Integrated Science Program, with a plan to major in neuroscience, and pursue a career in neuropathology. 

“I realized early on that a career in neuroscience was the path for me, and volunteering in my community made me want a career where I could serve others,” she says. “In Nova Scotia where access to medical professionals, let alone brain specialists, is scarce and difficult, I hope to help make an impact on the community I call home.”