2018-03-13 / Front Page

Brain Bee winner heads to Maryland for national finals

Executive Editor

BIDDEFORD — A fascination with the intricacies of human intelligence has propelled a Biddeford High School student to the national finals of the prestigious Brain Bee competition in Maryland this coming weekend.

Alexandra Petermann, a senior at BHS, captured the Southern Maine Regional Brain Bee conpetition in December at the University of New England and earned the right to represent Maine in this year's national finals.

The USA Brain Bee was founded in 1999 and is a worldwide neuroscience competition for high school students. It is intended to motivate students to learn about the brain, capture their imagination, and inspire them to pursue neuroscience careers in order to help treat and find cures for neurological and psychological disorders.

Brain Bee questions examine a student's knowledge of the human brain including such topics as intelligence, emotions, memory, sleep, vision, hearing, sensations, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, schizophrenia, epilepsy, depression, addictions and brain research. The national championship tests students in a neuroanatomy laboratory complete with real human brains.

Petermann entered the regional competition with her AP Biology class at BHS and thought it would be a fun experience to participate in.

"Science is my favorite subject and I want to go into biology as a major in college," she said. "My eventual career goal is to become a geneticist."

The daughter of Matthew and Teri Petermann of Biddeford, Alexandra said she first became interested in science when her grandfather gave her a lesson in astronomy whe she was younger.

"I like science and I like that it changes daily," Petermann said. "There's always new discoveries and new technological advances in medical sciences."

She's aware that her competition in the national finals will be tough and formidable.

"I've studied for this competiion every day since the regionals at UNE," Petermann said. "And that means more than two-plus hours of studying a day."

During the regional competition, she was grilled with multiple choice questions that grew progressively harder over three rounds and a final sudden-death round.

But Petermann said that the national finals will involve five different components including oral questions, written questions, brain imagery, microscopic neurohistology and patient diagnosis.

"My goal is to make it to the Top 10 overall, but if I make it into the Top Five, that would be incredible," she said.

The 2018 National Brain Bee championships will be held at the University of Maryland-Baltimore, and is hosted by the Dental School Department of Neural and Pain Sciences. The neuroscience competition is geared for teenagers ages 13 to 19 and was founded by Dr. Norbert Myslinski.

Victoria Salo, a BHS science teacher, will accompany Petermann to Maryland for the Brain Bee national finals and has overseen her student's preparations for the contest.

"Alexandra is motivated," Salo said. "She's been working hard and has taken it upon herself to study for this. Her perseverance is outstanding and I'm excited to see how far she can go." 

Petermann, who is dual-enrolled at Southern Maine Community College and has been accepted into SMCC's BioTech program, said she also wants to attend either the University of New Hampshire or Darmouth University in the future.

She says she's enjoyed focusing her studies on the human brain during the Brain Bee competition.

"What's fascinating  about the brain is that we haven't fully figured out how it works," she said. "The challenging aspect of the brain is that it has so many sections that work with many different functions. The complexity of it all is truly a marvel."

 — Executive Editor Ed Pierce can be reached at 282-1535 ext. 326 or by email at edito@journaltribune.com.

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