Two Queens Students Tie for First at NYC Regional Brain Bee

by Blayne Jeffries

February 16, 2010

A record 41 students from 23 high schools competed in the 2010 New York City Regional Brain Bee. For the first time in the Bee’s nine-year history, two students from the same high school tied for first place and will advance to the National Brain Bee during Brain Awareness Week in March.

The New York City Regional Brain Bee is a live Q&A competition that tests high school students’ knowledge of neuroscience. Students, selected by their high schools to compete, are quizzed on the brain and how it relates to memory, emotions, intelligence, behaviors, and disorders. The event is presented by the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives and co-sponsored by NRTA: AARP’s Educator Community and the Society for Neuroscience. The event was held Feb. 11 at New York University’s Helen and Martin Kimmel Center for University Life.

The head judge of this year’s Brain Bee was Dana Alliance member Dr. Michael E. Goldberg, David Mahoney Professor of Brain and Behavior at Columbia University. Dr. Goldberg was joined by two members of his lab, Sara Steenrod, who is finishing her Ph.D. in neurobiology and behavior, and Yixing Xu, an M.D./Ph.D. candidate.

It took over 30 questions in the last round before Sun Young Chung, 16, a junior at Staten Island Technical High School, was eliminated. Ashley Jabar 17, a senior, and Koryalys Edwards 16, a junior, both from Queens Gateway Queens Gateway to Health Science Secondary School, remained to go head to head. Dr. Goldberg literally asked every question in the book, but the two ladies didn’t miss a beat and effortlessly answered everything correctly. After the final question was asked, a tie was called, and both Jabar and Edwards were named the 2010 New York City Regional Brain Bee champions.

Both students competed in last year’s competition: Edwards placed second and Jabar, came in fourth. Not only do they attend the same school, but they are friends who prepared for the Brain Bee together. “We quizzed each other and studied two hours a day for a month,” said Edwards. Jabar, who aspires to work in chemistry, said she was nervous because “I didn’t want my friend to lose.”

Prudence Mougis, a teacher at Queens Gateway Queens Gateway to Health Science Secondary School, helped the winners prepare. “I helped them compile the information and gave positive reinforcement,” she said. “They are friends and I think the idea of them working together helped them tremendously.”

For coming in first, both Edwards and Jabar will receive $250 and an all-expenses paid trip to the University of Maryland, Baltimore, where they will compete in the National Brain Bee, to be held March 15-21.  How do Brain Bee champions celebrate their win? Both girls responded, “We are going home to study for our chemistry test in the morning.”