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Alberta student wins national ‘brain bee’

June 11, 2019 Jen Janzen, ATA News Staff


Jenny Sun (right) of Edmonton recently won the Canadian National Brain Bee championship. Also pictured is second place finisher Alexandra Alac of Waterloo.

An Edmonton student has been crowned the “best brain in Canada.”

Jenny Sun from Old Scona Academic High School won the 12th annual Canadian Institutes of Health Research Canadian National Brain Bee championship at McMaster University in Hamilton.

“It didn’t feel real at all,” recalled Sun, who is planning to pursue a degree in neuroscience in the fall. “The people that I met there were all very intelligent and well studied, and I didn’t feel as if I was more qualified than any of them.”

This national competition convened some of Canada’s brightest high school students from across the country. Modelled after a traditional spelling bee, the contest tested their knowledge of the human brain, neuroanatomy and patient diagnosis.

To get ready for the competition, Sun worked with Hailey Pineau, a PhD student at the University of Alberta, who helped to organize the Edmonton Brain Bee. Pineau created quiz questions to stump Sun, and worked with a colleague to introduce Sun to real brain tissue samples.

“One really cool thing about this competition is that it brings kids together from all over the country who share a common interest in neuroscience,” Pineau said. “These kids are the future of neuroscience, and the competition may foster friendships and collaborations that will last a lifetime.”

The national competition was held on May 25. Along with the coveted “best brain in Canada” title, Sun was awarded $1,500 and a paid internship this summer in a University of Alberta neuroscience lab alongside Dr. Harley Kurata. ❚

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