Anabayan competes in Brain Bee

Two strikes down, she thought she was out, but instead she won. Ilakkia Anabayan, sophomore, surpassed her own expectations when she first won the St. Louis Regional round of the Brain Bee and then placed sixth at the National Competition.

“I never competed in anything like this before, so I was hoping to be in the top 10 like I would have been really happy with that,” Anabayan said.

After all of the built up anxiety and intense studying, Anabayan said she still didn’t feel prepared. But, after coming out on top, it was an unforgettable experience.

“It was insane,” Anabayan said. “I have never really won like a huge competition like this before. It was just a huge confidence booster more than anything.”

The Brain Bee is a national neuroscience competition for teenagers started in 1999. The competition is designed to test a student’s knowledge of the brain and its multiple facets.

Dr. Nobert Myslinski, founder of the Brain Bee, said its purpose is to encourage young people to inquire about the brain and inspire them to pursue careers in the neurosciences.

For Anabayan, the competition has sparked her interest in the medical field. It has fueled her desire to continue the path towards becoming a doctor.

“It has definitely made me enjoy medicine a lot more,” Anabayan said. “I hope it’s opening up possibilities in high school in general for those fields and giving me more background knowledge.”

The regional competition involved a 51 question multiple choice test as well as an oral section where the students wrote their answer down on a white board. The top finisher, Anabayan, then received an all expenses paid trip to Washington DC to compete in the national competition where the difficulty increased.

Anabayan then participated in a neuroanatomy laboratory practical exam with real human brains, patient diagnosis involving face-to-face interactions with patient actors, MRI brain imaging analysis, brain histology, and a final question and answer component.

“It was so nerve-wracking, and the question would come up and it was like what’s the next one going to be,” Anabayan said. “I was never been in a situation like that before this.”

Throughout the entire process of being contacted by the gifted office, registering, studying, to finally winning, Anabayan said the Brain Bee was an incredible experience. It has given her greater love for neuroscience and fostered her appreciation for indulging in the depth of the topics.

“It isn’t something you have to be super well-versed in before you apply, I mean I didn’t know very much about the brain going into it,” Anabayan said. “It is just studying and hard work. I think it is something that is attainable if you try.”