New Zealand Runner-up in International Brain Bee Competition

14 September 2010

Kate Burgess (seated) at the 12th International Brain Bee Competition in San Diego

New Zealand secondary school student Kate Burgess finished second in the 12th International Brain Bee Competition in San Diego in August.

In a keenly-contested finale Kate, 16, scored 93%, just one mark behind the winner from India, Ritika Chokhani and one mark ahead of the United States champion, Yvette Leung. The contest, which involves about 75 local competitions worldwide, tests high school students’ knowledge of the human brain.

Kate, who attends Samuel Marsden Collegiate School, Wellington, was up against the national champions of the United States, Italy, Australia, Canada, Grenada, South Korea and India.

It was the first time in the event’s history that contestants from outside North America have won the top two placings.

Competitors took part in written and oral tests, a neuroanataomy laboratory exam with human brains, a patient diagnosis with student actors, a neurohistology exam using microscopes, and interpretation of MRI brain images.

The championship was held in conjunction with the annual convention of the American Psychological Association.

Kate first embarked on the Brain Bee journey in January 2009, just a week after her father had passed away with heart failure. She spent some of that summer holiday preparing for the initial online competition and was then invited to take part in the North Island challenge in Auckland in June. After taking the North Island title she prepared, successfully, for the New Zealand competition in Sydney in January 2010 by studying an entire 550-page tertiary medical textbook! 

“Just 18 months ago I knew nothing about the human brain and now I think that neuroscience is the most exciting thing ever,” Kate says.

Kate attributes her success to the wonderful support she has received from Professor Louise Nicholson and her colleagues at the University of Auckland as well as from her science teacher Mrs Gabrielle Gunn.

Kate intends to study biosciences when she enters university in 2012.
But for now her interest in languages is taking her on new adventures overseas.  In October she represents New Zealand at a proficiency contest in China and in December she begins a two-month student exchange programme in Germany.