New Mexico Brain Bee Changes Life

Alayna Barela, the winner of the first NM Brain Bee, meets NM Senator Martin Heinrich as part of her trip to the Baltimore area for competition in the national Brain Bee. (Photo courtesy of US Senator Martin Heinrich's Office )

Alayna Barela loves science. The Taos senior knew she wanted to study biology in college. However, her focus shifted when she competed in, and won, the first New Mexico Brain Bee. The win qualified her to participate in the US National Brain Bee Championship in Baltimore.

"Both Bees were absolutely worth it," Barela says. "They changed my whole future. I fell in love with learning about the brain and its different parts."

Barela credits her science teacher, Ms. Chavez at Taos High School, with encouraging her to try the NM Brain Bee. "She is a huge part of why I competed," Barela says. The happy result is that Barela found a new passion. "There is so much to learn about the brain," she says. "You're right there on the cutting edge of where everything is being discovered." As a result of her experience in the two Brain Bees, Barela, now a freshman at Boston University, has decided to pursue neuroscience as her career. "I want to study the brain for a long time," she says.

The New Mexico Chapter of the Society of Neuroscience hosts the NM Brain Bee in collaboration with the UNM STEM-H Center for Outreach, Research & Education. The goal is to challenge high school student's knowledge of brain structure and function. This year, UNM's Brain and Behavioral Health Institute will again pay for the NM winner to go to the national competition.

The University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131, (505) 277-0111
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