Cerebrum Winter 2022


Arjun Bharioke 2001 Champion New Jersey

Arjun Bharioke, Ph.D., 34, didn’t know the Brain Bee existed until his school superintendent at

Winston Churchill Junior High School in East Brunswick pulled him aside one day and suggested that he look into the competition. “We had spoken at some point, I’m not even sure when, and he knew I was interested in the brain,” says Bharioke. “So, when he got the notification about the event, he pulled me out of class and asked, ‘Hey, would you like to participate in this?’” Bharioke was intrigued and immediately said yes—even though his local Brain Bee event was only a week away. He says he immediately started studying Society for Neuroscience’s Brain Facts book to prepare and was pleasantly surprised when he won the state and went on to Nationals. “I think that was the second year that the competition was technically international because the winner the year before had been from Canada,” he says. “We were in Baltimore, and I really enjoyed the competition. But I also enjoyed that we got to go visit the National Institutes of Health, the National Library of Medicine, and then also got to see some actual anatomy dissections. I had never seen a real human brain before.” In the years since, Bharioke has taken a traditional academic career path. Today, he is a post-doctoral fellow in Botund Roska’s laboratory at Switzerland’s University of Basel,

When not exploring the brain, Bharioke explores ancient ruins. Here, he navigates through the Greek "Temple of Concordia" in Sicily.

questions, like how the connections between neurons, that specific structure, translate into actual function.” Once Bharioke completes his fellowship, he hopes to start his own laboratory, pursuing more basic research to better understand how the brain does computations in order to promote function. When asked about advice for future Brain Bee participants, Bharioke spoke highly of the event and encouraged everyone interested to give it a go. “The Brain Bee gives you an opportunity to meet people and do things which are very different than what you do in your general day-to- day activities in school,” he says. “It also gives you opportunities to try new things and really open up your mind to the possibilities of what neuroscience can offer.” l

focusing on systems neuroscience research. Bharioke says he’s known for some time that he wanted to pursue some sort of career in neuroscience—ever since his aunt had surgery to remove a brain tumor when he was a young child—but the ability to try out a variety of different research projects as an undergraduate and graduate student eventually led him to concentrate on more comprehensive systems and circuits work. “As an undergrad, I actually worked in a couple different research labs at the University of Toronto, doing not only neuroscience but also quantum mechanics,” he says. “Then I did my graduate work at Janiela Research Campus [a Howard Hughes Medical Institute site], doing more computational neuroscience because I wanted to understand more general



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