Cerebrum Winter 2022

MICROBIOTA MANIA Elena Perry 2008 IBB Champion Maryland

in our normal biology classes,” she recalls. “I loved reading and learning about new scientific areas, especially in biology. So, once I did hear about the Brain Bee, I decided to take a shot at it.” After memorizing what she could of Society for Neuroscience’s Brain Facts book, she took home first prize at both the local and national levels. But she quickly realized she would need to up her game for the international competition held in Montreal, Canada, and do more than just memorize the basics. “There were a lot of practical exams, which were very challenging,”

she says, regarding the parts of the competition that involve patient diagnosis and neuroanatomy. “But I really enjoyed the challenge, actually, as it helped me really apply the knowledge I had learned in earlier competitions.” Perry was already considering a career in research when she decided to participate in the Brain Bee. But after completing an internship with Barry Kaplan, Ph.D., after her win (that coup was part of her prize), consideration turned into certainty. “That was my first real research experience in a biology wet lab,” she says. “I decided I wanted to pursue a career in lab-based research after that.” As a student at Yale University, she contributed to undergraduate research in neuroscience until, after a study abroad experience, she was introduced to the wonders of microbiology. “The researchers there were looking at compounds made by bacteria and microorganisms that could be used as new antibiotics,” she says. “I started pursuing microbiology after that. I did my Ph.D. in microbiology at the California Institute of Technology and am now working as a postdoctoral research fellow at Genentech in the Bay Area, looking at host microbe interactions in the context of the human gut.” While Perry may not be working in neuroscience research per se, she believes the IBB is a great way for students to get introduced to emerging new fields—and understand the realities of working in a research environment: “The Brain Bee, like research, requires a lot of self-direction and self-motivation. It’s great preparation for college and beyond, especially for people who may be interested in going into the sciences.” l

Elena Perry, Ph.D., 29, doesn’t remember how, exactly, she first heard of the Brain Bee. That said, as a

student at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, she had a blossoming interest in neuroscience. Yet, her studies were limited by what information was being offered in her science classes. “[Neuroscience] was not something we were being taught

After a study abroad experience, Perry switched her focus from neuroscience to microbiology.



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