At Brown University, Wagle studied psychiatric epidemiology when he wasn't tossing leaves in the air.
PSYCHIATRIC EPIDEMIOLOGIST Sojas Wagle 2017 IBB Champion Arkansas
immediately set my sights on going to Nationals the next year.” He not only won the Arkansas Brain Bee and the national competition that year—he then proceeded to take the top prize at the International Brain Bee as well. He credits reaching out to different researchers as what really helped make a difference as he prepared for the event. “Identifying different brain structures was what got me out during my freshman year,” he says. “So, I made sure to get a brain model and know it inside out before going back. For Nationals, there was a lot of new information to cover so I would seek out neurologists or other neuroscience experts in my state to learn more. They let me visit them, and I was able to get into a laboratory where there were physical brain specimens and histological slides. It gave me a lot of exposure to the more practical side of things.” After his win, Wagle admits he wasn’t entirely sure what his career ambitions were. He was still very interested in cultural geography, but what he learned about the brain while prepping for the Brain Bees definitely helped him to “prioritize neuroscience more” as he started to think about college.
Now an undergraduate student at Brown University, he created his own independent concentration (Brown’s term for major) that he calls psychiatric epidemiology. “I created the concentration in collaboration with a professor from the School of Public Health,” he explains. “I specifically wanted to focus on health inequities in mental illness—and how the incidence and prevalence of mental illness is quite different in minority communities. It gave me the perfect outlet to get into research and apply my skills while also getting good training in the classroom with classes ranging from history, sociology, psychology, and the hard sciences.” As for his next steps, Wagle plans to attend medical school and work in child/adolescent psychiatry, finding avenues beyond medication to help these vulnerable patients. “The field is opening up to non-pharmaceutical interventions,” he says. “There’s a lot of room for mindfulness as well as group and individual therapy. And through internships and exposure to other research, I’m also learning about possible future ways to deinstitutionalize psychiatric treatment.” l
Sojas Wagle, 20, was taking a summer course on Alzheimer’s disease at Duke University when the
instructor mentioned a unique neuroscience competition called the Brain Bee. At Har-Ber High School in Springdale, Arkansas, he had been previously involved with the Geography Bee and took first prize in the Whiz Kids’ Edition of Who Wants to be a Millionaire —Wagle’s ears immediately perked up as the instructor described the event. “The instructor said if brain science interests you and you want to apply your knowledge in a competition, you should find out about your local Brain Bee. I thought, ‘Wow, this looks like a new outlet where I can engage in my competitive interests,’” he says. “The first time I tried out was my freshman year of high school, and I got second in the state. It was just one spot away from Nationals. So, I
PHOTO: JOSE MARTINEZ
46 DANA FOUNDATION CEREBRUM | Winter 2022
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