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Mohamed Abdirisak, Neuroscience, Undergraduate

Brain bee winner explores potential of the human brain

Mohamed Abdirisak | Neuroscience, Undergraduate | Neuroscience Program The human brain is a fascinating machine that has what feels like limitless potential.

For Mohamed Abdirisak it is a curiosity to learn how to better understand and reach this potential that drives him to develop and discover his own.

During his senior year of high school at MTI School of Knowledge in Indianapolis, Abdirisak found a forum to explore his potential and challenge his understanding of the human brain during the 2013 Brain Bee held at the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) campus, hosted by the School of Science and its Departments of Psychology and Biology.

The Brain Bee is a competition of international reach in which high school students answer questions about the human brain and nervous system. States across the country hold local Brain Bees, with the local winners competing next at the national level. The winner of each national competition then goes on to compete with students from more than 30 countries in the international competition.

Entering the Brain Bee in Indianapolis was a last-minute decision for Abdirisak, who only had three weeks to prepare for the competition. He took this challenge in stride, however, walking away as the champion.

Abdirisak went on to compete in the 2013 USA National Brain Bee with an expenses-paid trip to the University of Maryland Medical School in Baltimore. To prepare for the national level, Abdirisak studied the brain in greater depth with the help of IUPUI psychology and neuroscience faculty members Bethany Neal-Beliveau, Charles Goodlett and Stephen Boehm.

The national competition was challenging and comprehensive, with competitors required to diagnose patient actors with different neurological disorders and identify brain structures on human cadavers and microscope slides.

In the end, Abdirisak finished strong, placing in the top ten out of 50 students. He believes being motivated to improve his understanding of the brain helped him be successful in the competition.

He offered this advise for future competitors: “Compete in order to improve your understanding of the brain and appreciate its abilities. It is important to realize that what you are studying is actually going on inside your body right now.”

Now a freshman at the IUPUI School of Science, Abdirisak continues to push his limits with the hopes of one day fighting neurological diseases as a physician-scientist. He says that the decision to attend IUPUI was an easy one.

“Being a high school student in Indianapolis, I would frequently come to IUPUI to take part in several outreach programs that were put on by the university,” he said. “As I began to look into a future career in medicine, IUPUI really stood out as the premier life sciences campus in the state of Indiana due to its close research partnerships with the IU School of Medicine and various academic medical centers in the city.”

Even as a freshman, Abdirisak is taking advantage of many student opportunities such as playing an active part in the Neuroscience Club and applying for the Life-Health Sciences Internship next year, a collaborative program between IUPUI and the IU School of Medicine that places undergraduate students in research labs to engage in health sciences related research.

Abdirisak says that his experiences with IUPUI both as a college and high school student have been overwhelmingly positive.

“IUPUI has given me the opportunity to constantly meet new people from diverse backgrounds while continuing to expand my intellectual horizons. I believe that studying neuroscience at IUPUI will equip me to realize my goals.”