Making Connections

by Tara Torabi
February 19, 2014

Tara Torabi '15 is an Access Scholar with the College Advising Corps at Brown University and the Coordinator of Brown's first Brain Bee.

There are more connections in our brain than stars in our galaxy: we acquire the ability to speak and see by virtue of the complex interactions between the billions of neurons we possess. But this art of connection is not, and should not, be exclusive to our inherent biology. Much like one neuron cannot survive without communicating with another, we as individuals cannot endure without acknowledging the need to connect with each other.

When I was a junior in high school, I participated in my local Brain Bee, a neuroscience competition for teenagers. Winning the competition and advancing to the national level during my senior year, I had the opportunity to tour research labs and examine the anatomy of brain cadavers. The efforts of others had enabled me to discover something that had always existed, instilling in me a need to continue studying the brain.

Coming to Brown, I was inspired to share the knowledge that had first brought me here with others – founding the Brown University Brain Bee for high school students in Rhode Island. From October through February, students from different high schools spend their Saturdays on campus learning about neuroscience. In eating “miracle berries” that trick their perception of taste or using paperclips to test the two-point threshold on different parts of their body, they learn that science is not limited to textbook diagrams. Rather, it is something that occurs simply by way of existing and experiencing our environments.

Recently, the program culminated in the annual competition. As students correctly scribbled answers on their boards in response to questions about superoxide dismutase and Broca’s aphasia, I was inspired by their dedication to learning and the depth of knowledge they had attained. Once again, I was reminded of the power of connection – in being able to encourage these students as they discovered their own passion for science and determined their own future ambitions.

We have all read books that have shaped us, had teachers who motivated us, had interactions that have quietly become part of our identities. We are undoubtedly who we are because of the opportunities we were provided and the individuals who supported us. Ultimately, we must never forget these invisible threads which connect us to each other, enabling one person’s journey to become another’s.