Trying Something New & Neuroscience Clothes


I’m currently trying to go from working as an MD-PhD student to a science journalist. From thinking about disease and doing hands-on research to writing, thinking, and talking about those same conditions and studies.

I’ve struggled to explain why I’m making this switch. To come up with a single linear narrative that’s both satisfactory and honest for the switch. Like most things, it’s complicated.

One simple version:
I originally left the MD-PhD because of a health crisis. This gave me the time to really consider my path, and also really solidified in me something I intellectually knew but hadn’t felt before that point: that this was my one life, that I know myself better than anyone else does, and that only I can answer the question of what I should do with it.

Another thread: 
I became deeply bothered by how people keep knowledge behind barriers and gatekeepers. Publicly-funded research languishes behind journal paywalls, attending college costs tens of thousands of dollars, and even small things like having a lunch with a visiting lecturers is meticulously limited–are you a student of the right department? Most of all though, I’m bothered by the fact that across the country thousands of lecturers will give pretty much the same lecture each year. Some will be great, others won’t. If it’s an introductory course with a large lecture hall, perhaps it will be recorded put online in a MOOC and that’s great (though don’t expect to find a single medical school lecture despite all the patients and caretakers who could benefit from this knowledge). But even when lectures are recorded and available, why aren’t they being edited and annotated, transcribed so they show up on google searches, reviewed so we can find the best lectures on the subject. Why don’t all of us have access to the very best lectures on ever subject, and we aren’t we preserving them for all of history? And why aren’t these lecturers collaborating with storytellers and multi-media producers who could bring these subjects to life and give them a fair shot against all of the competing distractions. And that’s part of why I want to learn audio storytelling–to try to make that happen.

That got a lot more ranting and idealistic than I was expecting. I apologize. That’s not even what I wanted to start writing about.

What I wanted to say, is I’m currently interviewing for jobs in radio and doing some freelance work, but to make ends meet, I’ll probably by exploring some side hustles on here.

Experiment A: Here are a couple neuroscience shirts I designed.



There’s something about the patterns neurons create: fractal-like but random, simple but ornate. This neuron, a cerebellar Purkinje cell is one of my favorites. And if you like it too, now you can wear it on your sleeve, or at least on your chest.


And for the new wave nerds / electrophysiologists in the crowd here’s a parody of Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasure Album Art, the only album art I know ever to feature a scientific figure–namely the first radio-frequency recording of a pulsar. I’ve re-vamped it to with neural responses in a classical conditioning paradigm.

The company I used to create and print these shirts, does it for a limited run, so if you’re going to buy, I suggest you do it soon. And, if you come across this page down the line, shoot me an email or leave a comment here and maybe we can see about running another batch or figuring out a way to print them long-term.

** Edit: Due to the good response, I’ve designed some more shirts. I’m also trying out a different storefront, to check them out, please see this page:**

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4 Responses to “Trying Something New & Neuroscience Clothes”

  1. 1 Betsy Beyler

    Dear Ben,

    I really enjoyed reading this, and seeing your clothing designs! Give me a moment to think about it and I might order one of the black ones….if you have them large enough for me!

    As you wrote about your switching paths, I thought of this Mary Oliver poem that I like a lot (and I like most of her poetry)–and it’s even appropriate for the season!

    The Summer Day

    Who made the world? Who made the swan, and the black bear? Who made the grasshopper? This grasshopper, I mean- the one who has flung herself out of the grass, the one who is eating sugar out of my hand, who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down- who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes. Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face. Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away. I don’t know exactly what a prayer is. I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass, how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day. Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

    —Mary Oliver



  2. Your vision of a collaborative digital knowledge system is right on about the direction education should be taking but has yet to do so in a significant way. Part of the problem, as you note, is the expensive and unnecessary duplication of lectures at hundreds of colleges and universities. And, yes, well funded media professionals working with knowledge experts should be building engaging learning systems that leverage the very successful technologies deployed in video games.


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