Looking for that perfect holiday gift for the science cheerleader in your life? Having a hard time finding it? I had that problem a couple of years ago, then I saw a blurb in the print version of Discover magazine titled “Micrograph Chic” which showed a pair of absolutely stunning earrings – the colors were vibrant and the pattern was beautifully abstract. The reason for the cool colors and impressive pattern was that the earrings were a photomicrograph of crystallized brain chemicals (dopamine, serotonin, etc), which was photographed through polarized light and then magnified about 600 times. Unfortunately, the Discover article didn’t include a URL, and my Google Search at the time didn’t come up with anything. Sadly, I had to buy my wife some lame present like a frying pan.
Since I’m a cool science guy (and don’t want to get smacked on the head with another frying pan), I tried another Google search this year and I hit the jackpot! The earrings are the handiwork of Amy Sweetman, a psychologist with a passion for jewelry design. On her website DopomineJewelry.com you can find necklaces, cuff links, bracelets, key chains and (of course) earrings. Not only can you get brain chemicals, but you can get photomicrographs of brain altering chemicals such as the ever popular “caffeine” and a wide assortment of cocktails.
Amy and I shared a few emails about her interest in science and what she’s doing to merge science and art; here’s what she wrote…
I read about the Science Cheerleader and was very impressed. Darlene has definitely been added to my list of admirable figures. If possible, I would love to meet with her the next time she visits Los Angeles. I am sure we could find a lot to talk about, and I look forward to help support her efforts.
Like Darlene, I was also captain of my high school cheerleading team, so I can definitely relate to her spirit. Also, I worked as a cocktail waitress to fund my college education. At the age of 22, I obtained my Masters degree and was very fortunate to land a full time position as a professor of psychology at a local community college. My specialization is Biological Psychology which attempts to analyze behavior and its correlation to brain and nervous system processes. Additionally, I have a couple of businesses that are science related and fit right in with the Science Cheerleader’s mission of playfully challenging stereotypes. My company is named Dopamine Jewelry, and it showcases microscopic photographs of behavior altering chemicals. The line features pictures of neurotransmitters, hormones, and caffeine. However, I also decided to utilize my bar related experience and knowledge to include cocktails and wine as well. The jewelry not only illuminates the beauty of science, but is also educational. Each item comes with two informational cards: one that tells about the chemical; the second explains the microscopic photography process. The line has been featured in Discover Magazine and is sold in museums across the nation.
I do a number of fundraisers for local schools, and I find it very rewarding educating people about the various brain chemicals and their affect on behavior. I have recently launched a new line simply called “Science”. This jewelry line features the molecular structure of my best selling images, which are caffeine, dopamine, and serotonin. The line also includes a beautiful science symbol (atom with orbiting electrons) with gemstones that I think would be perfect for the science cheerleader. Other designs in the line feature magnifying glass jewelry. I have also manufactured Christmas ornaments of the molecular structures. My design aim for this particular line was to create something that is science based, sleek and beautiful without being geeky – like the science cheerleader herself.
One of my greatest contributions of educating the public about science is through the “Brain Bee.” The Brain Bee is part of the National Brain Awareness initiative that seeks to educate the general population about neuroscience research. High School students study a booklet created by the Society for Neuroscience and then competes to determine who has the most brain science knowledge. I established the first Los Angeles Brain Bee last year. Up until then, there were no local brain bees on the west coast of the United States. I completely organized and funded this event and was able to take the winner and her father to compete in the National event held at the University of Maryland. This year, I am making improvements to the Brain Bee by working with UCLA and USC Neurosurgeons. These doctors will be giving talks and conducting tours of their neuroscience labs. Very exciting!
Another future goal is to create a Brain Art Exhibit which will feature a variety of art that illustrates the beauty of scientific phenomenon.
I truly admire what the Science Cheerleader is doing, and please convey to Darlene that she can count on me to be part of her squad!
John-the-Tourist again: I’ve purchased a beta-endorphin necklace for my wife. If I got her another frying pan, I’d need a shot of beta-endorphin to manage the pain of my re-flattened head. May your heads retain some curvature and may you have a wonderful holiday season!
P.S. – If you still need a few other gift ideas, don’t forget soft and cuddly sub-atomic particles, giant stuffed microbes and (of course) our very own Science Cheerleader T-shirts.
Image credit: Amy Sweetman