Jordan Gaines Lewis loves “a mushy, squiggly little organ that is only 2% of our body weight but allows us to do literally everything.” Can you guess what that organ is?
It’s the brain! Jordan is currently working toward a Ph.D. in neuroscience, yet she is passionate about making the brain engaging even for those who don’t have a science background. Jordan writes the blog “Gaines, on Brains” with intriguing posts such as “Did Harry Potter Have Psychosocial Short Stature?”
Her fascination began at an early age. “When I was in middle school, my friends used to tell me their deep, dark secrets over AOL Instant Messenger,” says Jordan. She thought that meant she’d make a great counselor, but studies in high school revealed that she was actually fascinated by the workings of the brain. In college, she majored in biology, and now works toward her thesis in a lab studying sleep in adolescents.
However, Jordan’s work is not confined to those middle school years. She has a lot of insight on how to live a more productive life in our 20’s and beyond. Even though we may think losing a few hours of sleep here or there will only affect us the next day, it could actually affect us in the years to come.
“Although we may be resilient and bounce back from regular sleep deprivation or a routine of weekend partying now, we’ll surely see the effects of it down the road,” says Jordan. Similarly, good habits such as exercise will benefit us in the future.
But before you vow never to be lazy again, remember that our brains need to relax. “Routine and purpose are necessary, but it’s also critical that we allow ourselves time to unwind completely,” says Jordan.
She holds to the mantra “work hard, play hard” and has found that there is a scientific basis for this old saying. “Time off has been shown to reduce depression in individuals with demanding jobs, and studies show that vacations allow us to return to work feeling refreshing and refocused,” says Jordan.
To stay motivated, Jordan reads about the advances others are making in their fields of study. “Reading about what others are doing, even in totally unrelated disciplines to mine, inspires me to keep pushing forward and, in some cases, gives me ideas for how to approach my own data,” she says.
Jordan hopes to continue to help people learn about the brain, and through her writing for news and science publications and lecture at a recent TED conference, she’s already conveying scientific concepts through relevant ideas.