Loving Your Messy, Beautiful, Complex Brain

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Interactions - SPS Chapters in Action

Loving Your Messy, Beautiful, Complex Brain


Lauren Ward, SPS Chapter President, University of Notre Dame

We all need a little help sometimes, whether it comes from a friend lending a helping hand or from having someone to talk to when times are tough. Unfortunately, times always seem to be tough in today’s pandemic-ridden world, so it was important for the Society of Physics Students chapter at the University of Notre Dame to remind the student body to be kind to themselves. Part of this effort involved partnering with Access-ABLE—a campus advocacy club for students with disabilities and allies—to raise awareness for people with mental illnesses and traumatic brain injuries through our Love Your Brain event. All it took was a table set up on campus, some bandanas, the most ostentatious Sharpies we could find, and bottles of rubbing alcohol.

Notre Dame’s Love Your Brain event. All photos courtesy of the Notre Dame SPS chapter.  

Brains are messy and beautiful and complex in ways we still don’t fully understand. To mirror this, we printed outlines of the brain on bandanas, colored them in, and used some basic chemistry to add some chaos. Most of us have learned the hard way that running water is no match for a stain made by permanent markers. This is not the case with permanent ink and rubbing alcohol. The permanent marker is absorbed by the rubbing alcohol, and as the alcohol spreads, it carries the ink with it to make beautiful patterns. Students furiously colored in their bandanas and watched as the rubbing alcohol transformed the outlines into messy and beautiful and complex patterns mirroring their own brains.

It was wonderful to see students from all over campus come to celebrate their brains, including a small herd of physics majors who descended on the event in the afternoon. There were laughs and smiles all around as students made art (and a mess), and it gave students a chance to take a minute for self-care and to talk about how their mental health has been impacted by the pandemic.

Unfortunately, as of this writing, the pandemic is still in full swing, and because we still need to take time to love ourselves and take care of friends and fellow students who are suffering, SPS and Access-ABLE are currently in the process of planning another Love Your Brain event this spring.

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Interactions - SPS Chapters in Action