By Sharee Fink |  February 2014

The Perfect Crossover

Undoubtedly, MSU English, Biochemistry, and Neuroscience senior Craig Pearson would wholeheartedly agree with English biologist Thomas Huxley, who famously said, “Science and literature are not two things, but two sides of one thing.”

Beginning his freshman year as a biochemistry major heading into the premedical path, yet Craig also found his English classes compelling. In his sophomore year, he decided to join his two passions, science and literature, and embark on a peculiar, yet extremely successful academic career.

“The human element of literature—reading stories about other people, or listening to others tell their stories—really resonates with me. I love words, stories, and being creative.”

Craig has found a close-knit community within the English major, and his unique choice of triple majors has led him to many life-changing opportunities at the university.

Neuroscience & English: Not just Science Fiction

With a special interest in visual neuroscience, Craig has created a link between his science expertise and a creative outlet. Along with some personal friends, English majors, and volunteers from disability centers around campus, Craig created the literary journal Exceptions, which was shaped around the idea of building a community of the visually impaired and providing a platform for new ways of self-expression.

“In high school, I volunteered at a school for children with disabilities. I remember one day we were cooking, and I had to go around the class, letting the students smell the ingredients that they were using in the food. I reached one student, and as soon as he smelled the cinnamon, his face immediately lit up. Right then, I knew I could make a difference, and change the way people move through the world.”

Craig researched to see what types of online journals for disabled people were available, and found that many of the resources for the blind and visually impaired were related to employment resources, but didn’t show much about the community’s creative, self-expressive abilities. Hoping to bridge this gap, Craig set out to see if others knew more about the topic.

“Everyone kept telling me: if it’s not out there, you can develop it.”

In the summer of 2013, Exceptions was established online as a submission-based website for art and writing, but Craig is hoping to eventually combine the submissions into a hard copy of the journal.

Danielle DeVoss, professor of Professional Writing and Creativity Exploratory (C.E.) convener, established a relationship between Exceptions and the C.E. fellows at the College of Arts & Letters, providing a space for collaboration to improve the website and journal as a whole. Craig hopes that his efforts have created an impact on not only the visually impaired community on the MSU campus, but in other places as well.

“We’re not trying to change the community, we are trying to bring out the unique perspective that these people have and share it with others.”

Prepping for the Next Move

Craig gives credit to many of his professors for guiding him through his college experience, despite his unusual combination of majors. Among the list, Professors Melissa Baumann and Natalie Phillips have been able to push Craig to connect his ideas on neuroscience to English. Craig has found a passion in two completely opposing fields of work, but he has also incorporated each of these interests into his lab work. He is currently working in the Digital Humanities and Literary Cognition Laboratory, where he has been studying the effects of reading a text or work of literature on the brain.

 “While at MSU, I have been finding ways to translate between really complex, intricate work and connecting what it means to the community.”

Craig has also been granted the internationally recognized Marshall scholarship—a graduate fellowship that funds two to three years of study at any UK institution. Pearson has chosen to extend his academic career to Cambridge University.

“I’m so lucky to have this amazing infrastructure of education at MSU, and this is the final piece of the puzzle.”

Craig hopes to expand his worldview while studying in the UK, but plans to return to establish a career in the U.S. when he graduates Cambridge with his Ph.D.