Ned the Neuron started as a one-off plush toy I made to help local kids understand cells and neurons and has since become the foundation for my education start-up Kizoom. Doing outreach events about the brain during grad school, I was always assigned to the microscope table, but found that most kids had a hard time conceptually getting cells – What?! I am made of little things? But I can’t see them? And trying to get a 7-year old to see something through a microscope is pretty tricky. But when kids DID get that they are made of trillions of little blobs that are complex machines themselves their eyes widen. So I created Ned to help build this bridge of understanding.
Starting as a plush toy with his own book, organelles and neurotransmitter, Ned the Neuron grew into an anthropomorphized world of neuron characters with personalities based on their role in the brain and stories based on the function of the nervous system. I grew up with the Muppets (and still secretly want to be Miss Piggy…doh!). So it is not surprising that eventually I wanted to stick goofy eyes on the cells that I had been studying and make them talk and tell jokes. All in the name of science education of course! So when I was not in the lab during grad school, I was often drawing and writing about this world of neurons characters, what later became The Adventures of Ned the Neuron.