My Johns Hopkins Science Writing Master’s Statement of Purpose

The following is my statement of purpose submission for the Johns Hopkins Science Writing Master’s program. As I re-read it, I see a lot of room for improvement, but I thought I would share it as-is to exemplify a selected application’s piece.

Statement of Purpose

My academic record, combined with my extracurricular activities and achievements, paints an accomplished but perhaps confusing picture of my interests. At UT Austin, I double majored in computer science (where I focused on network security) and Film. In my free time, I’ve created animations, tutorials, and VFX videos on YouTube, earning me over 2 million views and 15,000 subscribers. In the last few years, I’ve also developed an interest in music, producing for SXSW-accepted artists and writing podcast theme songs. In a professional capacity, I’ve held down marketing management positions at a semiconductor company, and today at an ABM Marketing company. I am quite proud of this collection of achievements, but in my day-to-day life, they rarely overlap. People sometimes appear confused when I explain all the seemingly unrelated ways I try to spend my time.

There has always been one thread, however, that has tied it all together into a cohesive story: the art of communication. I gravitated towards security in computer science because, in my view, it was the most interesting story to talk about in the field. Not everyone cares about the lower levels of an operating system, but everyone is interested in their data being safe, the exciting world of hackers and cyber-criminals, and the drama of company breaches. I majored in film because of the natural love for film and video I developed by first posting on YouTube in 2007. I’ve gone further and further into the music production world because it’s yet another avenue of communication I’ve become eager to be fluent in. And as a marketer, the aspects of the jobs that have kept me in the role are the messaging and communication itself. I enjoy taking a highly-technical product and breaking it down for customers, organizing the company website to be intuitive and concise, and all such communication challenges a marketer faces.

While writing and communication have always been interests of mine, so too has science. Taking computer science in high school gave me a deep appreciation for logic and problem solving, one that I was eager to indulge in by majoring in the field. At the same time, I was finding my way in the world of religion, and learning a lot about the extent to which science and religious doctrine were at odds. This exploration naturally led me to realize the true wealth of scientific information available to me. I found myself watching Ted talks in my spare time, enthralled by the way Niel DeGrasse Tyson explained the wonders of the cosmos, and eventually fascinated by topics like consciousness, attention, meditation, and cognitive psychology. All of this, too, informed the path I would take through college.

Today, I still find myself listening to podcasts hosts like Peter Attia, Sam Harris, and Sean Carroll on my weekend runs. I am still inspired to learn new things from them and their guests, and I will even sit down and consume some ancillary papers and lectures when a topic is of particular interest to me. On the bus, before Covid-driven isolation, I burned through books like “Rethinking Consciousness” by Michael Graziano, and “Thinking Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman. On my desk today is a book I’m making my way through about animal psychology.

These science authors and communicators, among many others, have shaped my life in tremendously positive ways. They have given me a firm footing in discussions that have touchpoints to my religious and moral beliefs. They have taught me how to live a healthier life with respect to nutrition, exercise, and sleep. I would even go so far as to say that I have overcome many of my own mental health issues because of a grounded understanding of depression, attention, meditation, working memory, and other psychological and philosophical principles.

When considering the path of my career after the marketing positions I have today, I am not certain of the details. What I am certain of, however, is my passion to continue to be a communicator, and my endless energy for learning and discussing science. When I “clock out” of my corporate job, I don’t often continue to read about the business side of marketing. Nor do I find myself eager to research competitors, customers, or market analyses. What I do find myself doing is digesting captivating science. I find myself hungry to learn more about the actual technology, research, and applications behind the forces of not only business, but every aspect of our society. I’m eager to talk to my friends about the latest podcast episodes I’ve heard on psychedelic research, or debate the hard problem of consciousness for an amount of time many people would find mind-numbing. It is this energy that has brought me here to this application. I see this as a unique strength in myself that I want to play to. I hope to find myself in a place professionally where these indulgences aren’t limited to my time outside of work, but a part of my everyday contribution to society.

When creating art for art’s sake, such as an animation of an action figure or a song remix, I always say to myself “if even one person enjoys this as much as I enjoy some of my favorite creators’ work, it will all be worth it”. With science communication, I feel the same way. If I can help ground one person’s view in the reality illuminated by science, I will feel tremendous accomplishment. That is my purpose, and my reason for applying.

Thank you for your consideration.

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Brandon Torio

I’m enthusiastic about telling stories and explaining hard topics in easy-to-understand ways.