Maria Popova is a prodigious confluence of brains and work ethic. She is most widely known for being the sole author of Brain Pickings, a blog containing her writing on culture, books, and eclectic subjects on and off the Internet. Founded in 2006 as a weekly email that went out to several friends, and eventually brought online, Brain Pickings has since found wide appeal because of its writing and visual aesthetics. Each month over a million readers visit the online publication. In 2012 Brain Pickings was included in the Library of Congress permanent web archive. Popova, who the New York Times has called "the mastermind of one of the faster growing literary empires on the internet," also has various partnerships with prominent organizations. She is an MIT Futures of Entertainment Fellow. Additionally, Popova serves as the editorial director at the higher education social network Lore, run by Noodle. As an author she's written for Wired UK, The New York Times, Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab, and The Atlantic, among others. In recognition of her prolific output, Popova has received numerous instances of media recognition. For instance, in 2012, she was featured in 30 under 30 by Forbes as one of the most influential individuals in Media.

It was during her time as an undergraduate at UPenn that Popova started to build the earliest versions of Brain Pickings. After graduating from high school in Bulgaria, she enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania, where she double-majored in communications and English, competed in bodybuilding competitions, and paid her way through school by working a number of jobs. Popova credits a creative-nonfiction seminar taught by longtime journalist Robert Strauss as the moment when she fell in love with writing and the possibility of putting thoughts on paper. It was during her senior year at UPenn that Popova started her Brain Pickings project. Every Friday she would send out an email that included five things that she felt were meaningful, interesting, or important. The rest, as they say, is history. In 2007 she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications.

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In 2013 Popova returned to her writerly roots at UPenn when she was asked to be a panelist for a public event titled "Careers in Journalism and New Media." Held at the Kelly Writers House, Popova urged students to follow in her footsteps by trying to "make something from scratch that's your own." A popular figure on the UPenn campus, Popova returned in 2016 as a graduation speaker at the Annenberg School for Communication. Her speech encouraged students to avoid toxic comparisons to other people and artificial metrics, instead focusing on their own path and happiness. "Strive to be uncynical, to be a hope-giving force, to be a steward of substance," Popova said, drawing from the same wisdom that has turned her into one of UPenn's brightest alumni.