By Balsam Adam
MaST Community Charter School
Sharing cool brain facts and study tips, and taking viewers through a day in her life, neuroscience doctoral student Lindsay Ejoh reaches more than 15,000 followers a day on her TikTok account.
She is just one of a growing number of researchers – and aspiring scientists – using TikTok both to disseminate information and learn about scientific topics. Social media has made science accessible to a wider audience – and given students a new way of gaining knowledge.
“Social media is a great way for me to share my struggles in the lab and is a great release for me in such a stressful Ph.D. position. It also allows me to connect with other scientists to build collaborations and communities, which has been an amazing way for me to boost my career options,” said Ejoh, who goes by @neuro_melody on TikTok. She’s studying neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania.
Social media has already given younger generations an advantage when it comes to communicating with others and building social networks. Now, they’re utilizing social media to explore their own interests in all different types of subjects, creating communities and supporting one another.
For Ejoh, social media is a way to reveal her love for science. Social media now makes it easier for scientists to disseminate information and for students to gain a better understanding of the sciences.
“Science on social media has helped me achieve my academic goals. I don’t have many opportunities where I can get experience. But through the potential of social media, I was able to engage in several science programs,” said Ayesha Mallick, a junior at MaST Community Charter School.
Through social media, Mallick was able to gain more exposure and experience when it comes to science. It has helped her academics and extracurriculars. It motivates her to do better and improve herself. Creators and scientists like Ejoh help make science more accessible to students and young people.
“Also as a high schooler who is a first-gen, I don’t have much access to resources that will prepare me for college, like SAT prep and how to improve my application,” Mallick said. “In the future I want to go into STEM. I am able to capture the idea of what many science majors look like through social media. I am able to get a different perspective from all angles.”
For Mallick, social media has helped her prepare for college, especially because the content she finds there is easy to consume. There is a lot of free, valuable information on social media that has made it simple for students to optimize their ability to get into top schools.
The science creators on social media also help students learn, with many scientists and researchers sharing their work on the internet. Social media users can interact with news and share their thoughts and opinions, promoting personal health literacy for the general public.
Ejoh said, “Not only have I learned a lot from science content [on social media], it has also helped me form a community of like-minded people. It helps to know that other scientists struggle like I do with huge experimental loads and stresses related to succeeding in academia.”
Whether they are a scientist, researcher or doctor, in little clips on TikTok, users are able to see the day-to-day lives of someone they might relate to – and to know that they’re not alone when it comes to difficult situations. Ejoh also shares her struggles being a Black woman in academia, using social media to open new conversations about racial conflict in academia.
Even for students who aren’t going into STEM, social media builds bridges to scientific learning in other ways as well. Grace Barlow, a senior at Abington Friends School, loves to watch makeup influencers on TikTok. But that led her to follow content creators who spoke about skincare and dermatology from a health and science perspective.
“One of my favorite influencers on skincare really opened the door to a lot of stuff I didn’t know was affecting my skin,” she said. “And there are also other creators who dive into skin care for people of color…. People can’t really afford to get that information from professionals. It has really been a platform to open up free information to help underrepresented communities.”
TikTok has opened many paths for Barlow to explore beauty but also education at the same time. It gives her a deeper knowledge of what beauty is and how it functions through science. And, as a woman of color, it is especially important to her that her community gets represented.
Barlow is aware of the need for more people of color in healthcare. Lack of representation causes disparities for underrepresented and/or marginalized groups, causing their healthcare concerns to go unnoticed.
But social media allows for many more people to access knowledge about science.
“Science will always be relevant and with social media just constantly on the rise, I think that they go hand in hand,” Barlow said.