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Icon for: Heather Masson-Forsythe

HEATHER MASSON-FORSYTHE

Oregon State University

Biochemical & Biophysical Studies of the COVID-19 Nucleocapsid Protein

NSF Awards: 2034446

2021 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades 9-12, Undergraduate, Graduate, Informal / multi-age

With the arrival of COVID19, I shifted my Biochemistry & Biophysics PhD research to focus on SARS-CoV-2 proteins, and shifted my science dissemination and outreach efforts to social media. This work is funded by an NSF EAGER MCB. I use the social media app, TikTok, and its trends, including songs, memes, and dances, to communicate my science, provide resources, information, and advice. And as a first-generation academic, LGBTQ+ woman in STEM, I try to also discuss social inequalities in science. I have created many videos with tens of thousands to >1M views, and accumulated >47K followers. Based on social media analytics and qualitative observations, I see that I am reaching many young people from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds.

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Discussion from the 2021 STEM For All Video Showcase (19 posts)
  • Icon for: Heather Masson-Forsythe

    Heather Masson-Forsythe

    Lead Presenter
    Oregon State University
    May 10, 2021 | 06:09 p.m.

    Welcome to my video! Happy to answer any questions about how I make my TikToks, TikTok dances, my audience, my research, etc. :)

     

    Bonus: I also turned my research project into a Dance Your PhD submission, winning the new COVID19 category this year: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CmhdQxaXd6k

     

    TikTok & Twitter @heycurlytop

    https://www.tiktok.com/@heycurlytop?lang=en

  • Icon for: Chip Bruce

    Chip Bruce

    Facilitator
    Professor Emeritus
    May 11, 2021 | 07:46 a.m.

    Excellent, imaginative approach to science communication! I've worked in other countries where the use of dance for learning seems more widespread and natural than it does in typical US schools.

    I'm curious about the possible step after initial engagement. Suppose someone says that TIkTok piques their interest in science, or even specifically in RNA. DO you have ways to nurture that interest further?

  • Icon for: Heather Masson-Forsythe

    Heather Masson-Forsythe

    Lead Presenter
    Oregon State University
    May 11, 2021 | 12:54 p.m.

    I definitely think schools, especially higher ed, underutilize the arts for learning.

     

    Good question! I make videos that are sometimes just peaking interest in science and I hope that they then follow me or other scientists and start to do more of their own research, but often I receive questions from my followers that are more specific, so I answer those too. Some of my videos are very basic and some are much more advanced, so I have a combination of followers who are undergraduates in Biochemistry and many who have very little science exposure, so I also try to make videos giving advice to students who want more or pointing them in the right direction.  

  • Icon for: Nancy Staus

    Nancy Staus

    Facilitator
    Senior Researcher, STEM Education
    May 11, 2021 | 11:21 a.m.

    This is such a fun way to communicate science to a larger audience! I am also at OSU but was too chicken to dance my PhD :-) Other than tracking numbers of followers, what metrics do you intend to use to measure your impact over time?

  • Icon for: Heather Masson-Forsythe

    Heather Masson-Forsythe

    Lead Presenter
    Oregon State University
    May 11, 2021 | 01:04 p.m.

    Go Beavs! 

    Besides follower numbers, I can see things like number of video and profile views, how many times videos have been shared, what countries they're in, etc. so this all helps me know what videos people get the most value from, and that's the most quantitative.

    Qualitatively, I regularly receive messages and comments from people that tell me what value they get from my TikTok. Often this has been things like "your video helped me open up a conversation with someone who didn't want the vaccine and now they're getting vaccinated!" or "I look up to you as a woman or LGBTQ+ scientists!" or "I didn't know this but it's awesome!". I think as long as I'm receiving messages and comments like this then I'm still making a positive impact :)

     

  • Icon for: Sierra Morandi

    Sierra Morandi

    Graduate Student
    May 11, 2021 | 02:57 p.m.

    Hi Heather! This is SO great, I enjoyed your video so much! The representation of women in STEM is so critical for the up and coming generation and the use of a tik tok platform to reach so many young women and girls is absolutely amazing! I'm curious if you will continue to spread knowledge and women in STEM positivity as you continue on your educational journey? 

  • Icon for: Heather Masson-Forsythe

    Heather Masson-Forsythe

    Lead Presenter
    Oregon State University
    May 12, 2021 | 12:23 a.m.

    Hi Sierra, I do hope to continue to do this! I'm finishing up my PhD work soonish but hoping to continue making TikToks as well as maybe using other mediums as my career progresses. 

  • Icon for: Shihadah Saleem

    Shihadah Saleem

    Facilitator
    Sr. Manager of Youth Leadership and Alumni Programs
    May 11, 2021 | 04:43 p.m.

    Such a fun and educational way to spread awareness and education. How, if at all, do you combat the nay-sayers or the people who may not view your methods as upholding the standard or traditional ways of sharing and exploring sound STEM techniques and research?

  • Icon for: Heather Masson-Forsythe

    Heather Masson-Forsythe

    Lead Presenter
    Oregon State University
    May 12, 2021 | 12:30 a.m.

    Often my response is: if traditional methods worked perfectly, we'd have more equal and diverse representation of economic class, gender, and race across STEM, which we clearly don't, so whatever we're doing has to change and grow. In my experience, people find science, and information in general, much less intimidating presented through arts, especially arts mirroring popular culture (trending songs, dances, memes, etc).

     
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    Shihadah Saleem
  • Icon for: Shakuntala Gopal

    Shakuntala Gopal

    Graduate Student
    May 12, 2021 | 10:05 a.m.

    Lovely video Heather! I have a few friends who use hip hop and rap to engage youth in science. I totally agree with an earlier comment you made about how underutilized the arts are for learning. When I was a high school science teacher, I tried having my students develop a song about photosynthesis because they were all musical geniuses and it was unbelievable how effective it was! 

    Big fan of anyone who finds ways to engage youth in STEM in a way they can understand and relate to. 

     
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    Shihadah Saleem
    Heather Masson-Forsythe
  • Icon for: Heather Masson-Forsythe

    Heather Masson-Forsythe

    Lead Presenter
    Oregon State University
    May 12, 2021 | 10:46 a.m.

    So cool! I have seen some of Raven's videos, but haven't seen Mike's channel, thanks for sharing! The information from high school I remember the most was definitely put into song :)

  • Icon for: Chip Bruce

    Chip Bruce

    Facilitator
    Professor Emeritus
    May 12, 2021 | 03:55 p.m.

    You may have said this already, but how much are you seeing viewers returning dance videos to you? And are any of those shareable more widely? I guess I'm really asking how much dance can be a two-way communication medium, and a way to articulate the learner's understanding.

  • Icon for: Heather Masson-Forsythe

    Heather Masson-Forsythe

    Lead Presenter
    Oregon State University
    May 12, 2021 | 04:06 p.m.

    This is a good question. There's a function on TikTok called "duet"ing where you can dance side by side with a video, and I see people interact with me videos like this sometimes, but most users don't actually make videos, just watch and comment and enjoy watching those with "Creator" profiles, but I think if I set it up with the intention of trying to get others to dance with me, maybe I'd get some more feedback that way. For example, for this STEM for ALL video, lots of my followers responded in the comments, but did not make their own videos in response to my prompt, but did get some! 

  • Icon for: Shihadah Saleem

    Shihadah Saleem

    Facilitator
    Sr. Manager of Youth Leadership and Alumni Programs
    May 12, 2021 | 08:04 p.m.

    Obviously you love doing this, but how do you manage the time to learn, practice and post with the rest of your research/teaching duties? Also would love to know where  your inspiration comes from?

  • Icon for: Heather Masson-Forsythe

    Heather Masson-Forsythe

    Lead Presenter
    Oregon State University
    May 12, 2021 | 11:09 p.m.

    Good question. I did give up some other outreach efforts that I had been doing before so that I could focus on this once I started to gain some TikTok popularity, and I've been fortunate to not have to formally teach for the past year and a half since I'm on a research assistantship now with this research project. Most videos don't take me too much time, I used to be a dancer so I learn choreography pretty fast. So I usually learn dances at home, and then film them in lab while I'm waiting on something to incubate or something (lots of waiting in biochem), then do the editing at home in the evening. And the videos of actual lab work just require me to remember to take some clips while I'm doing the work I have to do anyway. Lots of multitasking but some videos take longer than others for sure. 

    At first I just thought it was a fun way to show a scientist in a humanizing, fun way. But I started getting lots of messages and comments from younger people who look up to me, or from people who feel like they're really learning something new, so now that's my motivation. Plus, there are so many bad people and false information online, so I think it's important for scientists to have a strong presence on these platforms. 

  • Icon for: Wonmai "Maia" Punksungka

    Wonmai "Maia" Punksungka

    Researcher
    May 13, 2021 | 09:55 a.m.

    Heather, is is fantastic! I am so glad you are able to empower women and girls in STEM through your social media platform. In addition to managing your time, how do you come up with TikTok content? Do you ever find yourself running out of ideas, and if so, where do you find your inspiration? 

  • Icon for: Heather Masson-Forsythe

    Heather Masson-Forsythe

    Lead Presenter
    Oregon State University
    May 13, 2021 | 12:32 p.m.

    I come up with content a few different ways. I have to try and keep up with what dances/songs/etc are trending, so I'll watch some of them and see if I can put a science spin on them. Often I receive questions from followers in the video comments or in the Q&A feature of TikTok, and I'll answer them through dance or sometimes just by talking and overlaying music. Other times, I have an idea while I'm explaining to someone in real life or in the lab, I'll realize "oh I bet most of my followers wouldn't know that, but it's pretty cool", so I'll make videos about that. I actually find that I have too many ideas and not enough time.

  • Icon for: Martin Storksdieck

    Martin Storksdieck

    Researcher
    May 17, 2021 | 08:31 p.m.

    This is marvelous, Heather - thank you for engaging in this work and for sharing it with us!  Like Nancy, I am a fellow Beaver at the STEM Research Center.

     
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    Heather Masson-Forsythe
  • Icon for: Erica LoBello

    Erica LoBello

    Higher Ed Administrator
    May 18, 2021 | 01:49 p.m.

    This is so incredibly important, especially with how difficult the pandemic has made things this past year for so many. It really seems that the people you have touched with your social media presence were able to find a way to connect and be a part of something during an incredibly isolating, scary and frustrating time. Thank you so much for sharing your work! 

     
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    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Heather Masson-Forsythe
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