The dynamic and informative SUS Academia Week, which ran this year from Feb. 5 to Feb. 9, came to an enlightening conclusion on Friday night. Mitchell Moffit and Gregory Brown, self-proclaimed ‘science communicators’ and creators of the popular science YouTube channel AsapSCIENCE, presented this year’s keynote lecture, “Into the Future with AsapSCIENCE.”
With over seven million subscribers and almost one billion video views, AsapSCIENCE has become one of the most-followed producers of science content across any platform. Moffit and Brown, who created the channel in 2012, release weekly episodes on a variety of scientific topics that range from how the brain responds to drugs, to the physiological and social ramifications of human colonization of Mars.
Upward of 150 students, as well as numerous members of the Montreal community, attended the presentation, which focused on how Moffit and Brown started their YouTube careers and the future of online science education.
Brown was first introduced to YouTube while working as a high school teacher in Folkestone, England.
“It got me thinking that I could take my interest in science, art, and teaching education and make something out of it,” Brown said.
Brown realized the effectiveness of this interdisciplinary approach after noticing that his students were interested in watching educational content that was presented creatively on YouTube.
“Videos like that are an opportunity for somebody who thinks science is too boring or too hard to say ‘hey this is actually really relatable,’” Moffit said. “We take these [types of] concepts and put them into one-minute videos.”
Brown and Moffit both received their Bachelor of Science in Biological Science from the University of Guelph in 2011 and 2010, respectively. While students, they developed a passion for teaching science to their peers, employing collaborative learning strategies to enhance their own education as well as others. According to Brown, AsapSCIENCE has evolved in tandem with their personal growth, reflected in the content they put out. As Brown describes it, their original videos have matured to include increasingly political subject matter.
“Using a scientific angle allows us to educate our audience on what is happening in the world,” Moffit said.
Moffit has worked alongside famed scientist and television personality Neil deGrasse Tyson as well as actress Emma Thompson to create documentaries on a variety of social issues. The AsapSCIENCE team has addressed everything from Indigenous rights issues in northern Canada to the inner workings of Greek refugee camps.
Looking to the future, Moffit believes that the Internet is key to opening the floodgates that will reach worldwide audiences.
“The Internet provides people from all over the world with access to content that would otherwise be inaccessible,” Moffit said.
Science’s popularity and relevance feeds their channel’s growth.
“Science is becoming increasingly prevalent in pop culture [and it’s] something that people are wanting to make more content about,” Brown added.
The creators view YouTube, alongside other multimedia platforms, as essential to the future of learning in all fields of study, non-exclusive to subjects in science.
“Even if you’re not one to teach science, but you’re keen to teach something you are passionate about, the Internet is [your] opportunity to share that with the world,” Brown said. “There is so much room for more channels like this.”