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Science Communication

A spotlight on C&EN’s Instagram takeovers

by Bibiana Campos Seijo
July 14, 2019 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 97, ISSUE 28

 

In the past I have written about the role of social media and how it is helping C&EN get its message out to chemical scientists around the globe. It can also be an effective means of helping chemical scientists reach C&EN’s audience.

For a number of years we have put considerable effort toward growing our following in a number of social media channels, including Twitter, Facebook, and our Chemistry in Pictures blog on Tumblr. These channels allow us to push content to readers as soon as it is ready, and they are also powerful when it comes to establishing a two-way dialogue and engaging with the community. Overall, we can directly reach more than 225,000 followers who have subscribed to C&EN accounts on social media. Through retweets, shares, and likes, our messages are seen and heard by millions.

About 1.5 years ago we decided to start an account on Instagram, @cenmag, as this channel seemed ideal to create a more visual experience than can be achieved with 280 characters (Twitter’s character limit) and to showcase the beauty of our science. Our account grew rapidly, and we now have over 14,000 followers. The account is dynamic, and we share all kinds of content there. One of the highlights is our series of Instagram takeovers, when we invite chemical scientists around the globe to temporarily take over our account and share their stories with C&EN followers. We have done a number of these takeovers, and they have involved all kinds of people—students, midcareer scientists, nonacademics, and tenured professors—who talk about a variety of topics of their choice: their heroes, what their day at work involves, advice for other chemists, and more.

One of our guests was Brendan Burkett of ChemScrapes fame and a regular collaborator of C&EN through his Sketch Chemistry comics. He recorded his takeover from the Agency for Science, Technology, and Research in Singapore, where he does strategic research management. His takeover involved plenty of drawings, animations, and even an unexpected appearance by Star Wars’ Yoda.

Talented 12 alumDarryl Boyd (class of 2018) also did “a day in the life”–type takeover. He introduced us to his research at the US Naval Research Laboratory and the outreach work he regularly does with school-age students.

Leah Lowder, a PhD student, chose to, among other things, interview Peter Jacobi and Gordon Gribble, two academics based at her institution, Dartmouth College. Jacobi shared anecdotes about his experience working at legendary chemist R. B. Woodward’s lab. Woodward had a reputation as a prankster and happened to be a serious chain-smoker and heavy drinker. Woodward, knowing how well attended his group’s weekly seminars were, decided to go to the lecture hall before the seminar started and put benzoyl peroxide in a trash can at the front of the room, Jacobi said. Once the seminar started, he went on smoking and flipping cigarette ends in the direction of the trash can. Whenever a cigarette went in, there was a dramatic puff of smoke and the ensuing cries of surprise at Woodward’s inventive—if potentially unsafe—antics.

Coming up, we have a live Instagram Q&A scheduled for July 23 with C&EN columnist and Emory University chemistry professor Jen Heemstra. Heemstra has become a social media superstar. She continually listens and provides advice to individuals across the sciences and beyond in need of support regarding work-related matters, such as impostor syndrome, PhD troubles, and more. Expect this during her live Q&A, which will focus on mental health.

Are there any volunteers out there for more takeovers? You do not need to have an Instagram account. You only need to be comfortable with posting stories, just as you would on Facebook or Snapchat. Get in touch! Email Audience Engagement Editor Dorea Reeser at d_reeser@acs.org.

Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.

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