11 February is International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Science Centre Singapore is proud to support and promote women and girls in their participation in STEM. Today we are supporting Biogirl MJ, cofounder of local science and nature channel: Just Keep Thinking (@justkeepthinkingsg). Started in 2019, the channel has over 125k subscribers across YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok; with many videos showing how fun Science can be outside the classroom. It’s amazing how much more we can learn on our little red dot.
How did you become passionate in science and how did it evolve into Just Keep Thinking?
I’ve always had a strong passion for Science ever since I got my first ever Mini Science Encyclopaedia as a birthday gift from my mother when I was 5. There were all sorts of mind-blowing knowledge and fascinating visuals about all things Science, and I remembered just constantly being in awe of what I was learning. I also started to relate what I’ve learnt from it to things happening around me, and it was just a Eureka moment when I realised that Science is ALL around us! That’s how it started and I have never looked back since then.
As I continued on my journey, I started to be involved in education as well, so I’ve worked in education and outreach departments in various nature and/or wildlife organisations. I was also a Science teacher myself, teaching the MOE syllabus to my students while sharing more about our biodiversity and important Science issues to them. I then started to realise that we had lacked good communication mediums to reach out to the mainstream audience about Science and Nature, especially in the social media scene in Singapore. The Science communication then was a lot about hard facts and informative studies that was not palatable for the general population out there. Hence, my co-founder and I then decided to come up with “Just Keep Thinking” to show that Science and knowledge itself can be fun and entertaining as well.
Have you always envisioned yourself doing what you do?
No, definitely not 😂! It was never my dream to be involved in the social media scene. I’ve always wanted to be a wildlife biologist, and this vision has stuck by me all the way until my university days. But just like many people out there, there are many factors in life that get in the way so we don’t necessarily achieve what we set out for. There is limited career progression in the field of my study, so I became a Science teacher in the end — which I thoroughly enjoyed as well and never regretted choosing the education path. Just Keep Thinking was pretty much a random idea born out of an overseas trip where I was just sharing my knowledge for a short vlog, and we thought it would be great if people got to watch such content online. We then created the channel while working full-time and did not expect it to gain much following, but it did and it led us to where we are today. I think that’s how life works too — it throws you a curveball that you would have never expected, and depending on how you see the opportunity, can lead to outcomes you would have never envisioned. Plans change, passions change, people change, and that is absolutely normal because you can choose how you want to handle the situation and find meaning in what you are doing. I chose to put in all my time and effort to grow Just Keep Thinking, and I truly feel that the channel has indeed reached out to many people and sparked their interests in learning more about the world around them.
Have you faced any challenges as a woman in your field, or know of any?
People tend to have an impression of how female influencers should be like based on the current majority of them – you have to be good-looking, you have to be fair, clear skin with no scars, you have to behave in a certain manner and not be too adventurous etc. I have received a message from one of the followers about how my skin will look ugly and that “no one will want me” because of the number of sandfly bites I got from an outdoor adventure, and it really disappointed me as I knew he wouldn’t have thought that way if I were a male. I have also received comments from my own relatives about how tanned my skin had become due to my various projects under the sun, and how women should “keep their skin fair” to be attractive. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing in this 21st century, and it makes me wonder how certain societal notions of beauty prevailed through the centuries, and how they can still exist up till today.
Women made up only 5% of the CEOs appointed in 2020 globally, and that is rather shocking as I had expected much better statistics. Based on anecdotal accounts and my own experiences, I feel that women are often seen as managers, a people person who should be delegating jobs, communicating with the peers in their department, managing expectations on both sides etc. and I do think that stems from how the role of women has been perceived in the past. However, I don’t see a lot of them being leaders in their own right, even if they are capable to be a CEO of their own. When females start to exhibit leadership qualities, people brush it off as “fierce, bossy, arrogant” when they probably would not have felt the same way if it were a male. This lack of foresight clouded by the judgement of how different genders should be acting really impedes the progress of women in this field, and of society as a whole, because these women are truly capable of making the same or even greater contributions that can potentially be ground-breaking solutions that help to resolve some of the world issues that we are currently facing.
What is the future of Just Keep Thinking? Do you have big plans or big collaborations in mind?
First and foremost, we would definitely be growing the channel more as a social media platform to reach out to more people because after all, that is our stronghold that we will always want to keep going. With that, we would also like to create content about bigger issues that need to be addressed, such as our biodiversity crisis, climate change, or even societal issues such as mental health – with a Science twist, of course! 😄 We would also like to work more with organisations and people who are doing work that may not necessarily be very “science-y” – not only to show them that there are other ways to share with people about their efforts through the lens of Science, but also as a challenge for me to see how we can modify a seemingly unlinked concept into a scientific one, and how we can make it interesting and entertaining for people to enjoy. We are also expanding my outreach on-the-ground by having more offline activities. We have our own nature tours, where we get to bring participants on a journey with us and interact with them as though they themselves are on a Just Keep Thinking episode, and we hope to do more of it and expand these hands-on experiences to more workshops and programmes. We have been giving more sharing sessions and talks to various governmental and non-governmental organisations about the work we do and we hope we can do more in this aspect as well.
What would be your message to young girls venturing into Science?
Science is not just a boy’s game, it is not just a girl’s game – it is everyone’s game. The world is your oyster, and the dream is yours to make. It will not be an easy path but we have never given up since then and we will not give up now. Without the sheer determination, perseverance and support of the people before us, we would not have gotten to where we are today and we should pride ourselves on how far we have come and continue to do so for future generations. Compared to years ago where females are still seen as only the caretakers of the households and are often pressured into having kids, we have more opportunities to take charge of our own lives to do what is best for us and what makes us happy. Much more needs to be done, for sure, but I have absolute confidence that we can continue to prove ourselves capable and worthy – just like how we have always been doing so. Science is everywhere, and it is for everyone 😊!
Interviewed by Lydia König
Illustrated by Lim Daphne
Photos by Biogirl MJ