The creator behind the YouTube series “Science with Tom,” Tom McFadden, met with a group of Los Medanos College’s MESA students Friday, Sept. 2 in SC2-202. According to McFadden, his life’s mission is “spreading a contagious love of biology to various parts of the universe.” He also hopes to bring student culture and creativity — particularly music and video — into the curriculum. McFadden’s channel, which has over 11 thousand subscribers, includes collaborations with his students.
MESA Program Director Nicole Trager, introduced McFadden, mentioning his background in education — he’s been teaching Biology to eighth graders for four years now in addition to being a TA at Stanford University — and acknowledging the fact that he’s different from some of the other speakers MESA has had given with his use of the YouTube platform.
“Tom is a unique career. We usually have careers from engineers to biologists but Tom has a background in education and science communications and he’s from the Bay Area,” said Trager. “I thought I’d bring him in because he’s very cool.”
He started off talking about one of the first videos he ever made as a TA at Stanford University — “Hi Meiosis,” a parody of Eminem’s “Hi My Name Is.” He then performs the song, enlisting the audience to participate during the chorus. “I had so much fun writing that song,” he said. “I gave it to my students as homework they had so much fun with it.”
This took him into his next number — a parody and medley of the Game’s “Hate It or Love It” (“Oxidate It or Love It”) and Jay-Z’s “On to the Next One (“Electron to the Next One”).” For this video, they tried hard to recreate Jay-Z’s music video.
“We were in all black and white. We were trying to recreate the ‘On to the Next One’ video with all the Illuminati visuals,” he said–– which got a laugh from the audience.
Around 2008 or 2009, McFadden contacted a journalist, mentioning his parody. The writer made a blog post and the video went from having approximately 300 views to “thousands of views per minute.” McFadden described the sensation of going viral as “terrifying” and “super intense.”
He furthermore talked about the connection between science and history.
“There are so many interesting characters, people in history,” said McFadden. It was then that he received a grant from Hewlett Packard and funding from Kickstarter to make videos for public schools in San Jose and Oakland. “Rosalind Franklin vs. Watson & Crick” was the first rap battle video in the historical science series. He wanted to keep the learning relative to this generation. Science isn’t stationary — things in the field are always changing.
“Science is a process of doing stuff. It’s a process of exploration,” McFadden explained. He continued, bringing up the importance of taking scientific concepts and making them interesting.
In addition to making videos at Stanford, he works with students from The Nueva School in Hillsborough, CA. Videos Include parodies “They Grow” (Drake’s “Headlines”) and “This Drought” (Twenty One Pilot’s “Stressed Out”).
“The ultimate goal for me has always been to get kids involved in as much of the production as possible,” said McFadden. “Not every kid is gonna have those kind of skills and resources.”
You can find his videos and collaborations on his YouTube channel. He has collaborated with multiple science majors from Stanford including Molecular Biologists Lauren Popov and Jonathan Lynch, Neuroscientist Sama Ahmed and Cancer Biologist Jasmaine Williams. McFadden’s most popular video to date is “Fossil Rock Anthem,” which has nearly 70,000 views. For more information on Tom or his other collaborators, you can go to sciencewithtom.com.