UNC sophomore Samantha Townsend uses her Instagram account @stem357 to inspire students to pursue careers in STEM.
Townsend created the account in February 2019 to share STEM-related memes and videos. The account now has over 82,000 followers.
One reason she started the account was to make STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — seem less daunting by creating a tight-knit community, Townsend said.
“I just wanted to share my love for STEM and show that there are a ton of other people out there who are in the exact same boat,” she said. “We’ve had this really supportive community centered around enjoying STEM content, making memes and making videos.”
Townsend said creating this online community helps STEM students connect with each other through humor, making the field seem less intimidating.
Cameron Jordan, a friend and longtime follower of Townsend’s account, said the memes provide more than just entertainment. Jordan said the posts help the learning process by making jokes about course material, and if a joke is hard to understand, other users in the comments will help explain it.
Townsend said despite her large following, she rarely receives hate or negative comments.
“I always say I have the best followers in the world because they’re all super supportive of me making content and making my videos fun,” she said.
Michael Facci, a recent UNC graduate who studied applied mathematics, said the lighthearted nature of the account makes STEM more accessible to people who are intimidated by it, especially students who may be new to STEM fields or nervous to enter them.
Townsend said students who may be afraid to pursue a career in STEM should know that STEM is a large community with many supportive members.
“I tell everyone to know that you are not alone,” she said. “I know it can be scary looking at your course load and seeing all these classes that you may have never heard of. There are a lot of people out there in the same boat.”
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