Impact Makers: Melanie Byrd
Find out how this TikTok star gets women excited about science!
How it all began
Hi! I'm Melanie Byrd, aka @sciencey_melly on TikTok. If you ask me how my TikTok career started, I’ll tell you honestly: I was bored.
It was the beginning of COVID and I was a junior in high school. Cut off from my friends and classmates, I had too much free time, and not enough people to talk to. I spent countless hours scrolling on TikTok and thought to myself, ‘I could do this. What if I just talk about all the weird and wacky stuff that happens at my high school?’
So, I got in front of a mirror and started telling stories. It was just like dishing out the latest gossip with my friends— only, I was having a one-way conversation with a whole bunch of strangers on the internet instead.
Everyone was a bit starved for entertainment during the pandemic, weren’t we? To my surprise, my storytimes about the drama at my high school started to gain a lot of traction. By my senior year, I was eager to start the next chapter of my life, with a modest social media following coming along for the ride.
A new approach
Then, senior year took me on a journey I never imagined. I sustained a bad hip injury, which disrupted my daily routine. Shortly after, my dad and I got into a car crash on the highway. I suffered a traumatic brain injury, which I’m still recovering from years later. Clumps of my hair started falling out because of it. Eventually, I chose to shave it all off to reduce the anxiety of my hair falling out without warning.
Within a few months, I went from being a carefree high schooler dishing out the latest gossip to a girl with a shaved head and a much more serious outlook on what mattered in life. And so, a lot of things changed. I wasn’t the same person I used to be. I posted storytime content less and less frequently. A lot of my followers started to drop out, especially after I shaved my head, which hurt more than I wanted to admit.
I started to take a step back from my original TikTok account because I realized I didn’t really care to tell crazy story times anymore. I was moving away from that chapter of my life, and towards better things. I entered college at UT Austin and chose a biochemistry major with a certificate in forensics. With a new topic to focus on in my life, the content on my channel also began to shift. I’d sit in class, taking in so much new and fascinating information. All I could think was, ‘this is what I want people to learn about.’
The birth of Sciencey Melly
I made a new channel dedicated to science in July of 2022. To tell you the truth, I had no expectations for it. I thought it would be my fun little side project. I wasn’t worried about followers or engagement— I just wanted to talk about science.
I started with about 30 followers, and that was fine by me. I wanted to be the go-to science woman for this small community. I got to engage with my followers on an intimate level. We could talk about whatever we wanted science wise and just run with it.
Then, I had a viral video within my first month and skyrocketed up to 23,000 followers. Still, between the ups and downs of my first two years in college, I took plenty of time off. School was my number one priority. Last year, I didn’t post for five months. Then, I suffered yet another injury— this time, I broke my foot— and got another perspective shift along with it. Since I was effectively grounded, I thought it was the perfect time to start talking about science again. I started posting again to my 23,000 followers, who were thrilled to have me back. Less than a month later, I hit 90,000 followers.
Getting excited about science
The big jump in followers was thrilling, but not for the reason you might expect. All I could think of was how happy I was to share my passion for science. And not just any science, but really weird science! I was getting tons of questions about forensics— everything from poisons to decomposition to toxicology. Audiences who were interested in true crime became curious about the science behind it, and that curiosity led them to me. I was only too happy to indulge them.
A lot of forensics as a field is lectures about basic chemistry, or basic biology. But I knew I wanted to go beyond that. There’s only so much you can take in from textbooks and lectures. I wanted to share the strange, interesting tidbits of scientific knowledge that were applicable to real life. I started different segments on my channel— like Kooky Science, where I shared all the weird science constantly happening in the world around us, like how your brain has a “hate circuit.” Another popular series I started was Could That Kill Me?, which is exactly what it sounds like. In bite-sized videos, I dove into the hidden dangers of mundane tasks, like brushing your teeth or eating potatoes!
The 'why' behind what I do
The majority of my followers are kind, enthusiastic, and encouraging. But of course, it’s impossible to be a woman on the internet and not receive hate comments. Being a woman in STEM who challenges traditional beauty standards didn’t do me any favors, either. I’ve received my fair share of bullying from strangers hiding behind their keyboard. But the hate doesn’t get me down. The other comments, like "you helped me so much with this topic!” and “I've never been interested in science until I saw your channel!” make it all worth it.
I love telling people about what I'm interested in. I love talking about science in a way that 1. people understand and 2. people are interested in. So many of us are introduced to science with a focus on memorizing complicated facts and equations, to try and get a good grade. But whenever you take a step back and you educate people on the really cool parts of science that are relevant to daily life, they get really interested.
Being a voice for change
Building up the kind of audience grants me the label of “influencer.” To me, that means a lot more than just posting content. Having a large following gives me the chance to be a voice for what I believe in.
Over 90% of my followers are women. That means every time I log on, post a video, or respond to a comment, I’m a real-life example of what being a woman in STEM looks like. I have the power to encourage and uplift women like me, who might feel discouraged from pursuing the kind of career I choose to pursue. That’s a huge honor for me, and a responsibility I don’t take lightly.
I have always wanted to use my platform for good- to raise money and awareness for the causes I care about, and build a community with other people who share my passion. About a year ago, I became aware of the term “impact influencer” when a Silicon Valley startup called Stashrun reached out to me to scout Gen Z’ers who are using their social media in this way. Today I lead partnerships there, to help empower other impact influencers, and I think this is the perfect way to describe what motivates my content. I’m impact influencing! For women in STEM and for the planet So, in addition to my series about fun and quirky science facts, I keep my followers updated with the latest news about the state of climate change. I inform them about new bills and government projects that could have a negative impact on the Earth, provide resources to combat environmentally dangerous laws in my bio, and offer outlets for my followers to donate to nonprofits centered around combating climate change. Bringing climate activism to the public is hands down the most important part of what I do.
The importance of being genuine
If I have one piece of advice for anyone trying to make it big on social media, it’s this: don't try to become an influencer for the sake of becoming an influencer. Find passion in your own life first before sharing it with other people. It’s very obvious whenever you meet someone if they’re interested in becoming an influencer for the sake of the pretty pictures, popularity, and brand deals. But the key to success is being excited that you're sharing a topic with people.
That’s what drew me to partnering with Odyssey. I loved that the platform covered so many different topics, and gave so many writers a chance to share their voice. The articles are engaging and well-written, but most importantly, they’re real. They speak to what’s most important to the creators’ hearts and minds. That’s a quality I admire, and one I hope to embody in my own content creation for years to come.
Find Melanie on social media!