To wind down from a busy day, PhD student April Rich turns YouTube content focused on lighthearted biology lessons. But she noticed that most videos were geared toward younger audiences and highlighted introductory concepts.
In order to fill the gap for intermediate students, the 27-year-old graduate student, who is in her second year of study in the Computational and Systems Biology program in the School of Medicine, imagined a show that would spark the interests of like-minded peers.
So, Rich created bioZone, a YouTube show that highlights new and unusual topics in biology using backdrops of quirky memes, high-definition cell images, charts and upbeat music. The idea was to take entertaining deep dives into topics such as chromosomes, DNA and gene expression, but as her research into each topic went deeper, Rich said began to notice a common theme.
“A lot of times in biology it seems like things are reduced down to facts and classification and memorization. That’s how a lot of people look at it. But the more you look into these things the more you realize just how complex nature is and how things don’t always fit into these categories that we give them,” said Rich, who is also a researcher in the Carvunis Lab.
So far, she has produced four shows with topics ranging from why we have 23 chromosomes to fish with clear blood and is in the process of researching a show on evolutionary reversals—the process where a species gains a complex trait, loses the trait over time then regains it at a different point in the lineage.
Rich said she hopes the show can give students studying biology a broader way of looking at the discipline.
“I hope it helps them see the quirks of nature, the complexities and greatness of the natural world,” she said. “It’s not just textbooks and papers.”