Ceri Riley ’16 wasn’t sure that the non-traditional career path she hoped for after MIT was the right choice. “For a long time I was afraid that if I didn’t graduate MIT and become an engineer or a scientist that I wasn’t making something of myself,” she remembers. Now an editor the for popular YouTube series SciShow—a spate of science explainer videos with nearly four million subscribers—Riley is confident she made the right choice. “It’s like a dream,” she says.
Riley majored in Biology and Comparative Media Studies / Writing (CMS) at MIT and participated in programs like MIT+K12 Videos, an outreach program where students can write, host, and produce educational videos. Riley worked on these videos in her spare time but never imagined it was something she could pursue as a full time job. That changed with some help from social media.
“I always followed SciShow because I was making educational videos and really respected what they did,” she says. “And one day I just saw it pop up on Twitter that they were looking for an editor.” Riley was hired after submitting writing and video she had created while at MIT. She credits her CMS professors for pushing her to explore the opportunity.
“They always encouraged me to pursue communicating science, explaining how important it was,” she says. Riley worked part time for the show during her senior year then moved to Montana after graduation to work for SciShow full time. “MIT pushed me to change and grow and I think this move was a similar thing,” she says.
Riley spends her days with SciShow reading scripts for episodes, fact checking, and working to become an expert in random topics, like bitcoin, antimatter, and the microbiome. “MIT taught me how to read papers and do rigorous research to really understand something that I don’t have a background in,” she says. “Like having to take (courses) 8.01 and 8.02 with no background in physics, I learned that with a little persistence and a lot of creative Googling, I can figure this out.”
SciShow releases several new episodes each week that can touch on weird news or the latest science research, and Riley strives to make science behind each episode relatable and easy to understand. “We’ve had shows on what dinosaurs tasted like and the history of the internet. You have to explain that in a way that isn’t overwhelming,” she says.
And while Riley and the SciShow editors work on scripts to create episodes can be enjoyed by kids and adults, she’s also working on a game show-style podcast, Holy F—— Science, designed to get adults excited about science.