Dr Michelle Wong is a Sydney-based science educator with a PhD in chemistry. Using her platform, Wong provides easy-to-understand breakdowns on the science behind beauty, while identifying the products that have scientific backing and those built on pseudoscience. Here, she demonstrates how an affinity for social media can turn a passion project into a career
What do you do?
I am the founder of Lab Muffin Beauty Science and a science educator.
What did it take to get here?
I’ve always loved teaching! I wasn’t really a natural at picking up science as a student, so I really appreciated all of the wonderful, inspirational teachers I met along the way. I went through the usual science education path: high school science, bachelor’s degree in chemistry, PhD in chemistry.
I started tutoring younger kids when I was 14, did some lab demonstrating and took up a teaching fellowship at the University of Sydney during my PhD. After graduating, I also taught at Matrix Education, eventually becoming the head of chemistry there where I helped write their teaching materials and train up teachers.
I started my blog Lab Muffin Beauty Science in 2011 during my PhD, as a creative outlet and yet another means of teaching (I’m clearly a little obsessed!). That expanded into an Instagram account and a YouTube channel, and it’s recently become my full-time job.
Imagine you’ve met yourself as a teenager at a careers fair: How would you describe what you do to your former self?
I break down the science behind beauty products. Every day is different! It’s a mix of writing, video editing, filming, photography, going to events, negotiating contracts, web design… it’s fantastic if you love being creative and can’t handle routine, but it’s such a new sort of area that there’s very little guidance for what you should or shouldn’t be doing – equal parts scary and exciting!
What's the most common misconception about your line of work?
That people who use beauty products don’t care about science.
Favorite moment on the job?
Probably when I got to squirt sunscreen all over my face for a video.
Biggest fail on the job?
When the sunscreen got into my eyes. It burns!
What do you never leave the house without?
My diary – my day falls apart without it!
What’s one piece of advice you'd give to someone wanting to embark on the same career?
Be flexible, be disciplined, and try to have a fallback option.