McMaster alumna promotes STEM satire through new website
Photo C/O dnatured.com
By: Neda Pirouzmand
After completing an undergraduate degree in chemistry and masters in chemical engineering at McMaster University, Lexa Graham embarked on a new path.
She performed in stand-up comedy shows and wrote for satire sites like The Onion and CBC Comedy. After identifying a gap in the market for satirical science content, she launched DNAtured.com on Feb. 21.
“The journey to build up this website was a long, long process,” said Graham. “I spent two to three months designing the website and learning to be a web developer over the summer. Beginning in the fall, I organized writer meetings, which allowed me to build up a treasure chest of articles which I am eager to begin releasing.”
DNAtured.com contains sub-categories for its articles. Among them are “News and Views,” which attracts the general public through a comedic approach that brings awareness to issues such as climate change.
The “Research” page contains relatable content for researchers. One example of an article headline is “Professor Excited For Decades of Research To Be Completely Misinterpreted by Media.”
The “Protocols” section is being developed as a play on how-tos in research. Finally, “Submit to Reviewer 3” is an opportunity for external writers to contribute pieces to DNAtured.
“I started the site because I wanted to poke fun at all sensationalized science journalism I was seeing in the news, as well as have relatable comedy for people in STEM about the challenges of research and academia,” she said.
Aware of the misinterpretations that regularly occur in science, Graham said that she wanted it to be clear that her articles are a joke. She never wants them to be even remotely taken as fact.
For now, the goal is to focus on increasing readership. In the future, Graham hopes to incorporate video along with more educational resources into her articles.
“It is not fully realized right now, but the aim is to follow a Wikipedia-type style where there are one to three links embedded in articles that will take readers to other articles within the website,” said Graham. “In addition, we want to start focusing more on anchor tags within an article, which will teach you about what is being referenced. We are still working on implementing more of those.”
With a team of approximately 10 regular writers, Graham is gearing up for Pi Day on March 14.
Beginning at 7:30 p.m. at Tranzac club in Toronto, Graham’s team will host a comedy night with performers as seen on CBC Comedy and Just for Laughs.
The night will emulate the Saturday Night Live Weekend Update, where news topics will be brought up with a comedic twist.
Graham believes society has evolved to the point where you need to grab people’s attention quickly if you want to send a message. One hundred page reports on climate change will not appeal as much to people as science satire will.
With this in mind, Graham hopes to be a liaison between the truth and drawing attention to real issues.
To learn more and/or get involved with DNAtured, students can access the site at www.dnatured.com and reach out to Graham directly at [email protected].