Being social

Published September 01 2016

I have admired Carolyn Bertozzi’s work for more than a decade. When I used to work at a now-defunct magazine that reported advances in analytical chemistry, Bertozzi’s work developing mass spectrometric methods to analyze complex sugars at the University of California, Berkeley, caught my attention. (Bertozzi is now at Stanford University.) Her papers were easy to understand and follow, even for someone like me who is not an expert in mass spectrometry or glycobiology. And as I read more papers, the elegance and depth of the described experiments increased my admiration for her and her group.

During this time, social media became a thing. By 2012, a journalist had to have a social media presence to be relevant. So I decided to join Twitter. (I already was using Facebook for my personal life and doing my part for the universe’s collection of cat photos.)

Twitter allowed for something that Facebook didn’t: It was possible to read perspectives different from my own and from those of my friends. Twitter also let me follow people and organizations that I was interested in, helping me to forge connections that would otherwise be hard to make.

So imagine my thrill to discover Bertozzi on Twitter a few years ago when someone retweeted Bertozzi’s lament that she couldn’t get on a plane from the U.S. to Canada because she had left her passport at home.

I was overjoyed and shocked. Overjoyed because I now could follow a scientist I admired on Twitter. Shocked because Bertozzi was admitting to making such a mundane mistake. With her high-profile accomplishments, I held her in my mind as someone who had a secret magic touch in science that made her different from the likes of me. But her tweet and subsequent ones proved me wrong.

In my profile of her in this issue of ASBMB Today, Bertozzi, who is one of our members, tells us why she thinks it’s important that she use Twitter to let people get to know her a bit better.

The profile is part of a special section in this issue on using social media for science. Just as it did to journalism, social media is changing science. It’s been said before, but it bears repeating: If you want to keep your pulse on a broad swath of science, social media is a good way to go. That’s exactly what both David Bachinsky and Rick Page talk about in our section on social media.

Bethany Brookshire, also known as Scicurious, discusses how to hover over that blurry line between personal and professional on social media.

ASBMB Today’s executive editor, Angela Hopp, gives tips on how to promote your work on social media.

Allison Frick, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s digital media specialist, offers a handy guide on how to engage in best practices on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

And finally, acknowledging that with the great power of social media comes great responsibility, we have a piece by Marney White, who got ripped to shreds on Facebook.

You’ll note in the masthead that I now am the magazine’s managing editor. I look forward to hearing from you. You can email here. Better yet, find the ASBMB community on Facebook or Twitter and join us in talking about science and the awesome people who do it.

Rajendrani Mukhopadhyay