André Isaacs, PhD (he/him) is an Associate Professor of Chemistry at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, and perhaps best know—to his 110K followers and beyond—as TikTok's drdre4000. After finishing high school in Kingston, Jamaica, Isaacs moved to the U.S. to pursue a B.A. in chemistry and went on to received his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania, working as a postdoctoral researcher at UC Berkeley before accepting his current faculty position. He conducts and publishes research on copper-mediated organic reactions, was one of the founding members of the college’s GLBTQ Faculty and Staff Alliance, and works with a number of student organizations including the Caribbean and African Assemblage (CASA) as well as the student LGBTQIA+ organization (PRIDE).
How would you describe the types of videos you make on TikTok?
The videos I make on TikTok showcase a wide variety of my interests. I enjoy teaching, comedy, and expressing my queer identity. I would describe my niche as "funny, queer chemistry professor who has a lot of fun with his students."
Why did you start making videos?
I started making videos as an outlet to being socially distanced from my friends and activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I'm an extrovert and crave interactions with people, and TikTok seemed to be a great way to meet and interact with people.
How has the response been?
The response to my videos have been far greater than I anticipated—I had no idea what to expect when I posted my first video. I was very humbled by the comments and started to realize that I had a unique story and an opportunity to inspire young, queer, BIPOC or immigrant scientists.
Which videos have been your favorite so far?
My favorite videos are the ones that challenge society’s obsession with the gender binary, particularly as it relates to fashion. I want to use my platform to inspire young people to be true to who they are. You can’t be successful if you're suppressing who you are.
What's been challenging or surprising about making TikTok videos?
The most challenging thing initially was navigating the app. I also had to learn how to use external apps to do certain types of transitions and edits. What's been surprising to me is the level of open-mindedness I’ve noticed compared to other social media platforms. There are people who are prejudiced in many ways, but overall, the majority appear to be supportive and willing to learn.
What would you like LGBTQ+ scientists to know about your TikToks?
I'd like LGBTQ+ scientists to know that visibility matters. There are a lot of brilliant young students out there who question a future in STEM because they fear rejection. There are many who excel in STEM but don’t pursue it beyond high school or college because of the "advisor-heavy" nature of the field, which requires you to build a relationship with someone who might be biased toward you because of your identity. I hope my TikToks can help people to see that as a queer, black immigrant, I was able to navigate this field successfully and find a job where I can be myself, feel supported, and have fun as a scientist. I benefited from having an advisor who helped me to accept myself by connecting me with a queer faculty member and therapy resources. I want to provide the support I got in graduate school, when I questioned my future in the field, to people who need it. I want to be the spark that ignites the next generation of confident, queer scientists.