Meet the genius behind the internet's brightest and funniest science page

Science, it’s fair to say, is pretty great – indeed, pretty fucking great. And one person who understands this more than most is Elise Andrew, the British-born/Canadian-dwelling genius behind the website I Fucking Love Science which is responsible for most of the best pictures (and nerd jokes) appearing in your Facebook feed.

What was the original impetus behind I Fucking Love Science?
Honestly? Somewhere to post all my groan-worthy science jokes that none of my friends found amusing. I thought I'd be posting to 50 of my university friends, maximum. IFLS got a thousand subscribers in one day, it was madness. Although my original reasons for creating it were very mundane, as it's grown I've started to really see the potential for reaching out to people in a non-traditional way. I think it was at about 100,000 people I sort of sat back a bit and thought "wow. This could really be something amazing, and I should probably take that seriously".

What can social media do that other science communication avenues can't?
Sometimes I worry that science communication is just preaching to the choir, speaking to the converted. Social media gives us an amazing opportunity to reach new people. All those people who were turned off of science at school, because of a poor curriculum, or bad teachers or parents who just didn't see that it's important - we can show them that they shouldwant to learn, not because they have to but because this stuff is fucking cool. We've got a second chance to capture them.

Science-wise, what do you (fucking) love most?
My degree is in biology, and it will always be my first love. Evolution, ecology, genetics: they were the textbooks I was devouring as a teenager, and it was there that my love of science grew. Recently I've started to get more into physics, which has been great for me because I haven't studied it since high school. I've had to start RIGHT at the beginning, and I'm really enjoying it. I love that feeling of learning something new and thinking to myself "this is so cool! Why doesn't everyone know this? Everyone should know this!" Doing what I do, I then get to tell everyone about what I just learned, and that's a great feeling.

What’s caught your attention of late?
My attention is constantly being caught! I'm constantly learning, constantly becoming fascinated by new things - I'm lucky that I read incredibly quickly and absorb a lot of information easily, because otherwise I don't think I'd ever get my head out of a book! My twin obsessions right now are biotechnology and exoplanets. There's also been a spate of really awesome papers on stem cell technology, and organ growth that I've found incredibly interesting.

Take me back to the kerfuffle in March when it became widely known that the person behind IFLS was – of all things – a girl?
Urgh. Do I have to? The whole thing was just a clusterfuck of nonsense. I've never kept my identity or my gender a secret, I just never made a fuss about it because it never occurred to me that people would care.

What did you do?
I just rolled my eyes and went to sleep - when I woke up the first of the articles had come out, and I had dozens of emails from newspapers and news websites. Over the next few weeks so many articles were written about me - all about my gender and the reaction to it. It was madness, complete insanity.

Were people rude about it?
The comments themselves varied. Few were outright offensive, but everyone was so shocked. It was insane - we live in the 21st century after all, women aren't barefoot and chained to the sink. There were lots of fairly creepy comments, and I got many sexualized emails. People kept telling me I should be complimented; they really seemed to struggle with the idea that I would be uncomfortable with thousands of comments all dissecting my looks. I'm not a model or an actress, I'm just a 23 year old who likes to talk about science. Why does what I look like matter so much?

I remember reading some pretty vile things at the time.
I tried very hard not to comment on it publicly, because I've seen the hate that gets rained down on women when they speak out about sexism. It didn't help though: many people claimed I had deliberately hidden my gender in order to have a big "reveal". I was called an attention whore, accused of using my looks to gain fame and "likes". A page was set up that photoshopped my face onto softcore porn pictures and dug up photographs of me aged 16, which they posted lewd comments over. It was horrific. But it's important to note that I also received a lot of support in this time, and those people were honestly the only reason I didn't delete the page and crawl under my bed covers, never to emerge. Some people wrote me hilarious messages and emails, it really kept me smiling through a very difficult period. 

First published on . Updated on .

By Andrew P Street   |  

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