COLUMBUS, Ohio–From tips on how to pickle vegetables to info on foods that can help you sleep, in 60 seconds, Ohio State alum Brittany Towers Lewis is working to bring food science to the masses through a booming social media message.
Towers Lewis, known as the @theblackfoodscientist on her Instagram and TikTok accounts, delivers energetic and informative lessons about food, diet and cooking techniques. A graduate of the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in food science, Towers Lewis was back on the Columbus campus Monday to discuss science communication in social media.
“I wanted to find something that I really loved and had a passion for. My mom actually told me about food science when I came to [Ohio State], but I kind of dismissed it,” she said. “But I revisited it and changed my major in the middle of my junior year, which is probably the best thing that I’ve ever done. Because I absolutely love food science.”
Her love of the science of food has led to a career in industry as a project manager with PepsiCo and now Vital Proteins. But it also inspired her to turn to social media to share her knowledge.
Towers Lewis said she first started making videos in 2021 and was motivated to help correct the misinformation about science that she saw come to prominence during the pandemic.
“A lot of people don't know how to communicate science very well, which makes people that don’t have a science background kind of scared of science,” she said. “I was like, ‘OK, how can I help people understand science and make it more relatable to people?’ I think food is an absolutely great way to do that.”
She answers popular questions like what’s the difference between baking powder and baking soda, and why does slicing onions make people cry. Ideas come from family, co-workers and some of her 37,000 Instagram or her nearly 68,000 followers on TikTok.
While most of her posts are popular topics, the subject of food doesn’t come without controversy. For example, Towers Lewis has debunked myths surrounding monosodium glutamate and plans to do a video discussing genetically modified foods.
“I’m talking about things that people might not be completely knowledgeable on. So I think it’s really important to come at it from a scientific and objective point of view,” she said. “I’m giving people the facts. I’m not telling people how to feel or what to eat. You can choose to eat whatever you want, but I just want to make sure that people aren’t choosing it based on misinformation or based on something that isn’t true.”
Wading into controversial topics comes with drawbacks online. Towers Lewis said she’s not immune to trolls, but she takes it in stride.
“[The response has] been overwhelmingly positive. Which is really great,” she said. “Obviously, there are trolls out there, very few. But when you have trolls, that means you’ve made it in the world of social media.”
Growing her audience and ignoring trolls is made easier by an approach that comes from experience and passion for her subject.
“I think it’s just my personality kind of fit with what I was doing, which is also really important because I want to do something that was authentic to myself.”
Ohio State News