Team
Maynard Okereke headshot

Maynard Okereke

Science Communication Fellow
Science Communicator
Hip Hop Science

Tell us about your work/research. What kinds of things do you do?

I created a platform called Hip Hop Science which serves to bridge the gap between music, entertainment, and science by introducing scientific elements into everyday pop culture. I perform this through various means including exploratory science trips, review of popular new trends & innovations, and engaging social media content. All with an overall agenda of educating and encouraging more minority involvement to the STEAM fields via an entertaining perspective. I believe it's important to try to find new ways to reach and generate interest in potential future scientists. Music and entertainment are areas that all communities share an interest in, and the ability to use it as a vessel to teach and educate becomes pivotal in connecting with future generations. Through my social media channels, interviews, and explorations I'm able to generate engaging content that teaches science in new and interesting ways.

What sparked your initial interest in your career?

My journey into the science fields started at a young age as I had always been interested in wildlife and nature. I've been a lifelong fan of National Geographic and loved exploring environments and ecosystems in my own backyard. As I entered college, I was introduced to other technical areas of science and found that I could also incorporate my love of building and creating things into a career as an engineer. While being immersed in all these science areas I was also a music lover and performed as a hip hop artist. My artistry opened up other doors in entertainment and led to on-camera work as an actor. While exploring all my interests, I always felt I had to separate my passions, especially when entering my professional career. I want to be able to show others through my platform a new face of a scientist - someone with contrasting interests and passions, but still knowledgeable and professional. I've found that a number of students tend to not feel included in the STEM fields because they don't see others that look like themselves doing that work. I hope to show that representation by being that example.

Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?

Growing up I didn't have any mentors or people in my area of interest that opened the doors for me. A lot of my pursuit of the sciences was through self-discovery and taking risks. However, I tell people that music truly raised me. Introspective artists like Wu-Tang sparked my interest in scientific elements through their use of psychological metaphors and science references. I, in turn, used this in my own entertainment pursuits which eventually transferred into me being able to explore professional opportunities in STEM. 

What element of your work/study do you think is the most fascinating?

The great thing about my work is that I am able to explore a number of different areas of science. My exploratory trips have taken me to places I never thought could infuse relevant scientific topics. Being a part of CES for two years straight has opened up tremendous connections within the tech community. I have been able to get a first hand inside look at some of the leading innovations in technology, the innovators behind them, and how that technology is shaping our world. I've had sit down interviews with amazing scientists ranging from Ecologists studying light pollution to climate scientists with NASA studying how global warming is affecting sea levels across the world.

What other jobs led you to your current career?

My work in entertainment has definitely helped me to mold my platform into what it is now. I left my professional engineering job to pursue acting/music work in Los Angeles. Being a part of film and television productions, working with other artists, and being surrounded by creatives gave me the skill set and confidence to use my voice to educate. Everything from hosting events, being a tv personality, and having an understanding of social media gave me the tools to develop my platform into something unique.

What are your degrees and certifications?

I have a Bachelor of Science in Civil/Environmental Engineering from the University of Washington in Seattle (2006).

What are your hobbies?

I'm a huge sports fan and played soccer and track throughout school. I love attending, watching, and participating in sporting events, primarily basketball and football. I'm also still an avid music fan and love writing, producing, and performing music live.

How did you get involved with Ocean Exploration Trust?

I found out about Ocean Exploration Trust though social media. I began following the research on Nautilus Live after seeing one of their posts online. Once I found out there was an opportunity to participate in this fellowship, I knew that this was the opportunity I needed. Also, a good friend of mine is a NatGeo Fellowship recipient, and hearing how her work completely changed her ability to educate definitely encouraged me to pursue this further.

What advice would you give someone who wants to have a career like yours?

For those looking to pursue a career in science communication, I believe it's important to first discover what your unique voice is. Science Communication is all about finding unique ways to educate people on complex scientific subjects. Think about the things that fueled your passion into the sciences, or what you wished was available to you and use that to drive your work. As with any career that involves entrepreneurial pursuits, you must be steadfast, dedicated, and self-motivated. Don't let setbacks or failures deter you from accomplishing your goals. Stay motivated and endure through the difficult times and you'll surely see the fruits of your labor.