Love it or hate it, social media can be a powerful tool for education and data collection. While the subject of cannabis often triggers the removal of content and banned accounts, pharmaceutical scientists Dr. Riley Kirk, PhD and Dr. Miyabe Shields, PhD are using platforms like TikTok and Instagram to help followers understand cannabis pharmacology, while gathering unique data on their experiences with it.
A Synergistic Relationship
When Kirk and Shields first became familiar with one another, it wasn’t at an academic conference or through an industry organization—it was on TikTok. After a little hesitancy about using social media, Shields (@miyabephd on TikTok and Instagram) made a video about cannabis and mental health, and was surprised when people engaged with the subject. She was even more surprised to learn that she wasn’t the only cannabis scientist making content.
“I scrolled the app for the first time, and the second thing that came up for me was Riley with a video on GPCR signalling,” remembers Shields. “She was explaining the molecular mechanism of how the [g-protein coupled] receptor works. I thought, ‘I’ve never seen someone explain that in a better way than in this 30-second TikTok.’”
At the time, Shields was living in Boston and Kirk was finishing up graduate school and working as a teaching assistant at the University of Rhode Island’s cannabis program. “I started making videos about cannabis pharmacology and how it works in the body, and I didn’t think anybody would care,” says Kirk. Today, she has over 378,000 followers (@cannabichem).
Shields learned quickly that the two scientists had more in common than an interest in making educational cannabis content: they both specialize in drug discovery, which involves identifying molecules and the targets in the body to which they are best suited.