Pop quiz: What brings twins Miles and Malik George joy? Answer: Learning their educational TikTok project is making a positive impact.
With more than 300 videos uploaded to TikTok since Inauguration Day in January — no deliberate coincidence — the 21-year-old Woodbridge High School alums have garnered more than 52,000 followers to their upbeat, intelligent and humorous STEM-focused account @MalikandMiles.
The two, now juniors at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), took to TikTok to spread a STEM message tinged with advocacy and advice. Natural teachers, they love the creativity and community of the almost three-month-old endeavor.
“We learn all these complex biology topics and STEM at school; we know they are important and we want to get it out to the world, but the nature of it and the detail tends to get it bogged down sometimes,” said Malik George, who is 11 minutes older. “So we show it to the world with a short explanation or a meme that we make up or a skit that uses the lyrics of a famous song going around. So knowing that when people watch those and they understand the topic that much better and have a laugh doing so is a great joy to us.”
“And the community aspect is amazing,” said Miles George, who is one inch taller. “Despite being all different walks of life and being all around the country, being able to unify that in a community and actually help them and connect them with people who have interests like them is really nice.”
Like many, the two first dove into TikTok when the pandemic hit last March. College went virtual and the two went home to parents Nathaniel and Sharon George and 16-year-old dog Shy. That original TikTok account, which featured random skits and commentary, had nearly 200K followers. A “decent popularity,” as Miles George said, but it had no sense of community — just “unfiltered growth.”
The brothers took a break from TikTok in the fall to focus on their studies as Biological Engineering majors and once the new year hit, so did their social media aspirations. They scrapped the original account, relaunching with a new one — @MalikandMiles. With twins in personalized matching lab coats, the goal was to make STEM accessible and interesting to all audiences.
“We decided that we wanted to try something new and do something that’s more personable to us,” Miles said. “Posting STEM-related content whether that be memes, and funny skits relating to the sciences, fun facts, little mini presentations and lectures on science and STEM projects — anything STEM-related that we wanted to talk about.”
That move sparked an explosion of new attention. Not just fun STEM tips, trivia and tricks, the TikTok account offers COVID-19 information, lab demonstrations, serious science and pop quizzes, as well as advocating and advising with quick banter and their take on TikTok trends.
“It is very important to communicate research from scientists to the public so with that in mind, we always wanted to kind of be modern day Bill Nye figures,” Miles George said. “Where we could explain science and what is cool about it to a wider audience especially in under-represented groups that have not had those opportunities historically. We figured that maybe if we started a social media account on TikTok that applies to many people in late Gen Z and Gen Alpha that we could get some popularity and get some more people interested in STEM at a younger age.”
For example, Malik George’s current favorite of their videos is a very short one done with the waterfall filter. Most TikTok videos are one minute or less and creators only have seconds to catch viewers’ attention as they scroll by.
“Essentially you walk onto half the screen and whatever is there is taken and stretched across the right side,” he said. “When we saw that, we said this is like a biological experiment called gel electrophoresis — the molecules move through a gel. So, we acted out a video where essentially we were both proteins and I got stuck in the gel. My face gets warped and I am screaming. That video got to Biology TikTok and got over 300,000 views. Just seeing how this very short video related to so many people and was received well was very nice.”
Along the way to their Biological Engineering degrees, the twins picked up a minor on African and African Diaspora Studies, which focuses on Black history and culture in the U.S. They are passionate about incorporating both their major and minor in a future career. To that end, in January, they participated in an internship for South Africa.
“We worked with them to add synthetic biology application to Africa and the country and also did some COVID research for them,” Miles George said. “With the intersectionality of the African and Bioengineering, it helps in that department, but having a strong understanding of race and culture definitely helps when designing new technologies and healthcare systems to be equitable for everybody.”
After graduation next year, the brothers plan on graduate school to pursue PhDs in Bioengineering, specifically Synthetic Biology research. While not positive about what happens post-graduate school, both Miles and Malik George want to pursue research.
“I know that I want to be doing biological research that someway helps the Black community,” Malik George said. “Using biotechnology to help various ailments that are historically predestined more to some groups than others. Whether it is advocating research and advocating for the field to become more diverse in terms of people doing that kind of research. I do know that I want to be working on both aspects in the future.”
“I would say that we both are in the same wavelength in that regard,” Miles George said. “We both care about promoting. We both care about research that definitely that works for everybody and corrects imbalances in the medical field and STEM overall.”
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While fraternal, the two are identical in more ways than not. Besides sharing a major now, both play tennis and together, were doubles champions on the high school varsity team. They shared — excitedly and willingly — co-valedictorian duties at Woodbridge High School before going off to MIT, their dream school.
“MIT was always renowned for its engineering program and also it was a personal thing, because Marvel characters like Iron Man went there,” Malik George said with a smile. “We wanted to go to MIT because we knew they had a nice Bioengineering department as well. Also, we got to see what the school was like our junior year of high school. We went here to summer programs there and we really liked the campus and the people here.”
Being a twin definitely has its benefits. With a twin, you always have a friend, Miles George said.
“It never bothered us being twins,” he said. “We are very similar in terms of our interests and life goals. This can be rare to find with twins, and so, we like always having the other around to support each other in whatever we do.”
Together, the two want to continue diving deep into the world of STEM education and advocacy as well as help others find their path. To that end, the George brothers have been speaking to students and plan to expand their mission further. This includes virtual live programs and presentations, as well as the launch of their own website, MalikandMiles.com, which went live Monday. It contains links to their social media platforms as well as key moments of their programming, links to groups the two have worked with, their Discord server which allows for additional community engagement and more. Their friend, Betel Tenna, who created their logo, also helped design the website.
“After we realized that our two fronts of initiative were gaining a lot of popularity, we decided to invest some of our own time and money to create a Malik and Miles website,” Malik George said. “Personally, I think the coolest section is where we are consolidating dozens of STEM and college-based resources for high schoolers. Not many are exposed to college summer programs or programs during the school year where juniors can do research or another program with a specific college. And a lot of these are free or offer very good financial aid.”
On March 31, the scientists gave a presentation for the senior class at Woodbridge High School. Principal Glenn Lottmann had only praise for the Class of 2018 co-valedictorians.
He recalled the “great moment” when the young men as high school seniors discovered they were named co-valedictorians. Their reaction was “so authentic, so genuine — they really wanted to be one, together,” Lottman said.
“They are not about themselves. They are about other people,” Lottmann said. “They just want to help everybody. That’s what they were like the first minute they stepped foot into our school. It has never changed. From the four quick years they were with us, they never faltered. They always put everyone first before themselves.”
Lottman added that what the George twins are doing with STEM on TikTok is “who they are.”
“It’s no surprise that they are doing that because it was like that when they were in school,” Lottmann said. “They were into everything in our school. Everything they were apart of was so positive in the school and I’m thinking it’s not because the programs were positive and they got in. No. The programs were positive because they got in — because they were a part of them. Everything these kids touched turned to gold – no question.”
The session focused on choosing the right college, Lottman said. There are plans for the two to speak with Ross Street School 11, which was their elementary school and Woodbridge Middle School, which they also attended.
“It was good being able to go back to our high school,” Malik said. “It’s been three years since we have been there.It’s nice to be able to speak with them and it’s good because we know the classes our school offers and the teachers there, the general clubs and things. We can give them specific information on how to get involved in STEM or how to get into college and what classes to take. As we continue to do this to the younger years of our high school, they will be able to — not directly copy us — but they will be able to emulate us or see how we did it.”
“We have been getting contacted by more around the country whether it be science programs or a high schools — people have been reaching out,” Miles George said. “We can talk about what STEM is if they are young, or how to pursue a STEM career, applying to college for high school juniors or how to pick a college for seniors.”
The George brothers hope to continue building on the foundation they created.
“It’s a good chance to build community and spread our message as much as possible and get our names out there into the world,” said Malik George, noting he and his brother also are MIT ambassadors helping underrepresented students during the admissions process. “And also we care deeply about diversity in STEM and in college and made sure equity in our groups and underrepresented people can be involved in STEM and are considered when all these STEM technologies are being made.”
“We are so amazed at how far we have come in such a short amount of time,” Miles added. “The connection we madehas been incredible. We just want to keep growing and expanding our reach with our two fronts of social media and school outreach.”