'Proud science nerd' rockets to TikTok stardom

ByDani Beckstrom via Localish logo
Wednesday, September 7, 2022
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Meet Justin Colon, a student at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, is a TikTok creator whose videos have gone viral.

New York -- Meet Justin Colon, a student at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan whose alter ego, "The Justonian," is a TikToker whose videos on topics from fossils to physics have gone viral.

"Everybody has a stake in science, so I feel like everybody should at least have the option of learning it and having fun with it," he says. "Because science is fun! And I feel like not enough people remember that."

After months of social media success, the self-proclaimed "proud science nerd" recently got the email of a lifetime: an invitation from NASA for a front row seat to history at the launch of the Artemis 1 rocket.

The mission is described as an important first step toward NASA's eventual goal of putting astronauts, including the first female and the first American of color, back on the moon.

"Seeing the actual launch, which I feel like is a once in a lifetime thing... it's so historic," Colon said. "To say that I'm there and to be able to film it with NASA's permission to be there, that is mind-boggling to me."

Back here on Earth, Colon's physics professor, Daniel Yaverbaum, says the sky's the limit for this young scientist.

"His rocket, so to speak, launched way before I knew him," Yaverbaum said.

Colon, a native New Yorker, is a senior at John Jay.

He's studying forensic science and has a knack for teaching topics that seem intimidating to most.

He uses TikTok as a means of reaching those who otherwise wouldn't gravitate toward this area of study.

"Whether it's even just physics homework or reading comic books or writing comic books, he is so authentically internally joyful about what he's studying," said Professor Yaverbaum. "Then that's what comes across, and that's why he's bursting to share with everybody. And that's what I think you can't teach or fake."

And teaching is exactly what Colon wants to do, using his talent to create an atmosphere of inclusivity that inspires the next generation of great scientists.

"If I can give them that little spark of passion that could ignite some brand new love for them, that sounds perfect," he said. "That's a dream job."