Martha Michael | Tutor Dissolves Chemistry Fears

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You may remember taking a science class, but despite above-average instruction, the material didn’t seem to crystallize in your head, so you’d repeatedly leave class more confused than when you arrived.

That’s because you didn’t have Melissa Maribel. 

Not only were there relatively few engaging, young female science teachers in the classroom back in the day, you certainly didn’t find them where you find Melissa’s instruction – on YouTube. 

Just two years into the business, the enthusiastic young woman’s chemistry tutorials have 50,000 subscribers and 2.2 million views on YouTube. And she’s one of ours – she grew up in Santa Clarita, a graduate of Golden Valley High School with a degree in chemistry from CSUN.

“I started as a private tutor throughout college, but this was before I decided to create my own business,” Melissa explained. “My business partner and I knew we wanted to have a YouTube channel and educational resources. … My YouTube videos are more than just chemistry tutorials; they have engaging visuals and examples. In some videos I use craft supplies to explain difficult concepts and movie-like editing to keep students engaged.”

So, instead of attempting to learn a challenging subject from someone who is, perhaps, teaching science the old-school way, teens and college students can have it explained in their language by a “big sister.” 

Her YouTube videos have titles such as “Converting Units with 3 Conversion Factors” and “Using Avogadro’s Number.” If your eyes are glazed over (mine are), it simply means you don’t need any chemistry credits. But many in our community do.

To augment the videos, Melissa creates and sells chemistry e-books as well.

“It is a simplified version of their textbook with visually pleasing, step-by-step examples,” she explained. “I have seen that most chemistry books are written for other chemists and not for students; this is why I decided to create my own e-books with the students in mind.” 

The Melissa Maribel YouTube channel has received thousands of comments and messages from students striving to succeed, some with dreams of medical school or other plans. 

“My channel has come a long way, but I, of course, want to keep impacting more students,” she said. “I want students globally to know that this resource is out there, that they do not have to struggle in their classes or change their career path.”

While her original career goal was dentistry, Melissa is propelled in this direction by her engagement with others. The young chemistry whiz was recently contacted through Instagram by a student who invited her to visit his class in San Diego, stating that his classmates were big fans. Their teacher at Otay Ranch High School used Melissa Maribel videos as teaching tools. (The video of her visit to the school will be uploaded to YouTube soon.)

“It was so humbling to see so many students excited to see their favorite YouTube science communicator!” she said. “I had the opportunity to hear some amazing stories of how my channel has impacted their lives. One student even said that she was once failing the class but started watching my videos and now has an ‘A,’ and even became a chemistry tutor because I inspired her.” 

That’s a role Melissa intended. Her chemistry videos use colors that lean on the feminine side – she even has a pink video set – which gains traction with female viewers.

“I love transforming chemistry in the beautiful way that I see it now,” she said. “I am working towards being that role model and resource that young girls and women can identify with and go to whenever they need help with chemistry.”  

With that goal in mind, the Melissa Maribel brand is succeeding – gaining traction and defying statistics. Her YouTube audience is 60 percent females, where most science channels draw the opposite numbers – 40 percent or fewer female viewers.

Contrary to what many believed in the past, boys and girls don’t differ in their math and science abilities, but they do differ in their confidence and interest level in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects, according to the National Girls Collaborative, a network committed to informing and encouraging girls to pursue careers in STEM fields. 

“There aren’t many chemistry YouTube channels that feature a woman teaching, so just by … showing young girls that this is what a STEM major can look like is impacting them greatly,” Melissa said. “I’m honored to help pave the way for the next generation of women in STEM.”

High school and college students no longer need to fear words like “stoichiometry” or understanding gas laws. Like the rest of us do when we need help with basic plumbing or changing a tire, they can turn to YouTube for guidance. 

If you’re like me, you’ll have no need for science help but still become inexplicably drawn to watching her YouTube channel. Perhaps it’s due to the active ingredient in Melissa Maribel videos – innovation – but, one way or another, it has something to do with chemistry.

For e-books visit: 

There’s also a page for people to donate to support her work so she can reach more students: 

Martha Michael is a contributing writer for The Signal.

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