This science communicator and podcast producer took a quantum leap with her own Buckhead-based business.
There’s this idea that to be a scientist, you have to wear a white lab coat and mix small volumes of liquid together. I’ve actually been a scientist in that way for a long time. My background is in cellular and molecular biology, and I was the assistant director of the biological sciences graduate program at the University of Maryland for several years. But science is not only technical; there’s also a creative side to it. It’s inspiring to see something unknown and come up with a set of hypotheses and structured experiments to figure it out. For me, science and creativity go hand in hand. I love flexing both of those muscles as a science communicator.
In 2019, my best friend, Titi Shodiya, and I decided to executive produce and co-host a biweekly podcast called Dope Labs. We’re both scientists, and we wanted to look at trending topics from a scientific standpoint while answering questions people have. Our goal was to reach a wide audience, including those who may feel excluded from the science community. We wanted to show that science is everywhere and for everybody. By late 2021, we were able to transition Dope Labs into a weekly podcast and began to expand with other programming and live shows. During that time, I realized I wanted to pivot and go all in on my work as a science communicator and creator. I think you have to take those leaps and bet on yourself, so that’s what I did.
I moved to Buckhead from Maryland in 2021. Atlanta seemed like the perfect place, with its creative community and young professionals who are dedicated to pursuing their passions. In addition to my work with Dope Labs, I separately launched my own business, Upstream Solutions. I work with people in Atlanta and all over the United States who are content creators but need help streamlining their business practices so they can focus on their creative product. I help with everything from contract writing and audience development to repurposing content and strategizing for the future. All of that takes effort and work, and you have to get ahead of it so you’re not scrambling during your creative process. You need a scaffold for success, and there’s nothing more rewarding than helping someone actualize their dreams.
I’ve had a number of additional opportunities develop over the last year as well in my work as a science communicator. With Dope Labs, Titi and I hosted Science Communication Week at Penn State, as well as live shows at events such as New York Fashion Week (talking about the power of audio) and the 2022 Great Northern Festival in Minnesota (where we discussed volcanic winters, snowflakes, microplastics and more). I also hosted Breakthrough, a podcast from Boston Children’s Hospital about innovations in pediatric medicine. With much of that wrapped for now, I am focusing on building a community here in Atlanta. I’m looking to build a space for other creators who need a sounding board, a coach and another person to cheer them on. If I can do it, then somebody else can, too.
My goal is to build a ramp where there are often stairs and help people find a way to pursue their personal dreams. I want to make opportunities appear for more people, and my move to Buckhead has given me a great space to do just that. It was the right time for me to meet people where they are and show them the next steps. That’s what I really enjoy.
A COMMUNITY FOR CONTENT CREATION
While she typically produces her content at home, Zakiya Whatley is always looking for resources in the community that she can use for her podcasting and content creation endeavors. She’s excited about Adode Media, a Buckhead location that offers studio rental, production services and more. adodemedia.com
As told to Amy Meadows
PHOTO: Erik Meadows
15 Minutes With columnist at Simply Buckhead. Freelance feature writer, children’s book author and President of Green Meadows Communications, LLC.