The Science of Beauty with Dr Michelle Wong (#10)


We talk about beauty science, pole dancing, and Asian representation in media.

Dr Michelle Wong is a science educator and content creator at Lab Muffin Beauty Science. Drawing on her chemistry PhD and extensive experience in education, she busts beauty myths and explains the science behind popular beauty products in an easy-to-understand way through her blog, YouTube channel and Instagram.

In our conversation, we talk about beauty science, pole dancing, and Asian representation in media.

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Show Notes

[00:35] Michelle’s beginnings in chemistry.
[01:37] The rebellious act of studying law.
[02:26] Deciding to do the Honours degree that would lead her into higher chemistry.
[03:21] Project Topic: Making cyclic peptides.
[04:25] Where Michelle saw her degree taking her.
[04:31] Deciding academia wasn’t for her.
[05:03] Potentially combining her legal and science backgrounds.
[05:51] Taking up blogging about beauty science during her PhD.
[06:04] Michelle’s interest in beauty products and curiosity over their claims.
[07:12] Developing foundations in science communication.
[08:15] The applications of cyclic peptides.
[09:04] What is supramolecular chemistry?
[09:31] Amine receptor binding.
[10:11] Making an enzyme mimic.
[10:45] The applications of the mimic.
[11:33] Keeping up with the new science for Lab Muffin.
[12:45] How much debunking still needs to be done?
[13:02] The “blue light” protection trend.
[13:50] The issues behind consumer lead product development.
[14:33] Helping the scientists with their cognitive dissonance.
[14:58] The concept of “clean beauty” as a marketing tool.
[16:35] Discerning how much concern is warranted in the context of cosmetic exposure.
[17:28] Empathy in science communication.
[18:00] Michelle’s work as a science educator.
[18:47] The satisfaction of making an impact as a science communicator.
[20:12] Joining a tutoring company after completing her PhD.
[20:51] Matching her communication to the scientific literacy of the general population.
[21:15] The Panadol analogy for poison dosage.
[21:53] Juggling a day job and Lab Muffin.
[21:57] Michelle’s disciplined work routine.
[26:02] The most interesting thing Michelle has learned in the course of her work with Lab Muffin.
[27:29] The state of science communication and Asian representation in Australia.
[30:01] Bonus Question 1: What hobby or interest do you have that is most unrelated to your field of work?
[33:25] Bonus Question 2: Which childhood book holds the strongest memories for you?
[34:27] Bonus Question 3: What advice you would give someone who wants to study chemistry, or do what you do? Or what advice should they ignore?
[37:18] Reaching out to Michelle.

Topics/Resources/People Mentioned


  • Horrible Histories by Terry Deary wiki BookDepository GoodReads
  • Horrible Science: Chemical Chaos by Nick Arnold BookDepository GoodReads

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Music is “Gypsy Jazz in Paris 1935” by Brett Van Donsel.