How doodling over chem notes made this grad student go viral


Sydney Laput

Jorge Calderin, graduate student studying biochemistry, with his iPad that he uses to doodle and write his notes with. Calderin shares his content with 411k followers on his Instagram @doodlesinthemembrane.

By Rebecca Oriza, Staff Writer

While TikTok content typically involves flashy dances and trendy songs, Jorge Calderin, graduate student studying biochemistry, has found success in sharing his doodles of biochemistry concepts.

As a visual learner, Calderin always doodled on his notes. Coupled with his fascination for the lipid membrane since high school, he naturally picked the username @doodlesinthemembrane.

Calderin is currently doing research related to lipid membranes, which are barriers around cells. Calderin previously worked as a chemistry tutor  throughout his undergraduate years but stopped when he was a senior. This led him to start his content creation journey in 2019.  

“I wanted to continue doing something along the lines of tutoring, so I just started creating digital resources,” Calderin said. “I just found myself on social media because I wanted people to actually use them.” 

Now, about three years after he started, @doodlesinthemembrane has 411k followers and 7.1 million likes. Calderin attributes his account’s growth to his consistency, as he tries to post every day. While he said it was never really his goal to go viral, he is humbled that his videos have been used by so many students across the globe, including students at the University.

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    Calderin’s notes and doodles about molar mass displayed on his iPad. (Sydney Laput)

    “The last milestone I was really appreciative of was 400,000 on TikTok,” Calderin said. “One time, someone came up to me at a coffee shop, and I thought they were going to ask if they could sit at the table. (Instead) they were like, ‘No, are you are you doodlesinthemembrane?’ I think I got as red as a tomato — I don’t even know what I said, but it felt great, but I also felt really shy.”

    From short explanation videos and animated atoms to an entire book of resources, Calderin covers a broad range of topics, including organic chemistry. He only makes videos on topics and subjects that he has already completed or tutored in.

    Although he uses he free time to create content, Calderin said he does not mind.

    “It’s not work for me,” Calderin said. “It’s almost like therapeutic — I love it so much. Before I started grad school, (doodling) was an all-day endeavor. I just loved it, I did it all the time. Now, if I’m lucky, I complete a page a week.”   

    On his platform, Calderin also discusses his academic struggles. Despite this, he said his struggles didn’t deter him from applying to graduate school.

    “I struggled so much in school and in undergrad,” Calderin said. “My GPA wasn’t the best — I failed exams, and I retook classes, and I had a 3.1 (GPA) when I graduated, which is just above the minimum for graduate school. I had friends that had way higher GPA’s, (and) that stings a little bit. We have a tendency for comparison, and I think it destroys us, but your grade point average doesn’t define you.” 

    Calderin said that even after getting accepted, grad school had not exactly been a walk in the park. He said that every day comes with its challenges.

    “Get ready to face failure — constant, never ending failure,” Calderin said. “I failed experiments throughout undergrad, but I didn’t feel the entirety of the responsibility until I got into grad school. Your mental health gets so attached to it.” 

    Other than doodling, Calderin emphasized the importance of having a support system and knowing your limits.

    “A lot of what brings me back is (that) I’m really fascinated with my research, and I like the environments I work in,” Calderin said. “It takes work ethic to survive, and making sure you’re taking care of yourself is the most important thing.”

    Calderin said his unexpected TikTok fame came with inevitable internet trolls, but they don’t get to him, nor do they affect his dedication to creating more resources.

    “I know they’re (videos) not perfect,” Calderin said. “One day, hopefully they will be great, and through practicing now, by the time I’m in front of a classroom, I can be a great professor one day, and that’s my goal. I’ve had some professors who have reached out and talked to me about their experiences in grad school and how they really appreciate the work I do, and that means a lot.”

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