Dubbed the “Bill Nye of Millennials,” Darrion Nguyen aka Lab Shenanigans is this generation’s science celebrity. Working in a neuroscience lab, Nguyen dreamt up the alter ego as a way to cope with the humdrum of daily lab life — with all its grueling work schedules, tedious experiments, and quirky scientist personalities. As of today, Nguyen has amassed over 530k followers on Tiktok and over 110k on Instagram for his fun and relatable videos.
A native of Houston, Texas, the 26-year-old Vietnamese-American says he always knew he wanted to get into the STEM field, although he never envisioned working in a lab specifically. “I actually wanted to be a doctor or a pharmacist!,” Nguyen admits. But fate had different plans for Nguyen, who ended up on the research track while obtaining a biochemistry degree from the University of Texas.
A science lab may not seem like the typical setting for viral Tiktok videos, but Lab Shenanigans become a creative outlet (and much-needed comedy break) for Nguyen, who spends most of his day in the lab. And what started as “fooling around in the lab” quickly turned into a serious side project sharing both humorous and educational videos. Since starting Lab Shenanigans, he’s earned multiple headlines, appeared on podcasts and panels, partnered with major brands and corporations to create science-centric content.
Whether you work in a lab or can simply relate to the struggles of daily work life, Nguyen’s easily digestible content will make science more fun and approachable than ever. And that’s not to mention the dad jokes: “Did you hear about the amusement park on the Moon? It was full of fun but there’s no atmosphere!” (Get it?)
Vietcetera sat down with Nguyen to ask about his approach to educational Tiktok content, dream science experiments, and where he got the name “Lab Shenanigans.”
What’s your best memory as a student?
This is probably a very boring answer, but my favorite memory as a student was the moment I actually started enjoying Organic Chemistry 2 (Ochem 2). I struggled during the first half of Ochem 2, so I often studied in the library until 3 am trying to catch up. Then, one night, I had a “Eureka!” moment, where everything just clicked, and I finally began to appreciate the complexity of Ochem 2.
Do your parents know you’re an internet celebrity?
Growing up, I often made silly videos for my friends to watch, so it didn’t surprise my family when they found out that I continued making these videos in the lab setting. I think it did shock them a bit to see when hundreds and thousands of people began liking my content and even following me for it.
Houston has a really big Vietnamese population — where do you usually hang out with your Vietnamese friends?
I’m always eating Vietnamese food and drinking boba, so I’m generally spending my time in Chinatown (Bellaire)!
What’s your dream science experiment?
It’s a little complex to explain my project in layman’s terms, but I’m currently studying a rare neurodevelopmental disorder called the Hypotonia, Ataxia, and Delayed Development Syndrome (HADDS). My dream experiment consists of studying the cerebellum development in mice with HADDS.
What’s the story behind the name Lab Shenanigans?
Funny enough, I couldn’t think of a clever or witty social media handle, so I chose “Lab Shenanigans” as a placeholder until I thought of a better name. Two years have passed, and I still can’t think of a better handle, haha!
Can you share a turning point or defining moment of Lab Shenanigans that made you realize you want to continue doing what you do?
My initial content started out with me fooling around in the lab (as you can probably tell from my handle), but once TikTok became popular, I started experimenting around other types of content. I went down the educational route and sprinkled some biology and biochemistry topics in a couple of my videos. To my surprise, a lot of viewers on TikTok liked that type of content, so I’ve been continuing to make more funny and educational science videos.
You once mentioned you love the TikTok culture of roasting and that it’s exactly your type of humor. What was the most memorable comment you’ve ever received?
I often love comments that say something like, “LMAO stop calling me out!” Because of that, I’ve made my content a little bit more relatable and I would say even more self-deprecating.
How do you choose brands you work with?
This is a really good question. There are two factors I take into consideration: the science behind the product and the ethics of the company/brand. I want to make sure the science these brands advertise is true and backed up and if the company’s mission aligns with my own personal values.
What’s in the pipeline that you’re really excited about?
With my background in theatre, I’ve been slowly inching my way towards television and film and several casting directors have reached out to me. I recently auditioned for a couple of science networks, and I’m hoping I can land a hosting position!
Tell us you’re Vietnamese without telling us you’re Vietnamese.
My parents think that dau xanh (herbal oil) is the cure for every illness.
How does it feel to be known as the “Bill Nye of Millennials”?
It still feels surreal to me. Bill Nye is a scientist I’ve always looked up since I was little, so to even be compared to him is just mind-blowing. I’m still in denial about it haha.