Viral Photo Sends Biophysical Sciences Senior to D.C. STEM Panel

Anicca Harriot loves science and thinks about it any chance she gets. When the Regent University student was spending some time between classes with friends, she turned a photo with them into a math problem. It quickly went viral, gaining her national experience promoting science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) for minorities.

“I thought it was pretty funny, and my arms are super straight in that picture, so that’s what made me think to calculate the angle, how straight my arms are and the fact that it was kind of effortless,” said Harriot, a biophysical sciences major at Regent’s College of Arts & Sciences.

Harriot performed a dab, an dance move made popular by Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and other athletes. She used math to find she was able to create a 31.7 degree angle, nearly the golden ratio of a triangle.

“I drew a representative triangle over the angle of my arms, and I made it a 90 degree triangle so, with the Pythagorean theorem and basic trig functions, I used an inverse tangent to calculate the angle after I drew the image and measured the sides,” said Harriot.

Harriot tweeted the picture, and it gained instant traction, especially within the STEM community. Teachers took notice and started incorporating the dance move into their lessons.

“I guess what they saw in my tweet was that you can incorporate STEM in pop culture in a way that engages students more than when I was in Trig and we’d calculate angles, and a typical problem was, ‘Sally is building a house,’ and that wasn’t something that was relevant to me at all.”

Leaders in Washington, D.C. also took notice, inviting Harriot to join a STEM panel with the White House Initiative on Excellence in Education for African Americans on Sep. 14. There, she connected with Dr. Jedidah Isler, the first black woman to graduate from Yale with a Ph.D. in astrophysics who published an article about the viral tweet on her website.

“An important aspect of STEM is to just have a great deal of diversity, because having diversity of people brings a great diversity of ideas,” said Harriot. “When we have panels and people who are active in creating a supportive community, it really boosts the prevalence of that diversity in STEM.”

Harriot’s dab calculation wasn’t her first viral incident on social media. She earned a summer internship at NASA after a viral Tweet in January gave her an opportunity to tweet for its State of NASA address.

“I think everyone at Regent is really passionate about what they want to do,” said Harriot. “There is good diversity of people and their interests. There aren’t very many people who want to do exactly what I want to do, so it’s kind of cool because it brings different perspectives to the classroom.”

After graduation from Regent, Harriot plans to study biochemistry in graduate school and become a biochemist and an astronaut. Her dream is to work in a lab in the International Space Station. Harriot sees science as a way to worship God through wonder, and she’s glad her time at Regent merged the two together.

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