July 2013
Contents / home
Debates winners in New York
SA learners scoop silver in Beijing
SA scientist impresses in FameLab
Nanotech draws attention in Kenya
SAASTA salutes David Block
Science Centre CEO awarded
Young science brainpower awarded
75 years of coelacanth research
Join in recording the diversity of life
Open your own Science Spaza
The Universe is expanding
"Space Skype" links kids
Coastal and marine science in SA
Internship programme
A scientist for a day
iThemba LABS - advancing knowledge
Ex ZooClub members' success
In the news
Upcoming events
It's a fact!

International FameLab Competition: South African scientist impresses in finals

A scientist currently working on her PhD with the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project, represented South Africa at the FameLab International Final in the United Kingdom.


Gifted young science communicator Michelle Knights presents her talk at the FameLab International Final in the UK.
Michelle in the studio recording her winning script in SAASTA's Young Science Communicators Competition. Listen to the talk

Michelle Knights, a Cape Town-based cosmologist and winner of South Africa's first-ever FameLab competition, presented her talk on quantum fluctuations - the beginnings (according to theory) of all currently observed structure in the universe. This work is directly linked to the SKA project under construction in South Africa.

Michelle was also the winner of a category of SAASTA's Young Science Communicators Competition earlier this year.

FameLab Final

The international FameLab competition was won by Fergus McAuliffe from Ireland, who also won the local audience vote and shared the international audience vote. McAuliffe spoke on the wood frog which "cheats death" by freezing solid each winter and thawing again in the spring. The knowledge of just how it does so, could have implications for cryogenics and preservation of organs for transplant.

The FameLab competition originated in 2005 at the Cheltenham Science Festival and has since spread to over 20 countries around the world. Participants have just three minutes to present their science to a public audience and are judged according to the content, clarity and charisma of their talks.

The competition is designed to facilitate dialogue between science and the public - a necessity in our science and technology driven world, in which increasingly innovative solutions are needed to address the challenges we face as a population which now exceeds seven billion. SAASTA partnered with the British Council and Jive Media - along with fellow sponsors the South African Space Agency and the CSIR - to increase the visibility of the competition and to encourage participation in the South African leg of FameLab.

The importance of science communication

Michelle’s participation in the final is a huge achievement and places South African science on an international platform. However, it is perhaps more significant in that it raises the importance of science communication in South Africa. While scientific research is being prioritised, there is a growing need to create engagement between scientists and the public; to hold scientists accountable, to allow public participation in setting the research agenda and to allow the public to make appropriate and informed choices in a rapidly changing world.

It is gifted science communicators like Michelle, using opportunities like FameLab, who create spaces for public engagement with science.

FameLab is managed and run in South Africa by Jive Media Africa in partnership with the British Council. The organisers are anticipating a bigger competition in 2014, spreading the net to outlying areas to grow science communication skills across the country and to challenge many more young scientists to share their science with the public.

Visit www.britishcouncil.org.za/famelab for more information.