April 2013
Contents / home
This viral ad may be contagious
A new sea view
75 years of coelacanth research
Sell your science at FameLab
Young science communicators show their mettle
Brazil nuts, bees and orchids
Winning design powers aeroplane
Journalists and scientists meet
Brainstorming solutions for tomorrow
Meet Sibongile Mokoena
SAIAB at Scifest Africa
A world in one cubic foot
Biodiversity Youth Symposium
Daveyton now has an eye to the sky
In the news
Upcoming events
It's a fact!

Get famous ... "sell" your science at FameLab

  The winner of FameLab South Africa 2013, Michelle Knights, with Robert Inglis, Director of Jive Media Africa (left) and Remo Chipatiso of the British Council (right).
  Lorenzo Raynard, Manager of SAASTA's Science Communication Unit (left) with Cape Town finalist John Woodland (centre) and Dr Gillian Arendse, Head of the iThemba LABS Community Interaction and Training Division.
  Durban regional finalist Ntokozo Shezi (centre) with Compere Fikiswa Majola (left) and Lorenzo Raynard.
FameLab, the international competition that gets people around the world talking science, has created excitement among South African participants and audiences.

The nail-biting finals took place at Scifest Africa in Grahamstown on 15 March. In just three minutes, the finalists had to explain a science concept using only what they could carry onto the stage with them - and no PowerPoint.

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. FameLab was open to entrants between 21 and 35 years of age working or studying in science, technology, engineering or maths and who are passionate about their science.

The participants also attended a two-day masterclass training session with international FameLab trainer Malcolm Love.

The winner of FameLab South Africa 2013, Michelle Knights, will represent the country at the international finals at the Cheltenham Science Festival in the UK in June this year, where young scientists from 25 countries will be competing. Michelle is a PhD student from Cape Town and a bursar of the SKA SA project. Her talk in the final rounds was about the search for life on planets elsewhere in the universe.

"It was a fascinating and rewarding experience to take part in a science performance such as FameLab," Knights said afterwards. "It certainly challenges young scientists to make their work exciting at a new level!"

The rewards

To get to the top in South Africa, Michelle had to beat eight other regional winners from Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town in front of a capacity audience at Scifest Africa. Not only did she win the trip to the Cheltenham Festival, all expenses paid, but also pocketed a R10 000 cash prize.

First and second runners up were Febe Wilken, a biotechnology student from the University of Pretoria and John Woodland, a chemistry student from the University of Cape Town. They received R3 000 in cash.

"The FameLab competition allows young scientists to benefit from the experience gained from more seasoned science communicators," says Lorenzo Raynard, Manager of SAASTA's Science Communication Unit.

"The structure of the competition allows for constructive feedback on how the young scientists can improve on their public speaking of science," explains Lorenzo. "It is important to note that science communication extends beyond public speaking to include science writing, science reporting, role modelling, career profiling and the communication of science through popular media."

The aim behind the competition is to encourage young scientists to talk about their work; improving their communication skills to enable them to engage with the general public or any non-science audience, which is of critical importance as science and technology impacts society as a whole.

The competition also seeks out new spokespeople for science ... to inspire a new generation of scientists and challenge public perceptions about what it means to be a scientist.

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

By Daphney Molewa, SAASTA