Participants from 27 countries around the world came together in Cheltenham in the UK for the 2018 FameLab International Competition. The science competition formed part of the Cheltenham Science Festival, which took place between 4 and 8 June 2018.
Representing South Africa was the winner of FameLab South Africa, from the University of Free State, Emmie Chiyindiko, accompanied by Ntambudzeni Tsishwaise from British Council South Africa and Joanne Riley from the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA), who was invited to judge one of the semi-finals.
Although FameLab takes the format of a competition, one of its invaluable characteristics lies in the conversations that happen off-stage, the vibrant interactions and exchange of stories of science, research and life in general from different cultures around the world. The established networks and friendships continue well beyond the end of the competition.
On 6 June 2018, 27 national winners participated in three semi-finals, with 12 final participants selected by a panel of judges and an audience vote, to talk at the international finals on 7 June 2018. Chiyindiko, unfortunately, did not proceed to the international finals, but proudly represented the African continent as the only African participant at this year’s competition.
The format of the FameLab competition requires participants to present a scientific topic or concept to a panel of expert judges in a time of no more than three minutes. The challenge is that talks are judged on content, clarity and charisma, and should be accurate and informative but also entertaining and original, all while making sure they are accessible to public audiences.
Winner of the 2018 FameLab International competition is 33-year old Biological Science lecturer from Malaysia, Siti Khayriyyah Mohd Hanafiah. Her winning talk focused on tuberculosis control, convincing the judges through her calm and engaging presence on stage, her excellent storytelling skills and her clarity of content. The judges included science writer and broadcaster, Vivienne Parry, Professor in Physics and Astronomy, author and science communicator, Clifford Johnson and Acting Creative and Partnerships Lead at the Wellcome Trust, Farrah Nazir.
Awarded second place were two runners-up; representing Australia, from Macquarie University, Vanessa Pirotta, and representing Germany, from Heidelberg University, Veli Vural Uslu. The audience vote winner was Mihnea-Ioan Nicolescu from Carol Davila University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Bucharest, who represented Romania.
This year’s finals featured participants from Malta, Kazakhstan, Qatar, Poland, Greece, South Africa, Egypt, Italy, Ireland, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Thailand, Portugal, UK, Netherlands, Korea, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Germany, Switzerland, Hungary, Brazil, Spain, Romania, Cyprus, France, and Australia.
Since its inception in 2005, FameLab has grown into the world’s leading science communication competition. Through an international partnership with the British Council and many national partners, the competition has grown globally with more than 10,000 young scientists and engineers participating to date. In South Africa, FameLab has been made possible through a partnership between the British Council, SAASTA and Jive Media Africa.