Savannah Nuwagaba

FameLab SA 2016 Runner Up

What are you currently doing (studies/work)?

I will be graduating in March (2018). I am currently trying establish a science centre in Uganda. With a group of young graduates, we have established a community based organisation that will be carrying out outreach programs, including science shows in schools, whenever possible.

What drove you to enter FameLab?

I had always believed that the science which is not meant to solve societies’ challenges is not worth doing. FameLab brought that forward and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to engage the public with science in such a concise and charismatic way.

How did you find your FameLab experience? What still stands out today?

I will live with the FameLab forever. The fact that communication is not about the communicator but rather it is about the listener stood out for me. Today, any talk I prepare has to have my audience upfront; my choice of language, my choice of words, voice dynamics, posture, gestures, illustrations, etc., all have to be aligned with my audience even when I am not comfortable with it.  

How did your perceptions about science communication and public engagement with science change through participating in FameLab?

I learnt that science communication should not just be an option for a scientist, but a mandate. We often directly or indirectly use public funds to do research and so the public deserves to know what we use their funds for. Also, science is meant for the good of the society. Sharing our scientific process with the public is vital for clearing up any misconceptions, especially the ones that run around on social media. I also now know that being a science communicator doesn’t make me just a comedian. It makes me a relevant scientist.

Did FameLab impact you in any other way?

I became more aware of how the media can distort scientific messages if scientists are not directly involved in the process. That has made me more critical whenever I am reading any scientific articles that are published as news feeds. It has also become my habit to engage random people with discussions on the science behind some simple everyday experiences.

What would you say to young scientists thinking about taking part in FameLab?

As Albert Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” A lot of young scientists battle with the ‘why’ question of their research. During some of my science communication workshops or career events at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences in South Africa and Rwanda, one question attracted my attention: ‘After this PhD/Research project, So what?’ I often threw the question back to participants, who sometimes deeply reflected on what they were researching on, to find the answer. For any young scientist struggling with any ‘why’ and/or ‘so what’ questions, I would say ‘RUN for FameLab training’, because they would never regret it. To those who have already decided to participate in FameLab, I would say ‘Forget yourself, remember your audience and fake it until you make it’.