News » INTERNATIONAL FAMELAB COMPETITION: SOUTH AFRICAN SCIENTIST IMPRESSES IN FINAL

PRESS RELEASE

The British Council           |           Cheltenham Festivals       |           Jive Media Africa

 10 June 2013

INTERNATIONAL FAMELAB COMPETITION: SOUTH AFRICAN SCIENTIST IMPRESSES IN FINAL

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

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.

The 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 3 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 7 billion.

Knights’ 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 prioritized, 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 Knights, 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.

For more information on Michelle Knights or the FameLab competition, contact the British Council or Jive Media Africa.

Ends

 

Contacts:

Robert Inglis

Director: Jive Media Africa

robert@jivemedia.co.za

Tel: +27 (0)84 357 7333

 

Remo Chipatiso

Head: Partnerships and Projects team, British Council

remo.chipatiso@britishcouncil.org

Tel: +27 (0)82 809 9989

FameLab International: www.famelab.org

FameLab South Africa: www.britishcouncil.org.za/famelab

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