By: Natasha Rambaran
On Monday evening, 6 May 2019, uShaka Sea World’s aquarium was spectacularly transformed into the venue for the national FameLab finals.
FameLab is the largest global science communication competition – effectively the “Pop Idols of Science”. Partners for this initiative include the British Council, South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA) – the business unit of the National Research Foundation (NRF), Jive Media Africa and Cheltenham Festivals. Young, emerging researchers from universities and national research institutions present their research in entertaining and engaging three-minute talks. After a series of heats, 15 finalists are selected to compete in the national final with the winner going on to represent South Africa at the Cheltenham International Science Festival, in the United Kingdom.
Prior to the grand finale, the contestants attended a two-day Master Class on science communication and public speaking facilitated by Matthew Tosh. The training was intense but beneficial and ensured that the finalists were well-prepared for their big night!
The finalists presented diverse and innovative research – from food science and geophysics to mathematical statistics and clinical psychology. uShaka Sea World Education Director, Jone Porter, was one of three judges at the final. While the judges deliberated, SAAMBR Conservation Strategist, Dr Judy Mann-Lang presented an insightful talk on her experience in the field of science communication.
The competition was strong, but having spent the past few days together, the contestants were also rooting for each other! Keneilwe Moropa, a research intern from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Tshwane University of Technology emerged as the winner. Her research focuses on applying nanotechnology to help address water pollution.
Famelab is an incredible initiative, encouraging the new generation of scientists to effectively communicate their research. If this is the future of science in South Africa, there is hope!