Aberdeen researchers win Famelab 2013 regional final

Two postgraduate researchers have fought off stiff competition to win the Scottish final for FameLab, the UK’s annual competition to find the best communicators of science.

David McNee and Sonia Watson, both postgraduate researchers at the University won first place and runner up in the competition held on Saturday at The Stand comedy club in Edinburgh in front of a live audience.  Contestants had just three minutes each to engage with the audience on a scientific topic of their choosing. David, whose research is in analytic chemistry, is now guaranteed a place in the UK Final held on 23 April next year at the Bloomsbury Theatre in London. Sonia, who works in neuroscience, will go forward to a wildcard round judged against 9 other runners up from across the UK.

Dr Kenneth Skeldon, Head of Public Engagement with Research at the University and one of the UK Famelab organisers said “Of the eight Scottish finalists in Edinburgh five were from the University of Aberdeen. The quality of the standard was exceedingly high and it is fantastic that the University will be represented on the national stage next year by one, if not two, of our postgraduate researchers."

As regional winner, David will receive an expenses paid place on a weekend master class in public engagement delivered by some of the UK’s top science communicators before competing alongside other regional finalists from across the UK in the London final. The winner in London will receive £1000 prize money and a further £750 towards a public engagement project of their choice as well as the accolade of being named Famelab 2013 UK Champion.

Dr Lucy Leiper of the University’s Researcher Development Unit added “Famelab is a great example of how our extensive range of skills and training modules is being coupled to real-life examples for putting new skills into practise.  We’re delighted that our collaboration with this year’s Famelab has resulted in such a positive result for our researchers.”

The other University of Aberdeen contestants in Saturday’s final were postgraduate researcher Gina Maffey and undergraduate students Adarsh Makdani and Dagmara Kociszewska.  The judges in Edinburgh included professional science communicator and writer Timandra Harkness and Louise Yeoman, writer and producer for radio and televsion.

FameLab was first launched in 2005 as an initiative of the Cheltenham Science Festival working in association with NESTA, the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts. The competition is designed to help motivate and encourage scientists and engineers to talk about their work with the public.  Contestants have just three minutes to present a topic in science, engineering or maths in an exciting and engaging way to a non-specialist adult audience.
More information about the 2013 competition can be found at www.famelab.org/uk.