Are you getting ready for FameLab South Africa 2017?

The CSIR is!

Jive Media Africa is working with researchers from the Council for Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) to enhance their science communication skills and enable them to present their science topic to a panel of expert judges in just three minutes. You can register to enter as a contestant for the South African leg of the international competition, dubbed the ‘Pop Idols of Science’.

Entries NOW open, register here:

Nozipho Gumbi , a PhD candidate in nanotechnology and water at  the University of South Africa, has represented South African science on a world stage! Nozipho – you are an inspiration to us all.

Nozipho’s FameLab journey started last year with her first speech at the UNISA student showcase in Pretoria. She proceeded to calmly and confidently win round after round, at the UNISA heat and in Cape Town at the British Council hosted Going Global conference. After winning the South African leg of the competition Nozipho, who is currently studying in Germany, made her way to The Times Cheltenham Science Festival in the United Kingdom. After delivering a speech on how carbon nano-tubes can be used to remove micro-pollutants in our water systems, Nozipho secured herself a place in the finals.

Nozipho, you have made us proud. You are a truly inspiring role model for young scientists and for woman in science everywhere.

Congratulations to Abhi Veerakumarasivam from Malaysia who was crowned FameLab 2016 champion for his winning talk on our individual responsibilities when it comes to fighting cancer.

Find out more about FameLab at

Nozipho Gumbi’s Famelab journey has only just begun! She will be travelling to the United Kingdom for the FameLab International Finals at the Cheltenham Science Festival where she goes up against 30 country winners for the international title. Nozipho Gumbi from Eshowe (KZN), a PhD candidate at the University of South Africa in the Nanotechnology and Water Sustainability Research Unit won the South African leg of the international Famelab competition in Cape Town in May.
Nozipho will be jetting off on Monday the 6th of June. She takes part in the international semi-final on Wednesday the 8th of June; and hopes to compete in the final on Thursday the 9th June.
Catch the International Famelab finals by tuning in to the live streaming on Thursday 9th June at 8:30pm (UK time) via:
South Africa at large is very proud and wishes Nozipho all of the best as she flies the South African flag high! Find out more about Famelab at

The International FameLab Competition has chosen its South African Winner: Nozipho Gumbi from Eshowe (KZN), a PhD candidate at the University of South Africa in the Nanotechnology and Water Sustainability Research Unit
The final of the South African leg took place in front of a capacity audience at the glittering Cape Town International Convention Centre – venue of the British Council Going Global conference.

The finalists presented to the high-profile audience and judges, who included Dr Tollulah Oni (UCT school of Public Health) Dr Carolina Odman (Universe awareness Programme) Koki Selepe (Department of Science and Technology) and John Wade Smith (British High Commission. Quentin Cooper of the BBC and FameLab International played the role of MC.
Runners up were Claude Moshobane from Limpopo, currently working with the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), and Savannah Nuwagaba from Uganda, currently at Stellenbosch University. Moshobane discussed alien invasive plants and how they disrupt the ecosystem, while Nuwagaba spoke about how mathematics is used to predict possible changes in animals’ body size, depending on changes in their eating habits.

But the star of the show was Nozipho Gumbi from Eshowe in KwaZulu-Natal, who is currently studying nanotechnology at UNISA. Gumbi was the overall favourite as she dazzled the audience and the judges with her engaging talk on water filtration using carbon nanotubes.
Nozipho Gumbi’s journey has only just begun. She will soon be packing her bags and jetting off to the United Kingdom for the FameLab International Finals hosted by Cheltenham Festivals to go up against 30 country winners for the international title. Humble, yet confident – Gumbi acknowledged the other candidates saying “each and every one of you could have been the winner tonight”. Congratulations once again to all the contestants and we wish Nozipho all the best for the International finals.


Registration for Famelab 2016 is now open! Before you apply please make sure you are eligible to take part . If you are, follow these simple steps to apply:

  1. Fill in the online registration form.
  2. We will contact you by email to confirm receipt of your application and inform you of the details and next steps.
  3. Come to the heat closest to you and present your scientific topic to our panel of judges! (Don’t forget to invite your friends and family to come and watch and support you!).

If there is no heat in your region, or if you can’t get to a heat, enter via a video audition and stand a chance to have your travel costs covered to attend a heat.


The competition is open to anyone aged 21 to 35 and working in or studying science, technology, engineering, maths or innovation. This includes private and public sector employees.

We welcome:

  • Lecturers and researchers in science, engineering or mathematics subjects, including specialist science teachers with a science degree
  • People who work on applying science, engineering technology or mathematics (e.g. patent clerks, statisticians, consultants to industry)
  • University students of science, mathematics or engineering aged 21 to 35
  • People who apply science, mathematics or engineering in the armed forces or government bodies
  • People who apply science, engineering or mathematics in industry or business.

We cannot accept:

People who are already working professionally in public engagement with science, including:

  • Press or PR officers, even for science-related organisations
  • Artists who work on science-related themes
  • Performers whose shows are about science or engineering
  • Permanent science centre staff who work exclusively or mainly with the public
  • Journalists and broadcasters (as their main or only job)
  • Non-specialist teachers

Regional training and heats

    1. Mintek(internal) – Training 22 Jan 2016/ Heat 12 Feb 2016
    2. CSIR(internal) – Training 28 Jan 2016/ Heat 3 March 2016
    3. Unisa(public) – Training 29 Jan 2016/ Heat 4 March 2016
    4. Stellenbosch CIB/CREST/SCISTIP (internal) – Training 2 Feb 2016/ Heat 18 Feb 2016
    5. UWC (public)- Training 3 Feb 2016/ Heat 16 Feb 2016
    6. SKA (internal)- Training 4 Feb 2016/ Heat 17 Feb 2016
    7. Limpopo (public) – Training 10 Feb 2016/ Heat 11 Feb 2016
    8. Fort Hare (public) – Training 29 Feb 2016/ Heat 1 March 2016

Find out what happens at the heats, there are some rules you need to know about.

Prepare for the heats

Regional heats are the first steps in the FameLab journey. Being able to dazzle the judges will secure your place in the national finals, where you will battle it out to represent your country at the FameLab international final in the UK.

What happens at the regional heats?

Find your nearest heat

The regional heats are held at set dates around the country. You select which one you want to go to when you apply.

The order of the day

      • You will present your three minute talk to the FameLab judges.
      • The judges will ask questions after each presentation and will also give feedback where possible.
      • After the first round of presentations, successful candidates will be invited to give a second talk. The second talk can be on the same topic but must be demonstrably different from the first presentation. This means you must prepare two talks for the regional heats!
      • Winners that will be proceeding to the national semi-finals will be announced.

The rules

      • PowerPoint is not allowed
      • Props are permitted but are limited to what you can carry on stage. There is no time for set up once on stage
      • All presentations must be in English throughout the competition.

Finding it hard to get to a heat? Find out how to apply by video and win a trip to a heat!

How to submit your video:

      • Videos should be up to 3 minutes long (content will not be judged after this time limit)
      • Contain no editing or special effects
      • Have no background music (unless this is what you are talking about)
      • Not involve other people or excessive props (follow the guideline for the live heats which is ‘a prop you can carry on stage’).

We are not assessing video/filming quality. We simply need to be able to clearly hear and see you, so there is no problem submitting entries filmed on a smartphone or camera etc.


      • Upload your video to YouTube, Vimeo or another video hosting site and copy the link. Please note: you do not have to list the video as ‘public’. Upload it as ‘hidden’ or ‘private’ if you prefer
      • Fill out the online registration form and paste the link to your video in the relevant field
      • As a precaution, please also email the link to with “FameLab South Africa 2016 Video entry” in the subject line.

Any questions or problems just contact us at

 What’s next?

If you are selected at a regional/institutional finals you will be invited to attend a science communication masterclass that will help you develop invaluable media and presentation skills.

The national semi-finals will take place on the 12th of March 2015 and the national finals will take place at the British Council Going Global conference on the 4th of May 2016.


All participants who are selected as semi-finalists at a FameLab South Africa heat will receive a R500 gift voucher, a subscription to the Mail & Guardian digital version and all expenses paid master class training.

Semi-finalists who make it through to the finals travel all expenses paid to the National Final in Cape Town on the 4th of May. Here the winner will receive a cash prize of R 5000 and the two runners-up will each receive R 2500. The winner will travel all expenses paid to the international master classes and final at Cheltenham Science Festival in the United Kingdom.

Find out how to apply

Gain access to a network of scientists and engineers, improve your presentation skills at our masterclass and maybe even win a trip to the UK to present at the international finals!

By taking part in FameLab you will inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers, gain invaluable communication skills, and meet amazing like-minded people. Importantly you will also become part of an increasingly exciting network of scientists and engineers able to clearly and imaginatively explain their science to the general public.

Communication Masterclass

Run by some of the best science communicators in the world, this is one of the biggest prizes for all FameLab finalists. There you will learn why public engagement is important, develop invaluable media and presentation skills, and get the opportunity to network with scientists from many different scientific fields!

Get a taste of what happens at a FameLab Masterclass.

Trip to the UK

The overall national winner will attend the Cheltenham Science Festival in the UK  and compete in the FameLab International Final. Here a world of opportunities will really be opened up as you network with fellow scientists from across the globe

      • Each candidate will have the opportunity to meet other science enthusiasts and gain access to the Famelab South Africa and Famelab International networks
      • FameLab alumni will be invited to take part in science public engagement events in South Africa.

Finally you will undoubtedly win the appreciation of the audience for your passion for science!

Who are the judges?

Judges can come from a range of disciplines and backgrounds including:

      • Science
      • Science communication
      • Media, and
      • FameLab alumni

Think you are up to it? Find out how to apply to the competition.

Find out how to apply

The judges are looking for somebody who can shine in content, clarity and charisma.


The content of the presentations must be scientifically accurate. If the topic chosen has controversy or uncertainty around it, then the presentation must acknowledge the opposing views. The scientific topic presented should be well chosen to suit the audience.


Clarity is critical for effective science communication. The structure of the presentation must enable the audience and judges to easily follow the talk and they should be left with a full understanding of the scientific concept chosen.


The audience and judges should be left inspired and enthused about science. The winner will be a charismatic presenter who makes the science easy to listen to, entertaining, exciting and who is not only able to communicate the science but who can share their passion for it.

Judges’ top 10 tips

      1. Think about the beginning and the end – Hook us at the start, and then give us a satisfying ending that leaves us feeling we’ve had a complete journey (it’s nice if it brings the beginning back in some way, but that’s not the only way to end).
      2. Don’t try to copy somebody else’s style – Go with what works for you.
      3. Make sure there’s enough science in there – We can learn a lot in three minutes if you tell it well.
      4. Tell us something you’re excited about… – …your enthusiasm will shine through.
      5. Let go of the PowerPoint safety net – Printing your slides onto a t-shirt or, worse, laminated bits of paper reduces you from 3 to 2 dimensions.
      6. Be in the moment – Acknowledging what’s happening right here, right now (even if it’s something going wrong!) keeps us engaged – and shows you’re confident enough to cope.
      7. Don’t overdo your introduction – You need to set a scene, give us a moment to grasp who you are and lead into your subject, sure. But you need to do all of that quickly! You haven’t really started until the introduction is behind you – keep it punchy.
      8. Know where you’re going – However much you’ve slaved over the individual words of your performance, make sure you know the waymarks too: the bullet-points that keep you on track. There are probably around five of them, and the last one will usually be your last line. If that’s fixed in your mind then no matter how many of your carefully-honed lines fall apart, you still know how you’re going to finish. So that’s one less distraction.
      9. “What will they talk about later?” – What’s your piece about? You need to be able to answer that in, say, ten words. Those words need to work when prefixed with “Did you know…” or “I heard this amazing thing today…”. Give people memorable nuggets they can use as social currency, it’s the best way of spreading ideas around.
      10. Think theatrically – The impact of a prop can be changed by how it’s introduced – is it carried on, picked up, or revealed? Similarly, you can trail your finale, tease it, or reveal it from an unexpected direction. There’s no right or wrong here, you have to choose what best suits you and your story. But make sure you choose rather than just letting it happen.

Think you are up to it? Find out how to apply to the competition.

Find out how to apply

Find out who won FameLab South Africa in the past

2015 winner – Stevie Biffen

Stevie is inspired by what makes us human, has Honours degrees in both psychology and biological anthropology, and is now a candidate for a PhD in neuroscience. She has a passion for passing on knowledge as she believes that science should never be reserved for the selected few, who have had the privilege of studying it.

2014 winner – Raven Motsewabangwe

Being crowned the South African FameLab champion has changed my life in ways I never thought possible
says Raven, who was awarded a full bursary to study his masters degree in biology by the North-West University after winning FameLab following which he was selected as a representative for the microbial biotechnology laboratory to conduct a collaborative study with the Instituto Nacional de Tecnología Agropecuaria (INTA) in Argentina. Raven’s favourite quote is by Albert Einstein: “I am not a genius, just passionately curious.”

2013 winner – Michelle Knights

Michelle is a young scientist who is making a mark in the science communication community – she won South Africa’s first-ever FameLab competition and she also won a first prize in broadcast category of SAASTA’s Young Science Communicators competition earlier, the same year! Michelle holds BSc degree in Physics and Maths from Rhodes University and did her Honours with the National Astrophysics and Space Science Program (NASSP) at the University of Cape Town (UCT). She later upgraded her degree to PhD in Cosmology.


FameLab South Africa has a winner! Stevie Biffen from the University of Cape Town will represent South Africa in the UK in June.

Biffen, a Masters student from the University of Cape Town was one of 16 young scientists who arrived in Grahamstown in March 2015 to hone their communication skills and share their science with the public at Scifest Africa. Runners up were Edgar Phukubje, a microbiologist from the University of Limpopo and Natasha Botha, a mechanical engineer from the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research.

They were part of the international FameLab competition – a “pop idols for scientists” that seeks out and nurtures science communication talent. Engagement between scientists and society is essential to grow a critically informed society and ensure that science remains relevant and responsive to societal needs.

Topics ranged from novel drug delivery systems using engineered particles so small they can enter cells to release their contents, to better understanding neural responses affecting wellbeing and happiness – the subject of the winning talk. Energy saving window coatings, super bacteria and satellite imaging to monitor scarce water resources were all presented for the judges.

The 16 had emerged as the top speakers in a month-long series of heats around the country. The heats took place at diverse venues including science centres in Cape Town and Limpopo, universities including UNISA in Pretoria and the University of KwaZulu Natal in Pietermaritzburg and science organisations like the South African National Space Agency (SANSA), the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB).

Masterclass training provided by UK based science presenter Dr Emily Grossman and Robert Inglis from Jive Media Africa helped them to hone their messages and prepared them for media engagement. The training was supported by the British Council which encourages the strengthening of links between South African science and that in the UK.

Speakers were judged on the content, clarity and charisma of their talks and had just 3 minutes to convey their science topic. The judges included Sarah Wild, Science Editor for the Mail and Guardian, Dr Sandile Malinga, CEO of the South African National Space Agency, and Professor Robin Grimes, Chief Science and Technology Advisor to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK.

The Final was live streamed on and you can find out more on Biffen travels to the UK in June. The international final will be live streamed – watch and for updates.

Click here to view a gallery of photographs.

The final results are as follows:


Stevie Biffen – University of Cape Town

Runners up:

Edgar Phukubje – University of Limpopo, and

Natasha Botha – Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)


Kishen Mahesh – University of Pretoria

Karmani Murugan – University of the Witwatersrand

Itani Given Madiba – iThemba Labs and UNISA

Bibi Fatima Choonara – University of the Witwatersrand

Thrineshen Moodley – University of kwaZulu Natal

Oupa Malahlela – South African National Space Agency (SANSA)

Maropeng Nematanzhela – UNISA


Thembisile Mahlangu – Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)

Yonela Mkono – University of Fort Hare

Adwoa Awuah – University of kwaZulu Natal

Tshegofatjo Bridget Marindi – University of Limpopo

Brent Harrison – University of Cape Town

Electdom Matandirotya – South African National Space Agency (SANSA)

FameLab(R) is produced by Cheltenham Festivals (all rights reserved). The competition is run collaboratively in South Africa by Jive Media Africa – an independent communication agency specialising in science communication, the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA) and the British Council.

For more information visit:

#FameLabSA #TalkingScience

Feature image: Dr Jabu Nukeri, MD of the South Africa Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA) -extreme left – and Colm McGivern, Country Director of the British Council in South Africa – extreme right – congratulate the winners of FameLab South Africa 2015: Stevie Biffen from the University of Cape Town (centre), Natasha Botha from the CSIR – left and Edgar Phukubje from the University of Limpopo – right


We are excited to announce that the FameLab South Africa 2015 regional heats have come to an end and we are now heading to the semi-finals and finals at SciFest Africa, in Grahamstown. The SAASTA sponsored heats were held at the University of Limpopo, SAIAB in Grahamstown and at the Cape Town Science Centre. There were additional heats hosted by UNISA and CSIR in Pretoria, and by SANSA (South African National Space Agency) in Pretoria and Hermanus. Agent Zee ( also hosted a heat which was held at the University of KwaZulu Natal, Pietermaritzburg campus.

Young and brave scientists were all determined to entertain and excite with their science.

We are grateful to all our sponsors and judges for all the support they gave to make sure that FameLab SA 2015 was bigger and better.

Masterclass trainings take place on the 17th and 18h of March.  The semi-finals will be held on the 19th with the finals on the 20th of March 2015.

To see the gallery of photographs of the finalists, please click here.

Our regional finalists are:

SAASTA sponsored heats:

Limpopo: Tshegofatjo Bridget Marindi (University of Limpopo) and Edgar Matome Phukubje (University of Limpopo)
Eastern Cape: Yonela Mkono (University of Fort Hare)
Western Cape: Brent Harrison (University of Cape Town) and Stevie Biffen (University of Cape Town)

Additional sponsored heats:

UNISA: Bibi Choonara (University of Witwatersrand), Itani Given Madiba (iThemba Labs), Karmini Murugan (University of Witwatersrand), Maropeng Nemutanzhela (UNISA), Kishen Mahesh (University of Pretoria)
SANSA: Oupa Malahlela and Electdom Matandirotya
CSIR: Natasha Botha and Thembsile Mahlangu
Agent Zee, KwaZulu-Natal: Thrineshen Moodley (University of KwaZulu Natal, Westville) and Adwoa Awuah ( University of KwaZulu Natal, Pietermaritzburg)

#FameLabSA #TalkingScience


FameLab® is an initiative of the Cheltenham Festivals. The British Council, NRF SAASTA and Jive Media Africa are partners in delivering the international FameLab® competition in South Africa. © Copyright Cheltenham Festivals Ltd. For more information on FameLab® visit: – See more at:

CAPTION FOR PHOTOGRAPH: UNISA sponsored heat (Pretoria)
Top row – judges: Dr Angelo Fynn, Dr Henry Throop, Mthuthuzeli Zamxaka, Dr Manjusha Sunil
Bottom row – Bibi Choonara (University of Witwatersrand), Itani Given Madiba (iThemba Labs), Karmini Murugan (University of Witwatersrand), Maropeng Nemutanzhela (UNISA), Kishen Mahesh (University of Pretoria)




FameLab® is an international competition that gets people talking about science. It runs in more than 25 countries with an international final in the United Kingdom.  FameLab® is an initiative of the Cheltenham Festivals. The British Council, NRF SAASTA and Jive Media Africa are partners in delivering the international FameLab® competition in South Africa.

You can! … if you are between the ages of 21 and 35 and currently registered, studying or working in science, technology, engineering or mathematics in South Africa.

14 February 2015 – University of Limpopo Science Centre
21 February 2015 – SAIAB, Rhodes University, Grahamstown
28 February 2015 – Cape Town Science Centre
3 March 2015 – University of KwaZulu Natal, Pietermaritzburg
5 & 6 March 2015 – UNISA, Dr Mariam Makeba Hall, Pretoria


18 February 2015 – SANSA
04 March 2015 – CSIR

Win a trip to the UK in June!

Register now and participate at a regional heat.
• Submit a video by 16 February 2015 and win a trip to a heat.
• Master Classes and finals will take place at Sci-fest Africa in March 2015.










FameLab® is an initiative of the Cheltenham Festivals. The British Council, NRF SAASTA and Jive Media Africa are partners in delivering the international FameLab® competition in South Africa. © Copyright Cheltenham Festivals Ltd. For more information on FameLab® visit:

Forget what you think you know about scientists.

Do yourself a favour and meet the next generation. They’re fired up and they’re out to change the world.

The FameLab finalists intrigued and entertained the audience and judges with their science talks at the national final at SciFest Africa in Grahamstown. Nine phenomenal finalists took to the stage but there could only be one winner and it is…Raven Motsewabangwe from the North-West University in Mafikeng. Raven impressed the judges with his talk on viral infections and conveyed information to the audience about medical responses through vaccines and antivirals.

The runners-up were Gugulethu Mabuza from the University of Johannesburg/CSIR and Cornelis van Niekerk from the University of Pertoria.

FameLab is an international competition which was brought to this country by Jive Media Africa in order to grow the discipline of science communication. The competition is delivered in South Africa by Jive Media Arica, the British Council with generous support from the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement and a number of other partners.

The 2014 winner, Raven, will represent South Africa in the international final in the United Kingdom in June this year. Stay tuned for more news.

February, the month of love, gave scientists all over South Africa the opportunity to express their love of science by presenting their 3 minute science talk at the FameLab regional heats. Participants battled it out in the hope of making it through to the FameLab final which takes place at SciFest Africa in Grahamstown on the 14th March 2014. Seven regional heats have already taken place all around South Africa.

Well done to the finalists who have been chosen from the 7 regions. They are:

Sibusiso Biyela
Nombuso Palesa Khetsi

Cliffton Masedi
Katlego William Phoshoko
Mabu Manaileng

Gugulethu Mabuza
Kirsty Sanders
Isobel Kolbe
Cornelis van Niekerk
Abejide Ade-Ibijola

North West:
Raven Motsewanbongwe
Kgomotso Mohatalle

Mbangiso Mabaso
Karabelo Moloantoa

Cape Town:
Melissa Boonzaaier
Charlotte Hillebrand
Giverson Mupambi

Itumeleng Lehupela

Finalists will receive science communication training at Masterclasses in Grahamstown from a leading, UK based science communication trainer. They will battle it out to win a place to represent South Africa at the FameLab final in the United Kingdom. Stay tuned for more details on this exciting competition…


Tel: +27 (033) 342 9380/2
Address: P.O. Box 22016, Mayor’s Walk, 3208


Tel: +27 (033) 342 9380/2
Address: P.O. Box 22016, Mayor’s Walk, 3208

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