International “talking science” competition picks its South African winner

International “talking science” competition picks its South African winner

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 grahamstown.tv and you can find out more on www.facebook.com/jivemedia. Biffen travels to the UK in June. The international final will be live streamed – watch www.britishcouncil.org.za/famelab and www.jivemedia.co.za for updates.

Click here to view a gallery of photographs.

The final results are as follows:

Winner:

Stevie Biffen – University of Cape Town

Runners up:

Edgar Phukubje – University of Limpopo, and

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

Finalists:

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

Semi-finalists:

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:

www.britishcouncil.org.za/famelab

www.jivemedia.co.za

www.saasta.ac.za

#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

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