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.



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

Note: Our offices will be closed from the 21 December to 6 January 2019.


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

Note: Our offices will be closed from the 21 December to 6 January 2019.

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