Famelab proves science has got talent
06 June 2011
The Times Cheltenham Science Festival hosts the International Final of the world’s greatest science communication competition.
When: Saturday 11 June, 8.30pm
Where: Cheltenham Science Festival, the Crucible, Cheltenham Town Hall
For further details, and to book tickets, visit www.cheltenhamfestivals.com/science
Five years after it first left the UK the FameLab® competition, a brainchild of The Times Cheltenham Science Festival, is returning to Cheltenham with 14 national winners ready to battle it out in front of millions of viewers in their home countries. The young scientists from across three continents will compete to see who is the most exciting, accessible and charismatic science communicator in the world, in a format run in partnership with the British Council.
Since its birth at Cheltenham Science Festival in 2004, FameLab® has grown into arguably the world’s leading science communication competition. A partnership with the British Council since 2007 has seen the competition go global and over the years has been held, to huge acclaim, in 20 countries world-wide.
This year national winners from Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Egypt, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Israel, Lithuania, Portugal, Romania and Serbia will all be heading to Cheltenham for the grand International Final on Saturday 11 June. Each contestant has already proved their scientific prowess and earned their crowns by being judged according to Famelab’s golden rule - the 3C’s: Content, Clarity and Charisma.
"How could you hear God on the radio?”, “Why do mosquitoes bite only some of us?”, “Why is the sky blue?”, “How a mother of three children may not be the mother of two of them?” – with answers to questions like these and many more the contestants are challenged to impress the judges in just three minutes. Former Famelab UK star and stand-up mathematician Matt Parker is host in the format familiar from Britain’s Got Talent and the X Factor.
Love and relationships has proved a winning subject with the Chemistry of Love securing the prize for Croatian Marko Kosicek in 2008, and the unusual story of how you can get a date by explaining The Birth of Supernova proved popular for last year’s winner Vasilis Gregoriadis from Greece.
In 2009, Serbian Mirko Djordjevic took the FameLab International with a three minute talk on Sexual Evolution. Upon winning his prize Mirko summed up the importance of FameLab as being all about - “Global science! No country working in isolation. Scientists collaborating together: this is the future.” The fourteen contestants in the 2011 International Final are living proof of the uniting power of science across continents. Famelab’s message will go global as the whole final will be filmed by six international TV crews who will broadcast the event, and highlights from the festival, world-wide.
The competition will be judged by an international panel of science communication experts, including:
Kathy Sykes, British physicist, academic and broadcaster, Professor of Sciences and Society at the University of Bristol and co-director of The Times Cheltenham Science Festival;
Roger Highfield, the Editor of New Scientist, and former science editor of The Daily Telegraph, who became the first person to bounce a neutron off a bubble (made with heavy soap) during his DPhil in physical chemistry, conducted at Oxford University and the Institut Laue Langevin, Grenoble.
George Zarkadakis, Greek novelist, playwright and science journalist who studied Systems Engineering at City University, London and has a PhD in Artificial Intelligence
The winner of the prestigious award will receive a Microsoft Tablet, as well as huge exposure across their research field and fame in their home nation. Croatia’s Marko Kosicek, the 2008 winner was profiled in Croatian Cosmopolitan, invited on to various TV chat-shows and even discovered that his name became a crossword answer. 2009 winner Mirko Djordjevic has just started his own “Species Investigation Unit” TV show in Serbia.
Although science may be perceived as predominantly male territory this year’s final of the finals features perfect gender balance – 7 women and 7 men.
Tim Sowula, Press Officer, British Council London, +44 (0)20 7389 4871, firstname.lastname@example.org
Gradi Gradev, Communications Manager FameLab International, British Council, +359887 424210, email@example.com (to arrange interviews with International FameLab network during the festival)
Amy Hulyer, Press & PR Manager, Cheltenham Festivals +44 (0)1242 775856, firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editors
FameLab® is an initiative of the Cheltenham Science Festival in the UK and the British Council has license to deliver the competition in 20 countries overseas.
The Times Cheltenham Science Festival – 7-12 June 2011
The Times Cheltenham Science Festival is a six-day celebration of science, engineering and the arts and is produced by Cheltenham Festivals. A rare opportunity for the public to come face-to-face with around 300 of the world's leading scientists and thinkers, the festival annually sells in excess of 28,000 tickets whilst the free programme – including the interactive Discover Zone exhibition and family fun days - attract over 10,000 visitors. The six day festival promises a mix of serious debate, live experiments and surprising discoveries all based at Cheltenham Town Hall.
The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. We work in over 100 countries worldwide to build opportunity and trust for the UK through the exchange of knowledge and ideas between people. We work in the Arts, English, Education and Society, including science and sport - and in the process contribute to the security and prosperity of the UK and the countries where we work. Last year we engaged face to face with 18.4 million people and reached 652 million. We are a non-political organisation which operates at arm’s length from government. Our total turnover in 2009/10 was £705 million, of which our grant-in-aid from the British government was £211 million. For every £1 of government grant we receive, we earn £2.50 from other sources. For more information, please visit: www.britishcouncil.org
2011 International Final Line-up (in alphabetical order, by country) –
Photos of this year’s contestants and past international winners available upon request
Austria: Phillip Ambichl
Philipp is currently studying Technical Physics at the University of Technology in Vienna. One of his ambitions in the FameLab competition was to prove that “theoreticians are perfectly normal people with perfectly normal interests”. Specialising in waves and wave mechanics, he proved his point by giving a very entertaining account of a stressed wave and its links to people running against walls whilst casually explaining the theory behind a time-delay operator.
Bulgaria: Alexandrina Al-Djassem
Alexandrina has a BA in Molecular Biology and is currently studying towards her MA in Genetics at Sofia University. She is 24 years old and for half of her life she has been taking care of an unusual pet – a tarantula. She claims that it is probably her pet that got her into biology in the first place. Alexandrina won FameLab Bulgaria with an exciting presentation on chimeras – people who have different types of DNA which would lead to diverse DNA profiles in tissue samples from different organs.
Croatia: Iva Pritišanac
Iva is a third year Bachelor student of Molecular Biology in Zagreb. She loves molecular biology and is fascinated with all types of chemistry, especially the one present in the structures and interactions of macromolecules in cells. She has always wanted to be in the spotlight and even spent ten years in a ballet company. During the summer she works on the coast as a tourist animator. She likes long bicycle rides, swimming with flippers and snorkelling, instrumental piano music and scientific discussions (in her case monologues) with whoever wants to, or is forced to listen to her, and is still bravely struggling to stop always being late.
Cyprus: Myrtani Pieri
Myrtani holds a PhD in Molecular Biology from Oxford University and is trying to understand how the protein that lives in our small intestine and kidney transports drugs into our bloodstream. She also did a Post Doc in Oxford, this time using the same protein to transport chemotherapeutic drugs straight into cancer cells. She returned to Cyprus to try to find out why some Cypriot families develop kidney failure due to a mutation they have in their DNA while others with the same mutation are healthy and happy! She is passionate about biology and research. Learning about it, talking about it, doing it! When she’s not in the lab, she tries to learn how to play the guitar, without any success so far.
Czech Republic: Michal Babic
Michal is a polymer chemist who loves to talk about science and – of course – loves to do science too. He cooperates with surgeons and microbiologists in a relatively new area called regenerative medicine and cell therapy. He works at the Institute of Macromolecular Chemistry of the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague. In his free time, Michael likes cycling, cross country skiing and freediving.
Egypt: Mahmoud Abu-khedr
Mahmoud is a 3rd year student at the University of Alexandria’s Faculty of Engineering, Mechanical Department. He is very interested in automotive science, playing volleyball, making projects around robot fights. He is a member of the committee of culture at the student union, and a member of the Society of Automotive Engineering and he also worked on a special programme for space technology and satellite building. He participated in an International Science and Engineering Fair in the USA.
Germany: Carsten Graf von Westarp
Carsten lives in a small village near Hamburg in Northern Germany with his wife and three little children, a cat and eight horses. He studied Physics and Meteorology at the University of Hamburg and is now writing his doctoral thesis on semiconductor physics. His research is on new electronic devices to construct faster and smaller computer chips. After completing his studies he would like to work for some producer of semiconductor devices or airplane parts. He says he is fascinated with physics because of its philosophical view on nature and its benefit for everyday life.
Greece: Isidoros Sideridis
Isidoros was born 29 days after the fall of Greek military Junta in 1974. Since he was a child he played with Lego and naturally decided to study Mechanical Engineering and satisfy his passion for constructions. As every IT self-respecting businessman he quitted his studies as a graduate and together with four university friends founded SiEBEN where he has been working for the past 11 years. Now, besides his work, he is in love with the study of science (theoretical physics, philosophy of mathematics, biology, astronomy, etc.) and technology, and sometimes thinks it’s pure "magic."
Hong Kong: Kaamil Ur Rahman Mohamed Shibly
Kaamil is a Sri Lankan who came to HK to study in the University of Hong Kong. He is currently studying his third year of Mechanical Engineering. He confesses that his interest in science was inspired by the shows on the Discovery Channel, especially Discovery Kids. When the time finally came for higher studies, he chose engineering over the pure sciences, because he wanted a more practical approach and because all the guys in Junkyard Wars were also engineers.
Israel: Karen Lavi
Karen has a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology from The Open University in Israel and is currently a Ph.D. candidate in The Gonda Center for Multidisciplinary Brain Research at Bar-Ilan University and in The Department of Neurobiology & Ethology at University of Haifa.
Her research is in the field of memory and learning. She finds “science communication crucial both for scientists and the public. “I hope that the FameLab experience will widely open the door to this amazing world”, Karen says.
Lithuania: Justas Stasionis
Justas is a PhD student of Computer Engineering at the Institute of Mathematics and Informatics of Vilnius University in Lithuania. His research concerns global optimization methods and solutions. Justas is also an assisting lecturer in a distance learning programme between four Lithuanian universities. He teaches global optimization, as well as game and probability theories. Justas has done all sorts of IT related jobs but has also been involved for ten years in various activities at Vilnius University. Besides studying and research, he is member of the Student Parliament, does a lot of sports and also acts in the academic theatre.
Portugal: Leonor Medeiros
Leonor has a first degree in Archaeology from the New University of Lisbon and has completed a Masters degree in Heritage Management at the University of Birmingham. Her main research field is Industrial Heritage - she has analysed best practice in the management of mining landscapes. She organizes an annual festival of archaeology in Portugal and leads workshops for children.
Romania: Flavia-Bianca Cristian
Flavia studies Biology in Cluj and is passionate about neuro-linguistics, a domain bordering between neurobiology and communication and where she also thinks FameLab stands. In her presentation Flavia explained why mosquitoes bite only some of us. And no wonder she chose biting as her topic – Flavia comes from Transylvania, also known as the home of Count Dracula.
Serbia: Mariana Jaskov
Mariana is in her 3rd year of Astrophysics at the Faculty of Sciences in Novi Sad. While still at high school in her home-town of Zrenjanin Mariana begun volunteering in the „Imagineground“ creative centre for children. Despite her dyslexia Mariana enjoys reading and when she is not studying she loves drawing and practices - juggling with burning ropes. She hopes in the future to have an opportunity to work with young people.