Through FameLab, Dina El-Zohiry – winner of the competition in Egypt in 2016 – found the perfect platform to combine her passions for the stage and science.
A performer from a young age, Dina has commanded an audience through performance, dance and singing in Arabic, English, and German. It was through FameLab that Dina discovered that she could communicate with an audience in a new way: by sharing her scientific understanding.
Dina’s winning FameLab talk focused on bionics, an emerging and relatively unknown medical field in Egypt. Audiences and judges alike engaged with the presentation, leading to her success in the competition that year – and later an invitation for Dina to return as judge and masterclass co-trainer.
Since then, Dina has gone on to establish a truly international career encompassing research, teaching and business that’s taken her to Slovenia, Italy, Spain, and now USA, where she is currently based pursuing a master’s degree in cellular and molecular biology.
And on top of this, she is vice head of a start-up company which develops high-functioning 3D-printed prosthetic hands for amputees – ambitions that stem from her involvement in FameLab.
Communicating scientific ideas
It was during her undergraduate studies in biotechnology and biomolecular chemistry at Cairo University that Dina saw a poster about an information session for FameLab – and her interest was piqued.
‘I didn't know that this term science communication existed’, recalls Dina. ‘So it was the first time to be introduced to the concept, and its importance and potential to shape people's minds.’
She initially found the idea of giving a scientific talk in just three minutes daunting – but it was a challenge that she enjoyed.
‘I really found how to present your idea in just three minutes makes you break down and organise your ideas in your mind in points, so you know what to say, what not to say - and to deal with your targets in the best way,’ she says.
Dina also benefited from international perspectives to science communication. As winner of FameLab Egypt, Dina travelled to the UK’s Cheltenham Science Festival to compete in the international finals. She took away a lot from the experience, including the constructive feedback gained from fellow participants, masterclass trainers and judges. ‘It made me open to how people communicate science from different countries,’ she reflects. ‘And that’s been useful when teaching my own students.’
Content, clarity, charisma…and confidence
FameLab contestant talks globally are judged using the 3Cs: content, clarity and charisma. Through the FameLab process, competitors often develop a fourth C: added confidence.
Dina agrees with this. ‘I’ve learned how to speak my mind easily, and I don't feel like I face any obstacles when talking about my academic experiences’.
She recalls an occasion when a conference needed an additional presentation at the very last minute, which Dina readily volunteered for. She credits her FameLab experience as giving her the confidence to step up to challenges like this.
‘The experience made it really easy for me to go on stage – I now know how to prepare myself in a limited time, and how to speak under time constraints,’ says Dina.
Directly inspired and informed by her FameLab experiences, Dina has been able to develop ‘Speak Your Mind’ – sessions for her own students aimed at developing their science communication, design thinking, leadership, and entrepreneurship skills.
FameLab was introduced to Egypt in 2009 to support the government’s efforts to advance science, and to help build a culture that understands and supports the positive role science plays in economic and social wellbeing.
Since its establishment, FameLab Egypt has captured the public imagination and has grown from strength-to-strength: in 2018, over 2000 young scientists and engineers applied to take part, and in 2019 the national final was staged against the awe-inspiring backdrop of the Pyramids.
FameLab is a global competition started in 2005 by Cheltenham Science Festival to find and support the world's most talented new science communicators. Participants have three minutes to win over the judges and audience with a scientific talk that excels for its content, clarity and charisma.
Through a partnership with the British Council since 2007, the competition has grown into the world’s leading science communication competition, with more than 10,000 young scientists, mathematicians and engineers participating to date.