Winner of FameLab 2013, PhD student Fergus McAuliffe, has had a busy year in science communication. He tells us about the opportunities that have come his way since winning the competition.
When it comes to opening doors, FameLab is the masterkey. After the international final in Cheltenham 2013, a lot of doors opened for me. Below, in no particular order, are some of the things I have become involved in.
'The Science Squad' with RTE – Ireland’s national TV broadcaster
This summer and last I have been working with 'The Science Squad' which is a science programme on Irish television. I was asked to do this as the producers had seen my FameLab videos and liked the short, snappy science idea. For the last series we did four 90-second science stories, which had loads of cool graphics and special effects.
A few months after the final in Cheltenham I was asked to speak at TEDx Dublin. This was a great honour as I had watched lots of TED talks on line but never thought I would ever be asked to give one. Speaking in front of 2,000 people in a packed arena was a great experience. While in the past I would probably have been very nervous, the training I'd received from FameLab meant that I was very relaxed.
'Spinning the Wheel' initiative with Pirelli in Milan
'Spinning the Wheel' is an initiative with Pirelli, the global manufacturer of tyres. The initiative aims to narrate the company’s annual report beyond the mere figures and technical documents which tend to dominate these things. I worked together with a diverse group of young people from differing disciplines: architecture, physics, design, music, animation films and fashion. All of these people had won a world-wide event in the previous 12 months, and Pirelli viewed FameLab as the yardstick of science communication.
Invitations to give keynote speeches at conferences
Because so much of FameLab is about public speaking I have received a number of requests to speak at conferences around Ireland. The biggest was the Irish Science Teachers Association, where I gave a keynote speech alongside the likes of Maire Geoghan Quinn (European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science) and Prof. Jim Al-Khalili (BBC broadcaster) who were also speaking.
Travelling the world to represent my university
Universities have a big reach, with alumni based all over the world. My own university, University College Cork, organises alumni dinner events in various cities in the UK, Australia and the US each year. At these events they ask well known people with links to the university to give speeches as part of the night’s entertainment. Historians, ambassadors and the President of the University all contribute. Last November they asked me to travel to the US to speak at these events – all on the back of FameLab. The US trip was fantastic. Landing off a trans-Atlantic flight at 4 p.m. in Chicago, delivering the speech at 7 p.m., going to bed, flying to Boston, giving the speech, going to bed, flying to New York, giving the speech, going to bed, flying home...it was busy but fantastic.
Meeting the FameLab alumni network
One of the best parts of FameLab is getting to meet up with other FameLabbers from around the world. Since attending the final in Cheltenham I have been asked to the Natural History Museum in London to speak at European Researchers night, and to Prague as part of Echoes of FameLab. These are great evens which expose you to a new audience and also to old FameLab friends.
To sum up, there’s only one piece of advice when it comes to FameLab: give it a go!
FameLab aims to discover charismatic, up-and-coming scientists who can inspire people to see the world from a new perspective. The competition is the brainchild of The Times Cheltenham Science Festival and is delivered by the British Council in 25 countries.
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