FameLab is a competition which seeks out upcoming science communicators by asking that they do something rather tricky: present an engaging piece of science in just three minutes, using no visual aids and (optionally) props they can carry with them onto the stage. After winning the UK final at the Royal Institution in March this year with a talk about the quantum mechanics of carrots, I went through to the international stages of the competition at the Cheltenham Science Festival, where I won the Online Vote for my explanation of how 3D glasses work.
The competition was brilliant fun to be involved with. Science communication in general seems to attract lovely people, and FameLab was no exception. You also get to meet scientists from a huge variety of fields: I met people studying norovirus, polymers, ageing, frogs and even preservation of silk cultural artefacts! There’s also an emphasis on training for the competitors, and one of the highlights of the experience was our UK finalists’ training weekend in at a snowy hotel in rural Gloucestershire, where we were given tips on communicating in a variety of different media in environs only slightly reminiscent of The Shining.
Whether you’re talking about silk or supernovae, the key really seems to be choice of topic. Choosing an aspect of the field about which you can convey both a sense of awe and understanding in such a short period of time is an enormous challenge—but a rewarding one when you get it right!
Meanwhile, it all starts again this year with a series of local rounds in the UK this autumn: if you fancy getting involved, or just want some more details, visit the FameLab UK site. If you’d like to watch my talks, check out the video clips on this page. Watch all the UK finalists on this YouTube playlist, and all the international finalists on this playlist.