FameLab: racked with nerves but still a good presentation
Pause for a few seconds. Then start your talk, and make it good. The young science researchers who took part in the preliminary round of FameLab on 17 February, were complimented by the jury. Present their research in three minutes was what they were asked to do. The four winners are through to the next round.
There was a lot of nervous tension, but the fifteen candidates managed to keep their nerves under control. The subjects they presented on were very varied, from obesity, the benefit of worms in the human body and songbirds, to cosmic light, MRI in psychiatry and the influence of language on perception. The last two subjects were presented by researchers from social and behavioural sciences and humanities, where a lot of their work focuses on exact scientific subjects such as neuroscience.
The jury was made up of Jaap de Jong (Professor of Journalism and New Media), Bas Haring (Professor of the Public Understanding of Science) and Vice-Rector Simone Buitendijk. They gave their comments after each of the presentations. Apart from one or two questions about the subject matter of the presentation, the comments were primarily implicit tips: take a second or two to pause before you start talking, use intonation to give melody to your speech, make sure your talk has a proper beginning and an end and that they are in line with one another, and sometimes speaking fast to emphasise speed in your story can be a good device. The level of the presentations was high, so all the comments were simply minor tips.
Of the participants, ten were male and five were female. Roughly a quarter of them came from abroad. The jury selected the following winners:
Margot Brouwer, PhD candidate in Astronomy. She linked her study of the cosmos to the question of the purpose of life. When asked whether she had deliberately worn a sweater with stars on it, she replied: ‘My wardrobe is full of clothes with stars.’ The jury praised her for her enthusiasm.
Michelle Spierings, PhD candidate in Biology. Birds seem to make a distinction in intonation, whereas we thought that this was a typically human trait. It says something about the origin and the development of language. Michelle told a powerful story, the jury commented.
Marcia Brandenburg-Goddard, PhD candidate at Child and Education Studies. The research is pioneering. The researchers, including Marcia, are studying whether it is possible to alter the brains of autistic people. Using (f)MRI scans they first look at what exactly is happening in the autistic brain. The jury was carried along by Marcia’s enthusiasm.
Ryan Bogaars, also a PhD candidate in Biology. Some medications are difficult to dissolve in water. Adding sugar makes the process easier. Plants make sugars in order to be able to dissolve and spread substances. The jury praised his use of the metaphor: ‘It's like Moroccan-style tea: with lots of sugar.’
FameLabFameLab is an international competition for young science researchers aged between 21 and 40. They have to present their research in just three minutes, without using any visual aids. Props to add weight to their presentation are permitted. This year, in the Netherlands, only the universities of Leiden, Wageningen, Groningen and Nijmegen are taking part. They will each provide four local winners to participate in the two-day Science Communication master class. At the end of this master class, six candidates will be eliminated. The ten remaining candidates will meet in the Dutch finale in Museum Boerhaave. The national winners will meet in Great Britain. The hosts there will be the Cheltenham Festivals organisation that in 2005 took the initiative for FameLab, and the British Council.
(18 February 2015)