A physicist from the University of Oxford was yesterday named as the UK winner of FameLab 2012, the international competition to find the top new science communicator for the 21st century.
Across the country hundreds of engaging scientists, engineers and mathematicians have been competing to make it to the FameLab UK Grand Final hosted by Quentin Cooper, presenter of BBC Radio 4's Material World. Each of the ten chosen finalists took to the stage, which has been host to numerous renowned speakers such as Michael Faraday, HG Wells and David Attenborough, to convey the wonder and relevance of a chosen scientific specialism in just three minutes.
Dr Andrew Steele had just three minutes to pitch a complex scientific idea, to the panel of judges, which included British neuroscientist Professor Russell Foster FRS from the University of Oxford; Andrew Cohen, head of the BBC's award-winning science unit; and anatomist, science writer and well-known broadcaster Professor Alice Roberts. Each assessed the finalists' presentations on three qualities: content, clarity and charisma. The event took place at The Royal Institution of Great Britain.
Having beaten off stiff competition in the South East regional heat at Science Oxford Live in November 2011, Andrew battled it out with nine other budding Brian Cox's from across the UK to win the coveted prize.
During the final, Andrew impressed the panel and captivated the audience with his pitch on quantum mechanics and how it can help us to understand the world around us, right down to the colour of carrots.
Speaking of the competition he said: "I feel really excited to have come this far in the competition. It has always been my ambition to speak at the Faraday Theatre, and to have won an award here is just unbelievable. I really hope that people have come away from tonight's event feeling as inspired by science as I am."
Professor Russell Foster, Chair of the judges added: "In my view it has never been more important to invest in science and - critically - communicate scientific progress to the broader non-scientific community.
"Competitions like FameLab introduce us to the next generation of scientists who are not only addressing great scientific challenges, but are able to communicate what they do."
Andrew will now compete for the ultimate title of International FameLab Champion at The Times Cheltenham Science Festival this year.
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. In 2012 the UK competition has been supported by NESTA and EDF Energy.
Past alumni have found outlets for their skills within the mainstream media, from television to radio, but the vast majority continue to play active roles in research, manufacture and policy development, whilst undertaking complementary public activities. Past winners and runners-up include British space scientist Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock who has recently been awarded and MBE for her services to science and evolutionary biologist Simon Watt who has gone on to present Channel 4's Animal Autopsy, amongst others.
For more information about the competition, visit: www.famelab.org/uk
For more information or interviews with key spokespeople, please contact:
Notes to Editors
FameLab was set up in 2005 by Cheltenham Festivals in partnership with NESTA to find and nurture scientists and engineers with a flair for communicating with public audiences. Since 2007, thanks to a partnership with the British Council, FameLab has gone global, with competitions now held in 20 countries across Europe, Asia, Africa. In 2012 Cheltenham Festivals signed an agreement with NASA to run FameLab in the United States. Globally more than 4000 researchers have taken part. The result is a vibrant network of exciting scientists and engineers engaging international audiences but also engaging with each other, broadening each other's views of what it means to be working in science right now. In 2012 the UK competition has been supported by NESTA and EDF Energy. For more information, go to: www.FameLab.org/uk
The Times Cheltenham Science Festival (12-17 June 2012) / In and around Cheltenham Town Hall, GL50 1QA
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The Times Cheltenham Science Festival is a six-day celebration of science, engineering and the arts which brings the public face to face with some of the world's greatest thinkers. Established in 2002, Cheltenham Science Festival has grown to become one of the world's greatest science events and annually attracts impressive speakers and audiences from across the globe. With a programme of serious debate, live experiments and surprising speakers, the 2012 Festival promises the very best platform to explore the world around us. The full programme will be available from 21st March at: www.cheltenhamfestivals.com/science
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Physicist from University of Oxford announced as UK’s top science communication star at FameLab UK Grand Final