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24/03/2017

His participation in the Eastern Cape leg of the FameLab international science communication competition – dubbed the ‘Pop Idols of Science’ – gave provincial winner and Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) student hope for the future of science in South Africa.

Otto Joseph (left) and NMMU Master's in Biochemistry student, Wynand van Losenoord. 

Today, NMMU Masters in biochemistry student, Wynand van Losenoord, is one of 16 students from universities across the country partaking in the semi-finals in Johannesburg.

FameLab is an exciting competition aimed at enabling scientists, particularly young ones, to effectively communicate their science products and/or research in a way that is accessible to a broader public audience.

The competition’s primary objective is finding new voices in science, technology engineering, maths and innovation (STEMI), from across the world. Participants are offered workshop training to enhance their science communication skills and to enable them to present their science topic to a panel of expert judges in just three minutes.

Following the Eastern Cape heat, Van Losenoord, along with provincial first runner-up Rhodes University’s Otto Joseph, were part of a master class with renowned science journalist and facilitator Dr Quentin Cooper and Jive Media’s Robert Inglis and Sthabile Mazubane on 22 and 23 March. Here, they were further equipped with effective and excellent public speaking and science communication skills.

Van Losenoord and Joseph were among 10 science students who took part in the provincial heat, which was hosted at NMMU’s Madibaz Clubhouse on Thursday, 9 March.

Van Losenoord is in his first year of Masters in biochemistry, with specific focus on diabetes and the treatment thereof. For his three-minute Famelab presentation, he used the Red Tide phenomenon – explaining the chemical pathway of how the algae in the waves emits the light – as an analogy, comparing this pathway with a relay race. This, he said, to explain how the glowing molecules derived from the algae in the red tide are used within research in biochemical fields as a means to determine cellular changes, therefore assisting in gathering information about disease. 

Van Losenoord said taking part in the competition gave him hope for the future of science in the country and that it was a privilege for him to progress to the next round of the competition.

“It was not just an amazing experience and privilege for me to participate in FameLab. I was astounded by the knowledge and passion of my peers. I can comfortably say that science is in safe hands,” he said.

Success in the semi-finals could see the students progress to the national finals, which will be held at Wits University on 19 April 2017.

The FameLab South Africa winner will go on to compete against winners from over 30 countries on an international stage, at The Times Cheltenham Science Festival in the United Kingdom.

FameLab was started in 2005 in the UK by Cheltenham Science Festival and has quickly become established as a diamond model for successfully identifying, training and mentoring scientists and engineers to share their enthusiasm for their subjects with the public.

It is implemented in over 30 countries, including the UK, USA, Brazil, South Africa, Thailand, Qatar and Kazakhstan. In South Africa, FameLab is implemented in partnership with the British Council, the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA), and Science Communication Agency Jive Media Africa.

Contact information
Ms Zandile Mbabela
Media Manager
Tel: 0415042777
Zandile.Mbabela@mandela.ac.za