Ireland's Champion Science Communicator
SEFS postgraduate researcher Fergus McAuliffe is Ireland’s champion science communicator after winning the inaugural Famelab competition in Dublin’s Science Gallery.
To win the competition, Fergus had to deliver a 3-minute piece on any scientific topic without the aid of powerpoint presentations or other visual cues (although hand-held props are allowed).
For the first round, Fergus did a 3-minute video on the geological oddity that is a sinkhole. In the next round, he presented on his own research project and for the final he delivered a presentation on the wood frog – a type of frog that can freeze solidly and then ‘come back to life’ in the spring.
“The whole competition was excellent”, said Fergus. “A weekend master-class training was provided by the British Council, led by Malcolm Love of the BBC. The standard of all the finalists improved through each round and through Famelab I got to know lots of other people who are passionate about science communication”.
“It really is an excellent initiative, and concept: bitesize, entertaining and understandable science, with plenty of enthusiasm thrown in. Hopefully Famelab will kick off in Ireland now that it has been run for the first time”.
The competition is part of the Cheltenham Science Festival and is run by the British Council in 20 Countries across Europe, Asia, Africa and the United States. Fergus’ win means that he will represent Ireland in the International final at Cheltenham in June.
Fergus is a previous winner of the HEA/Irish Independent ‘Making an Impact’ competition (2012). He also won the recent UCC ‘Science for All’ competition with a public presentation of his research area entitled “Getting Trees to do the Dirty Work”.
Fergus is currently researching towards a PhD at the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences (BEES), University College Cork under the supervision of Prof. Peter Jones and Dr. Padraig Whelan. His research looks at using plants to deal with wastewater from Irish homes using willow trees.
Prof. Peter Jones, Acting Head of Plant Science at BEES, congratulated Fergus on his win. “Fergus has shown a real flair for science communication, in tandem with his own research skills. We’re delighted he’s been so successful at communicating the importance of plant science and science in its broadest sense, to the general public”.
Prof. John O’Halloran, Head of the School of BEES said that “the talent that Fergus has is critical, not only in explaining world class research but also translating it into practical operations”.
Speaking about Fergus’ own research, Prof. O’Halloran added, “Water is one if our greatest resources and effective measures to protect it such as the research conducted by Fergus is critical in adding value. The work also fits UCC’s sustainability agenda of being 'student led, research informed and practice focussed'
The winning presentation, along with some of the other finalists, will be featured on the Newstalk science programme – Futureproof – this Saturday, 13th April at 6pm.