Five women researchers from UTS are among 12 competitors preparing to face off in this week’s FameLab NSW semi-final. Each will have just three minutes to pitch complicated scientific concepts in a fun and enlightening way. Among other things, the judges will be looking for the three “Cs” – content, clarity and charisma.
FameLab is run by the British Council in collaboration with the Times Cheltenham Science Festival. It launched in the UK in 2005 to find, develop and mentor young science and engineering communicators. FameLab is now in its fourth year in Australia.
The 12 NSW semi-finalists will compete at the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, on Wednesday April 5 from 6pm. State finalists will go to the national final on May 4, in Fremantle, WA. The national winner will compete in the international final at the Times Cheltenham Science Festival, a six-day celebration of science, engineering and the arts, held each June.
The five UTS semi-finalists are:
Maryna Bilokur, Faculty of Science
Planet Earth is facing dramatic climate changes, resulting in deaths of more than 7 million people around the world each year. Many political structures intentionally ignore this issue, saying yes to global warming, escalating air pollution and fossil fuels exhaustion. The last chance to rescue our planet is to employ renewable and environmentally friendly solar energy. Twitter: @MarynaBilokur
Nural Cokcetin, Faculty of Science
The human gut is home to trillions of bacteria living in a delicate balance of beneficial and potentially harmful types. These bacteria play a huge role in the regular functioning of our body, our nutrition and overall health and well-being. Disruptions to this balance have been associated with intestinal diseases, allergies, obesity and even mental health issues. Maintaining a favourable balance can therefore have important health benefits. One way we can manipulate the balance in our gut is via our diet, by eating prebiotics. These are complex carbohydrates that we cannot digest ourselves, but which can “feed” our beneficial gut bacteria. Can honey be a prebiotic? My research focuses on how eating honey can affect the balance of bacteria in our gut. Twitter: @nural_c
Jane Hunter, Faculty of Arts and Social Science
The low engagement of children and young adults in STEM education is a national conundrum. To rectify the situation, teachers must focus on teaching the Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths disciplines really well from the moment children enter school. In a research project in selected NSW primary schools, teachers are using High Possibility Classrooms, which emphasise technology integration to inspire students’ passion for STEM. Twitter: @JaneHunter01
Naomi Koh Belic, Faculty of Science
Multiple sclerosis is the most common cause of neurological disability in young adults. Like most neurological diseases, it is poorly understood, and this is largely due to limited availability of suitable tissue from patients. To assist in developing a better understating of multiple sclerosis, I have created a disease model that uses stem cells isolated from abdominal fat – it’s what I like to call a “disease in a dish”. Twitter: @naomikohbelic
Sarina Kilham, Institute for Sustainable Futures
Biodiesel production is promoted as a huge opportunity to sustainably meet the world's energy demands and expand rural development. But what about the smallholder farmers who produce biodiesel feedstock? They currently feed about 80 per cent of the population in the global south, broadly made up of Africa, Latin America and much of Asia. If they start growing for fuel, will they no longer grow food? My transdisciplinary research examines how smallholder farmers are negotiating their livelihoods and balancing food-and-fuel production. Twitter: @sarinakilham