Inspiring EMCRs

Vanessa Pirotta joint runner up at FameLab International, with Siti Khayriyyah Binti Mohd Hanafiah (winner) and Veli Vural Uslu (joint runner up)

Vanessa Pirotta

Macquarie University


I’ve always loved communicating science and sharing my passion for my research. Making science accessible is something every scientist should be part of. There are many ways of achieving this, from sharing information with peers, writing a piece for the local paper or giving a presentation at an international conference. However, it was not until towards the end of my PhD journey that I found out about the British Council’s Famelab competition.

Entering FameLab Australia was simple. I produced a short three-minute presentation about my whale drone research and filmed it on my iPhone. A couple of weeks later I found out I had made it into the NSW semifinals. This led to a day of science communication training with other NSW scientists and an evening of presentations. I was grateful to receive the audience choice award.

A month later, I flew to Perth for the national finals. This was super fun as I was able to meet researchers from around Australia and had two days of science communication training. The evening of the finals was also amazing. I was honoured to take out the national prize, which meant I went on to represent Australia on the international stage in the United Kingdom.

I prepared two versions of my three-minute talk. When I arrived in Cheltenham, home of the Cheltenham Science Festival, I was greeted by participants from more than 27 different countries. We became a small international family and had so much fun together despite the nerves of looming semifinals and finals.

My first hurdle was the semifinals. Thankfully, this went well, and I progressed as one of 12 finalists. The night of the international final everyone was buzzing. Two hours went by super quick. I was happy with my presentation and I did the best I could, but most of all I had fun and enjoyed the experience. Before the winners were announced, all participants stood on stage together and answered questions about our research.

It was then time for the winners to be announced. My name was the first to be read out and I was awarded international runner up. I couldn’t believe it! Germany was announced as the second international runner up and then Malaysia was crowned as the winner. After the event, we had a lovely dinner to celebrate.

The FameLab experience was a memorable and extremely rewarding opportunity. I met so many amazing people from around the world and was able to share my research on the international stage. I also developed science communication and presenting skills, which are highly transferable. I encourage other scientists to consider the FameLab competition.

© 2020 Australian Academy of Science