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FameLab Heats Up

Friday 5th February 2016

This January eighteen engaging, creative and daring individuals came together in Oxford to deliver a fast-paced performance extravaganza involving song, comedy and horror.

These budding Prof. Brian Cox’s are part of FameLab – an international competition for scientists, engineers and mathematicians with a passion for performance. The competition involves each contestant presenting a three minute talk on a topic in science, engineering, medicine or maths. Their talk must be for a general public audience and demonstrate great content, enthusiasm and an engaging narrative.

Heats have been taking place across the UK with the FameLab UK final in London this April and the international final at Cheltenham Science Festival in June 2016.

Famelab Science Oxford 3

The crowd enjoy the show in St Aldates

The Oxford FameLab heats took place over two nights at St Aldate’s Tavern and provided a huge range of topics and approaches. The competition sprang into action with Eden Tanner, who propelled us onto the battleground of enemy ants that mix up their defensive toxins to make new materials that get chemists like Eden so excited. She even brought along a jelly tot molecule to demonstrate the science.

Fame Lab Science Oxford 4

Eden Tanner and her jelly tot molecule…

Quintuple-nationality Layal Liverpool used the power of mime to portray a perfect two-armed protein trap for HIV while gamma ray-wielding Daniel Bulte described the benefits of radiation as being a bit like sugar or daytime TV – harmless in small doses.

Committed STEM ambassador Mark Bosley used his three minute slot to debunk misunderstandings in science history, while guitar-playing A-level maths lecturer Kyle Evans transformed the Riemann Hypothesis into a folk song. Another musical entry came from dark-matter-maker and violinist Jesse Liu, who was all ‘strung’ up about how to woo his crush with the power of physics, explaining standing waves using the strings on his violin. 


Jesse Liu explains standing waves with violin strings

We were lucky to have not one but two engineers from Cheltenham-based Spirax Sarco performing for us. Dimitrios Gkounidis introduced his microlattice: a spiral-tubed metallic matrix which is 99% air and forms the lightest metal on earth – very useful for making crash helmets and aircraft with. His colleague Maciej Tezycki talked eloquently about how oil distillation methods could be improved to make oil use more efficient.

Ana Lawry Aguila came to FameLab UK to confide her plot to do away with her neighbour’s annoying terrier using chocolate while ecologist Carl Sprake talked about Earth’s fresh water shortage which might do away with all of us.


Ecologist Carl Sprake

Mushroom-enthusiast Julia Galbenu wowed the audience with the revelation that fungi are secretly the largest organisms on earth, conjoined with mycelium networks that connect deep underground to form the telephone lines that the plants use to talk to each other. Also on a fauna theme, wannabe farmer and microscope lover Joe Moughan gave a thought-provoking talk about the dangerous microscopic mould that infects potato crops and led to the Potato Famine in Ireland in the 19th century


Mushroom-enthusiast Julia Galbenu uncovers secret underground networks

 There is no doubt that that the three Oxford FameLab UK heats Judges Terence Eden, Lynne Pebworth and John Runions had some tough decisions to make about which nine contestants to take through to the final – which will take place at the Glee Club on Hythe Bridge Street in Oxford on Friday 18th March.


The winners were: Kayode Ayeode-Akinde, Layal Liverpool Jack O’Sullivan, Kyle Evans, Gunes Taylor, Ana Lawry Aguila, Julia Galbenu, Jase Taylor and Inés Dawson. They will be joined in the final by two heat winners from Birmingham and Bristol – Hugh Osborn and Emma Liu. We hope to see you there!


“I’m interested in SciComm and performance, and it was a perfect combo of the two, leaving me super-inspired for the possible future!” Member of the Audience.


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