Famelab Oxford

The History of Science Museum in Oxford now organises Oxford’s regional heats for FameLab UK – a brilliant competition to find the new voices of science, technology, engineering and maths. The online 2021 finals were on 12th March with Rowena Fletcher-Wood- watch via their YouTube.

The most engaging, creative and daring individuals in science battle to surprise and fascinate a general public audience with unbelievable facts and unforgettable performances. They are also watched by three judges and have just three minutes to impress on a STEM topic of their choice. Powerpoint slides and lecture notes are not allowed!

The judges will be looking for the 3C’s when watching the performances – content, clarity and charisma.

Content – Does the talk have structure and a creative narrative?

Clarity – How does the contestant bring the topic to life and make it easily understandable?

Charisma – How does the contestant interact with their audience (body language, eye contact, delivery?)

Science Oxford organised Oxford’s FameLab competition until 2020, and Oxford competitors have a great record of making it to the national UK final.
In 2019 Sam Hatfield, an atmospheric physics PhD student at the University of Oxford, won the Oxford Heats and went on to be named Runner Up in the competition’s national finals held at the Cheltenham Science Festival.
In 2018 Lucy Guille, a junior doctor based in Bristol, came through the Oxford Heats to become overall FameLab UK winner, and in 2016 our heats generated both the UK winner Kyle Evans and runner-up Jase Taylor.

The competition launches in November with heats and a regional final in Spring and the UK final in June.

Top Tips from 2018 Oxford and UK overall winner, Lucy Guile

  • If you use a prop, make sure it’s big enough for the audience to see. Familiar objects used in unexpected ways can help people engage with your talk
  • Make sure your talk comfortably fits into the three minute limit – allowing yourself to speak a comfortable pace is more valuable than shoehorning in one more point!
  • Something that you genuinely find interesting and are excited to talk about

“Be yourself. When I first came across FameLab, I saw previous contestants playing musical instruments, impersonating characters and generally being very eccentric and colourful. Many previous contestants treated FameLab almost like stand-up comedy. No doubt there is a role for these kinds of communicators and they have in the past done very well at Famelab. However, there are other ways to communicate science, and if this kind of performance doesn’t come naturally to you then you needn’t feel pressured to replicate it. When I think of my favourite science communicators, I think Carl Sagan and David Attenborough, neither of whom are particularly funny. These kinds of communicators are compelling because of the conviction, authority and clarity with which they talk about science.” Sam Hatfield, 2019

“I entered the Oxford Famelab heat with the goal of sharing some of this learning and demonstrating that a career in science can take you anywhere.” Lucy Guile, 2018 regional Oxford and overall UK winner

“Taking part in FameLab was great fun. One of the most valuable aspects was receiving training and feedback from the judges. Since taking part in FameLab, I have gone on to develop and perform a solo science comedy show for the Edinburgh Fringe, with invaluable support from Science Oxford.” Fran Day

‘Naked Mathematician’ Tom Crawford performed his 3 minutes in a toga..  “I think the experience of being on stage in front of a live audience really is invaluable when it comes to ‘performing maths’ – and I say ‘performing’ because that’s now how I see it. Before I would be giving a lecture or a talk about maths, but now it’s a full-on choreographed performance, and I think taking part in FameLab really helped me to understand that.” Read our Q&A here about what he got out of the whole experience and what he’s up to now..

Watch our previous FameLab Oxford contestants on YouTube and read our 2019 Q&A with UK runner up, Sam Hatfield here.

Funny and interesting and memorable science. Genetic diseases! Menstruation! Squid sex! Great and good vibe this evening.

FameLab 2019 final

Famelab 2021

The 2020 Oxford heats were held at St Aldates Tavern in Oxford 10th February  & 11th February and the regional final at the Science Oxford Centre, Stansfeld Park in Headington on 6th March 2020. Congratulations to fourth-year physics master’s student at the University of Oxford, Maria Violaris, who won a place in the national finals. Read more here.

This year’s final took place online on 12th March 2021 at 6PM with the History of Science Museum and Rowena Fletcher-Wood.
Watch here.

For more information visit the Cheltenham Science Festival website here.