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Science Oxford’s Queen of the Jungle Lucy Guile competes for FameLab International crown

Friday 1st June 2018

Bristol based junior doctor Lucy Guile became Science Oxford’s ‘Queen of the Jungle’ in the search for Britain’s next science presenter when she won over hearts and minds at the Oxford regional heats of the popular FameLab competition. Her talk ‘Jungle Remedies’ – how a deadly plant has become a crucial part of modern surgery – wowed judges including BBC Sky At Night’s Chris Lintott and science writer Georgina Ferry, before she went on to win the national final at the Science Museum.

We caught up with Lucy as she prepares to represent the UK at the International final held at the Cheltenham Science Festival this June….

“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.”


“I’d been aware of Famelab for a few years, having watched the 2013 UK final in London, where I was studying medicine. I was impressed by the speakers, who broke down complex topics – most of which I knew nothing about – into a form that was interesting and easy to understand. As I completed medical school and began my career as a doctor, I realised that the way in which you communicate information is often just as important as the content of what you say.

I’ve been lucky enough to do two undergraduate degrees – anthropology and medicine – through which I’ve seen and learnt a lot of amazing things. I have spent time doing fieldwork and/or medical work in Borneo, Peru, South Africa, Fiji and the Himalayas, amongst other places. Moreover, I have been lucky enough to work with inspiring people – both colleagues and patients – through my job as a doctor in the UK. 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. I spoke about the discovery of a drug used in anaesthesia, a paralysing agent that was developed from an Amazonian hunting poison called curare. As someone who loves the jungle and plans to become an anaesthetist this was an easy topic to get enthused about!

After getting through the heats, the eight Oxford finalists were treated to a science communication masterclass organised by Science Oxford. This was a great chance to get to know the other regional finalists and pick up tips from a previous UK runner-up in the competition. The Oxford final followed a couple of weeks later, and I was surprised to find out (by text as I’d had to leave to catch a train before the result was announced!) that I’d won and would be going to the UK final.

Preparation for the national final entailed a two-day masterclass with the other UK finalists in Cheltenham, home of the annual Cheltenham Science Festival. This was a jam-packed weekend of trying out new techniques and rehearsing – and was completely exhausting! The seven of us got on incredibly well, and it was fantastic to hear all about everyone’s fields of interest, which ranged from quantum computing to plate tectonics.

My topic for the final was the hygiene hypothesis – a theory that links a rise in allergic diseases to decreasing levels of infectious disease in recent generations. I’d aimed to pick a topic that people could relate to, and the question of whether or not you should eat the jam doughnut that you accidentally dropped on the floor was clearly an issue that the judges and audience had grappled with in the past. The final was a hugely entertaining evening that I enjoyed in spite of the nerves, and winning was an unexpected bonus. I’m looking forward to representing Oxford and the UK at the international final.”

National winners of all 25+ participating countries will meet at Cheltenham Science Festival (5 – 10 June 2018) to battle for the title of FameLab International Champion in front of a live Festival audience. Lucy joins the growing list of FameLab finalists and winners who came through the Oxford regional heats, including singing maths teacher Kyle Evans, who is is now touring with his own show Born To Sum. Watch this space…

If you would like to get involved in science presenting, check out The Presenter Network, a local, national and international network set up for presenters to share best and worst practice and the Oxford Hub is now managed by Science Oxford. The Royal Observatory Greenwich hub coordinates the network as a whole.

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