SA researchers shine at international competition

By | 2019-06-13T11:00:25+00:00 June 13th, 2019|News|

Keneilwe Moropa made it through the preliminary rounds and scooped the runner-up title at the FameLab 2019 competition.

Researchers from around the world arrived in Cheltenham in the UK this week to compete for the title of International FameLab champion 2019.

“It doesn’t matter where you come from – as long as you believe in yourself you can get anywhere, and I’m living proof of that,” said Moropa after the event.

Moropa, an analytical chemist who is currently studying polymer technology at the Tshwane University of Technology, showed how science can be made socially and culturally relevant with her effortless speaking style and confident conversations with the judges.

Her work focusses on using nano-composites to remove heavy metals polluting water from mining and industrial activities. She has recently completed an internship at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and is currently studying at the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT).

“This whole experience has been so enriching and motivating. I have met amazing people doing amazing work. I am totally inspired.” The FameLab 2019 winner was Tim Gordon, a marine biologist and the first UK winner of the competition since its inception in 2005. Tim is studying the impact of climate change on coral reefs. In an age of unprecedented environmental destruction, he hopes to find ways of protecting the beauty and value of ocean ecosystems.

Athira Menon was also a runner-up in the competition. Athira is an astrophysics researcher in the Netherlands where she studies the ‘lives of massive stars and their dramatic deaths as supernovae or black holes’.

Keneilwe started her FameLab journey at a training workshop facilitated by science communication specialists Jive Media Africa and hosted by the Nanotechnology Public Engagement Programme at the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA) while at the CSIR.

“I always jump at any opportunity to talk about my work, but I didn’t really know how to get into science communication,” muses Keneilwe. “Then I saw FameLab. I think I’ve found my calling! I want to talk to people about science for the rest of my life.”

Michael Ellis, science communication manager at SAASTA, comments, “FameLab is inspiring young scientists to talk about their science and to make their voices heard. Our hope is that these young scientists will continue to do so throughout their research careers.”

“We are seeing that participating in FameLab enhances the careers of young researchers. We’re very excited that the competition has continued to grow since its inception in South Africa in 2013. We’re looking forward to bringing more institutions on board in the year ahead,” says Robert Inglis, director of Research Communication Agency Jive Media Africa.

Keneilwe was the winner of the South African leg of FameLab, the largest science communication competition in the world, taking place in more than 30 countries worldwide. FameLab aims to develop communication skills in young scientists and encourage them to share their research with the public.