IOP member is UK champion of FameLab 2014

25 April 2014

IOP member Caroline Shenton-Taylor has won the UK final of FameLab 2014 – a contest in which scientists have to explain a science topic in under three minutes in front of a live audience.

Fame Lab 14
image credit: Graham Fudger/Cheltenham Festivals

Her brief talk on a breakthrough in nuclear magnetic resonance imaging in the 1950s won plaudits from the panel of distinguished judges who watched live performances from the 10 finalists at the Bloomsbury Theatre in London on 23 April.

Science writer and broadcaster Vivienne Parry, palaeontologist, writer and presenter Phillip Manning and space scientist and science communicator Maggie Aderin-Pocock were all impressed with Shenton-Taylor’s story-telling ability and “mesmerising” delivery.

Hundreds of entrants took part in heats and regional finals to compete for a place in the UK final. Shenton-Taylor, who is involved in government research, won £1000 in cash and £750 to spend on science communication activities. She will go on to represent the UK at the FameLab 2014 International final at the Cheltenham Science Festival in June.

The two runners-up, who each received £200 in cash and £300 to spend on science communication, were Jonny Brooks-Bartlett and Becky Smethurst. The prizes were presented by Baroness Prashar. First place in the audience vote went to Smethurst, a first-year PhD student in astrophysics at the University of Oxford, who explained the Doppler effect and how this helped us to understand that the blue-shifted Andromeda Galaxy was moving towards us and would one day merge with the Milky Way.

The first FameLab, which was then a UK-only competition, was held in 2005 and its first winner was Mark Lewney, a rock guitarist and physicist who has used guitar to communicate ideas such as string theory, not least to schoolchildren as the IOP’s 2008 Schools and Colleges Lecturer. While the judges withdrew to confer on their choice, Lewney entertained the audience with a version of Bohemian Rhapsody with lyrics based on quantum mechanics.

The UK final, which was compered by science journalist Quentin Cooper, was streamed live and can be seen on YouTube here