The Nelson Mandela University in conjunction with SASSTA (South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement) hosted the annual Fame Lab heat 2019 at Nelson Mandela University. FameLab has been running in Nelson Mandela University since 2016 and is one of the few international science communication competition that challenges young scientists to present scientific research topic of their choice to the general public with content, clarity and charisma. 

Nikitha  Gorlach was one of the five university participants to compete in the final NMU heat of the international Famelab competition earlier last week, and the competition was stiff. Studying towards statistics and data science, her winning talk focused on Algorithmic analytics and classification techniques to assess volatility tuber. Her research follows an investigation into asymmetric distributional modelling and applies machire learning techniques to partition equity return data into different volatility groups. She convinced the judges through her calm, engaging presence on stage, her fine storytelling skills and the clarity of her content.

When I get on the stage I drop all anxiety and nerves and just commit to that moment. It is really quite magical. Being able to have that connection with the audience is great, I had the opportunity thanks to FameLab’ said Nikita Gorlach

Other presentations included work by Lizalise Mgcele in the Geoscience field, his project focused baseline studies conducted with the emphasis on mapping termite mound spatial patterns using remote sensing techniques and spatial statistics in order to understand the underlying ecosystems in the Eastern Cape.

Victor Akbagoba a PhD student in science chemistry focused on bio-plastic and its effect on the environment. Michelle Lee who is currently studying towards Geosciences talked about data driven techniques that can be used to transform the agriculture sector. These techniques included remote sensing, GIS and a bit of physics.

Sendibitiyosi Gandidzanwa, also PHD student in science chemistry shared his research about Nano medicine to fight diseases or illness before they attack immune system. Asthandile Ntsondwa was the youngest contestant, a second year student studying towards Palcontological Studies. In her 3 minutes, she talked about the evolutionary change in human species, with a particular focus in understanding why people have disabilities, in order to find ways to care or to have things as they are, as it is a way of our bodies adapting to the changing environment.

“It is inspiring to hear about the work these young researchers are doing, and feel their passion coming through in their presentations,” says Dr Dr Marylin Gibbs , who was one of the judging panel members. “I hope that they continue with their enthusiasm for science communication while building their research careers and inspire our next generation to follow a research career path.”

Famelab is the world’s biggest science communication competition. Nikitha will next compete in the national competition, and hopefully will go through to the finals. The national winners meet for a final competition at the Cheltenham festival in the United Kingdom. Famelab seeks to promote science communication among researchers to ensure the great work being done in universities is known to the general public.

Famelab is a programme of Cheltenham Festivals UK and in South Africa is made possible by a partnership between the British Council, SASSTA (South African Agency and Technology Advancement and Jive Media Africa.