Dublin-based, Sharon Omiwole, has been named the national winner of FameLab Ireland – the prestigious competition which aims to discover charismatic, up-and-coming scientists who inspire people to see the world from a new perspective. Sharon will represent Ireland at the International Finals at the Cheltenham Science Festival in the UK, where Ireland already has an impressive track record. Supported by the British Council and Science Foundation Ireland, FameLab is providing this medical student with the skills to share her passion for science with a wider audience.
Sharon was selected by an esteemed judging panel from nine other new science communicators at the sixth FameLab Ireland national finals at the Science Gallery Dublin on Thursday 12 April. Each contestant delivered a three minute talk judged by Michelle D. Cullen (Accenture), Graham Love (Higher Education Authority) and Ann O’Dea (Silicon Republic/Inspirefest) according to content, clarity and charisma. During her 180 seconds Sharon won the judges over with her lively and engaging talk entitled ‘Willy Wonka and the Coffee Factory’, detailing the effects of caffeine and its associated hormones and chemicals; adrenaline and dopamine.
Sharon is a medical student at UCD with a keen interest in science. She credits her father, a doctor, for inspiring her to pursue medicine. She dedicates her spare time to volunteering in clinics, retirement homes, day-cares and homeless shelters.
Fergus McAuliffe, himself a previous FameLab Ireland and International winner, and co-organiser of the FameLab UCD mini-heat this year commented, ‘Well done to Sharon on being crowned this year's Famelab Ireland champion. Sharon delivered a fantastic three minute talk on the stimulating science of caffeine, a subject of huge relevance to the start of most people's days. As a former winner I would like to extend my best wishes to Sharon in the international stage of the competition and no doubt Sharon will do UCD and Ireland proud’.
Second and third place were awarded to PhD students Daragh Bradshaw from UL and Eoin Murphy from NUI Galway. This year’s finalists chose a wide range of topics to bring under the microscope – from the digital apocalypse to the special powers of parasites and the legacy of Jocelyn Bell Burnell’s work in astrophysics.
Commenting on the FameLab National Final, Margie McCarthy, Interim Director of Innovation and Education at Science Foundation Ireland, said 'Congratulations to Sharon Omiwole and all this year’s FameLab participants on their dedication to creating and delivering fantastic presentations. Science Foundation Ireland, through the SFI Discover Programme, aims to encourage more people to engage with STEM. FameLab helps realise that aim by offering participants the opportunity to gain vital skills in communicating what can be complex research topics in an engaging way, inspiring others to join the conversation.'
Communicating science accessibly and attractively is an ever-growing priority for researchers and others working in and studying science worldwide. Organised by the British Council Ireland and funded through the Science Foundation Ireland’s Discover programme, FameLab helps emerging scientists acquire valuable skills to communicate their work to a non-scientific audience. By doing so, they not only change the common stereotype of the scientist as ‘the geek in the white lab coat busy doing strange things’, but ‘also justify public funding for their work’.
‘FameLab aims to inspire, motivate and develop scientists and engineers to engage with the public on science in just three minutes. This is directly linked to the British Council’s aim to offer young people learning opportunities, help improve the quality of education and bring together current and future leaders to tackle issues facing society,’ Liz McBain, Acting Director, British Council Ireland.
The FameLab winners from all participating countries will compete in June at the International Finals at the Cheltenham Science Festival in the UK. FameLab is an initiative of the Cheltenham Festivals started in 2005 in partnership with NESTA and has quickly grown into arguably the world’s leading science communication competition. A partnership with the British Council since 2007 has seen the competition go global with more than 10,000 young scientists and engineers participating in over 35 different countries. NASA has license to deliver the competition in the USA.