Sam Durley wins Famelab Wales Final

A PhD student from Cardiff University has won the Wales Heat of FameLab 2012, the competition to find the new voices of science communication.

Sam Durley had just three minutes to pitch a complex scientific idea to the panel of judges: Director of Science Made Simple, Wendy Sadler; Mark Lewney, FameLab UK winner in 2005; Hamish Fife, co-Director of the George Ewart Evans Centre for Storytelling at the University of Glamorgan, and writer and comedian Timandra Harkness.

Covering topics such as ‘How do we know where emotions are in the brain?’, ‘Are marshmallows safe to eat when they fall on the floor as long as you apply the 5 second rule?’ and ‘Thunderbolts and lightening... Are they actually frightening?’ ten budding communicators from all across Wales took part in the competition held at the Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff and organized by the Beacon for Wales.

Sam wowed the judges with his presentations on epigenetics as then reason why cloned cats might have different coloured coats and how you squeeze your DNA into a cell, or as he described it ‘how you fit two whales in a mini’. Sam wins a place at the UK Grand Final, to be held at the Royal Institution on 21 March 2012. The UK winner will receive £1000 for themselves and up to £750 to spend on a science communication activity, whether it’s attending a conference, further training or developing a public event or activity.

To prepare him for the final, Sam will join contestants from across the UK at a weekend MasterClass with Professor of Science and Society and Science communication, Kathy Sykes, and experienced trainer, specialising in media & communication skills, Malcolm Love.
Past winners of FameLab have gone on to travel the globe, perform in festivals and feature on national TV and radio, and many combine public-facing activity with ongoing research. All finalists become part of a global network of science communicators.

Sam, from the School of Biosciences said: : “I’m very excited to be in the prestigious FameLab UK final. I hope I have managed to give people an idea of how incredible DNA is and how it is so much more interesting than just the genes that make you up”.

Mark Lewney, FameLab UK winner in 2005 was judging the event and commented, "The standard was incredibly high, and all of the presentations were fascinating. I ended up asking very tricky questions purely out of interest, but everyone responded with killer answers which really showed the depth of their knowledge."

Bruce Etherington of the Beacon for Wales added “It is great to see such a high standard of contestant at the event with scientists being able to clearly talk about their subjects with clarity and passion. It would be good to see Sam continue his work and to do well at the national final next year.”