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Battle for national communication prize

20 March 2012

Battle for national communication prize Sam Durley webPhD student Sam Durley, School of Biosciences

Two Cardiff University members are to compete against eight other regional finalists for the UK title of FameLab, the international competition to find new science communicators for the 21st century.

PhD student Sam Durley, School of Biosciences, and Research Associate Dr Simone Cuffe, School of Medicine both won through from the Wales regional heat last November.

Tomorrow (March 21) they compete in the national final at the Royal Institution of Great Britain in London. They both have just three minutes to make their presentations, with the chance of competing for the international FameLab title if successful.

FameLab aims to discover charismatic, up-and-coming scientists who can inspire people to see the world from a new perspective.

Sam specialises in discovering how the packaging of DNA is remodelled in order for damaged DNA to be repaired. At the regional heat, he impressed the judges with his presentations on epigenetics and the 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 said: "I am delighted to be part of FameLab because I feel passionately that there’s no point doing science at all if you don’t shout about it - it’s vital to share findings, educate the public, and show the public what their all-important funding has achieved. I hope that this opportunity will help me to continue my work in science communication."

Battle for national communication prize Simone Cuff webResearch associate Dr Simone Cuffe, School of Medicine

Simone is currently working on a test for prostate cancer at the Cardiff Institute of Infection and Immunity. Her first presentation during the regional heats focused on the immune system and its interaction with fat, and she subsequently spoke about why we feel ill when our bodies are attacked by viruses – revealing that it is often the body’s own responses which make us feel poorly.

Simone was urged to enter FameLab by a friend, and never expected to be asked to present in the Final. She says: "I am shocked and very surprised to have got this far in the competition. Competitions like FameLab are crucial in getting scientists who might otherwise stay in the lab to give the public greater access to their discoveries."

The judges at the British final just will be British neuroscientist Professor Russell Foster FRS from the University of Oxford; Andrew Cohen, head of the BBC’s award-winning science unit; and anatomist, science writer, well-known broadcaster and School of Medicine graduate Professor Alice Roberts. Each judge will assess the finalists’ presentations on three qualities: content, clarity and charisma. Quentin Cooper, presenter of BBC Radio 4's Material World, will host the event. The winner will then go on to compete for the ultimate title of FameLab International Winner 2012 at The Times Cheltenham Science Festival (12-17 June) this year.

The competition is the brainchild of The Times Cheltenham Science Festival, in association with NESTA (the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts). In 2012 the UK competition is supported by NESTA and EDF Energy.