[FEATURE] FameLab: Explaining Science in Three Minutes


You have three minutes to win over the judges and audience with your talk on the topic of science, engineering, mathematics or medicine that shines in the quality of content, clarity of presentation and charisma. 

Welcome to FameLab, an international competition to find and support the world’s most talented new science communicators. 

The most prestigious science communication championship will kick start with application submission by the end of this month and Virtual heats in June before advancing to FameLab National Final to compete for the most coveted title ‘World’s Best Science Communicator’ at the FameLab International Championship in November this year.

To get the ball rolling for this year’s FameLab, the British Council in partnership with Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT), Science Media Centre Malaysia and The Petri Dish jointly organised a webinar on Saturday to highlight past FameLab winners’ experience, as well as sharing judges’ tips.

Among the esteemed panelists were 2016 FameLab International Champion, Prof. Dr. Abhi Veerakumarasivam, who is also a Professor of Genetics and Dean of the School of Medical and Life Sciences at Sunway University. Dr Abhi created history as the first Malaysian and Asian who have won the FameLab International Competition. 

Dr Abhi shared that his FameLab experience had opened up doors in his journey to global science communication.

“Science communications is a perfect example of you expanding your responsibilities beyond the confines of what you have been trained as a scientist or researcher, and this means you become more influential.”

“The reality is that while I was not benchmarked to become a professor or a dean based on my science communications abilities, I cannot deny that winning it, getting the visibility, the networks and those recognitions did not get me to where I am now,” said Abhi who is also the Co-Chair of the ASEAN Young Scientists Network and the Chairperson of the International Network for Government Science Advice Asia.

Atteleth Don Peris, Programme Manager, Reef Check Malaysia and FameLab Malaysia Champion 2020 and Dr. Liz Alexander, Futurist and Communication Expert and FameLab seasonal judge also shared their thoughts on the importance of science communications during the webinar. 

For Atteleth, his Famelab journey began when he realised his research was more than just a thesis.

“Once I completed my thesis, I wondered who would read my thesis? Which means I have spent approximately 3-4 years on the research by going to the field, collecting data and going into the mud, and no one is going to know what I have done.”

“I did not want it to end with just a research thesis and that got me to think about what I wanted to gain out of my research and discovery. So I took on the challenge to speak about mangroves to help create more public awareness about the importance of mangroves in saving lives and protecting our ecosystems,” he said during the webinar. 

This online session was moderated by Dr Mahaletchumy Arujanan, Executive Director of Malaysian Biotechnology Information Centre, Founder editor-in-chief of The Petri Dish, Co-founder of Science Media Centre Malaysia, and FameLab judge.

The speakers also gave some advice on winning the most prestigious science communication championship and how to use FameLab to advance STEM careers to the next level.

Here are 10 of the most powerful insights they shared:

  1. Passion passion passion! 

Dr Abhi: Choose a topic that you care about. When you are passionate about it, trust me, it becomes so infectious and people would want to listen to you.

  1. What matters is your audience, not what you want to say

Dr Abhi: What matters is not what you want to say but what your audience wants to hear. If you can say what you want to say and that is what they want to hear, then you have actually hit the fantastic spot. Audience targeting is super important. 

  1. Make it relatable

Dr Abhi: It’s important to relate because some of the sciences are very specific to the lab. You need to find a way to relate that to somebody’s life and finding that emotional connection is important.

  1. Use descriptive words

Liz: Use descriptive words and paint a picture in my head. Communication works best when the picture is created in my head and it is relevant to me. You can do that through analogy and metaphor.

  1. Practice makes perfect 

Atteleth: It took me three months to perfect my script. That is how long it took me to prepare – from writing, rewriting, presenting and looking at myself in front of the mirror and just keep practising.

  1. But don’t memorise word for word!

Liz: Don’t try to memorize a script word by word as if you are an actor. This would be problematic if you suddenly forget your lines. So even if you stumble, go back to the question and think about what are the key points of your presentation.

  1. Find objective critiques

Dr Abhi: I should never ever use my mother as a sounding board because to my mom, I always sound good and I’m always losing weight.

  1. Being present 

Dr Abhi: Stop worrying about what you have just said and what you are going to say but focus on the words you are saying at that moment. Focus on the connection and important role you are trying to build in making that connection between two people. 

  1. Be yourself

Atteleth: One of the most valuable things I learned is self-discovery knowing who you are as a presenter or a speaker. In 2017 when I first joined FameLab, I knew that I was not being natural as I was trying too hard to impress the judges and audience which put a lot of pressure on myself. And in 2020, I decided to just be myself and that was the best decision as my personality shined through. 

  1. Priorities

Dr Abhi: Sometimes we put too much pressure on what people are going to think about you whereas the focus should be what people are going to learn about you. Look at it as an opportunity to share your science and impact the world. 

To date, Malaysia is the only country that has produced two FameLab International Champions throughout the eleven years of the global competition. 

Within a span of three years after Dr. Abhi bagged the trophy as the best science communicator in the world, history repeated itself with Dr Siti Khayriyyah successfully reclaiming the FameLab International Champion title in 2018.

The next Famelab champion could be you! Stand a chance to win cash prizes and represent Malaysia at the FameLab International Final on November 2021 

Learn more about Famelab Malaysia 2021 Competition here. Application deadline is 31 March 2021

Register here: https://www.eventsforce.net/britishcouncil/3796/register


What is FameLab?

FameLab was founded in 2005 by Cheltenham Science Festival in the United Kingdom and has since grown into a global competition in partnership with the British Council. It was brought to Malaysia in 2015 by the British Council in collaboration with MIGHT with the objective of addressing the communication gap between scientists and the public. The participants will engage and entertain audiences in a three-minute presentation on their chosen STEM concept. Communicating science in an attractive and comprehensible manner to non-scientific audience promotes science education and inspires future generations of scientists whilst increasing public understanding of complex scientific information concerning their daily lives.

More details on FameLab 2021 here:




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