There I was, happily plugging away at work, when this email pinged its way into my concentration. "the British Council is now accepting applications to our FameLab programme" it said. "FameLab is an international science communication competition where early career researchers (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) are asked to present their work to a live audience in just three minutes" it said. "Mffflrg," I said, because I was eating oats at the time. They had me at the implication of captive audience (likely of the interested in science variety). Reading on, I saw I had to get my foot in the door with a video entry about my research.
Sure, they didn't want anything fancy, but hey, I get to play with such fancy data, it was worth some effort... By which I mean, a day, a copic marker, and a digital camera precariously masking-taped to a microphone stand so it could ominously dangle above the page as I drew.
The good thing about moving from research methods to brains is that people seem to be more enthusiastic about the latter (what's wrong with the world - factor invariance should get anyone's adrenaline pumping!). Brains are cool, and they agreed, and I got an email informing me I'd made it to the state semifinals.
Aww yiss, all-expenses-paid flight/hotel to the Victorian semi-final in lovely Melbourne. Much cushier circumstances than my usual miserly poor-student digs (read: backpacker's).
So, come March 23 2015, I toddled over to the Melbourne Museum for a day of communications training to prepare us for the public event that evening. The training was great, but the best part was meeting all my fellow entrants. A really intelligent, eclectic bunch of people: Lucy (desalination chainer), Jared (brain zapper), Catherine (geological rocker), Kate (gut thinker), David (biorefined gent), Fatemeh (steel shaper), Kevin (wind wizard), Adrian (asexuality ponderer), and Lila (nerve guider). There was also Noushin (breath tester), who also came from ANU, but I'd not met her previously so it was wonderful to hang out :)
Serious bunch of up-and-coming scientists, oh yes.
Counter to my typical "this will be done A HUNDREDTY days before it is due" attitude, I decided to go with the flow, enjoy the company, and see what I could pull out of my proverbial. Wrote the talk at lunchtime, prodded it a bit afterwards, gave it at 6:30.
It went rather well, setting aside my apparently unavoidable habit of inexplicably flip-flopping from flail to mad-scientist-graspey-hands (a-la Jonah Rainwater).
Happily, I was a runner-up!
Awesome sauce, now the FameLab folks had to fly me out to the national finals in Perth! This time we got a couple of days training before the final event, held in the Western Australian Museum, 5 May 2015.
Continuing on with Noushin (deserved winner of the semifinals), I met Dominic (oyster planter), Natalie (silk substrator), Toby (dark matter gazer), Barbara (sialic acid splasher), Mahmoud (Leukaemia prodder), Jordan (fish sizer), Krish (bone implanter), Rorie (ore processor) and Erinn (wasp cheerleader).
Also, this time, the hotel provided copious bacon for breakfast. Magnificent.
Anyway, the actual proceedings were an expanded of the same deal; communication training (two days now), then the talk to a big audience that evening. For me it was another seat-of-pants talk (a new one this time, as FameLab wanted us to change things up a bit), plus a combination of grabby and flail hands that are a small special effects budget away from being lightening spell casting and deployment.
Video courtesy of Mixed Media, © British Council 2016. Visit www.famelab.org.au for more exciting insights into the science early career researchers are getting on with! Or, if you're so inclined, consider entering at http://www.britishcouncil.org.au/famelab/enter-competition
This was where my FameLab story happily coasted to a close - but everlasting congrats to Erinn and Noushin who swept through with their fantastic talks!
For other early career researchers out there, the moral of this story (tale/ramble/pseudojournal) is, it's worth a shot going for any and every opportunity to share your science that comes your way.
(Disclosure: this blog entry was not solicited/paid for by the folks at FameLab, I just thought it'd be nice to share the experience).