Former Pupil Reaches FameLab Final

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philicon.pngFormer Wallace High School pupil, Phillip Jess, a Physics PhD student at the University of St Andrew’s, is through to the final of NESTA FameLab 2007. The competition – dubbed the science world’s equivalent of Pop Idol – is the brainchild of the Cheltenham Science Festival and NESTA (the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts).

Now in its third year, NESTA FameLab aims to discover the new voices of UK science and engineering. Another former Wallace student, Karl Byrne, represented Northern Ireland at last year’s final. At the Northern Ireland regional heat, held at Black Box in Belfast last week, Phillip was chosen by the judges to go on to compete against six other regional finalists in the NESTA FameLab final to be held on Saturday 9 June at the Cheltenham Science Festival.

Phil startled the judges in the first round of the Belfast heat by making a glass rod disappear in a glass of liquid, using this as an example of how Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak could potentially work. This impressive trick saw him through to the second round where he explained Einstein’s theory of relativity with Easter Eggs.

NESTA FameLab identifies and supports scientists and engineers who can inspire and excite public imagination. Phil was given just 3 minutes to prove to the judges that he had the clarity and charisma to bring science alive. The overall winner at the Cheltenham festival will walk away with fantastic prizes including a £2000, an internship with Channel 4 and an international tour of events.

Tanya McGill, NESTA’s Northern Ireland Partnerships Manager, commented: “In order to inspire the next generation of scientists, we need charismatic scientists who can make science compelling and engage the wider population. Phillip Jess and the Belfast runner up Fiona Dunlevy are excellent role models who can make that difference. Communicating science in the right way can inspire the public imagination and lead to an increased understanding of the way the world around us works. NESTA FameLab helps do just this by encouraging people to become the new voices of science and recognising excellence in science communication.”

‘A new way of presenting TV science is emerging, with an emphasis on Scientists as human beings, more than authoritative experts’, said Kathy Sykes, Director of the Cheltenham Science Festival and NESTA Trustee. “We’re trying to identify fabulous scientists – with personality and humanity – and develop and support them to become maybe the Attenboroughs of tomorrow.’

And it’s not just in the UK that new voices of science and technology will be found. “With the British Council, we’re helping Austria, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Israel, Romania, Serbia and Turkey to run their own FameLabs this year”, said Timandra Harkness Director of NESTA FameLab. Ten international FameLab winners will be joining the UK finalists at the Cheltenham Science Festival  watch out for a Eurovision Science Contest next!

Last modified: October 16, 2007