Saturday 29 April 2017

The FameLab national FINAL is returning to the Western Australia Maritime Museum in Fremantle on May 4th 2017!

The British Council has been scouring the nation looking for the brightest up-and-coming researchers who can communicate their work in just three minutes, armed only with their wits and a few props. Four competitions in four cities have uncovered some amazing talent. 

Join us as these bright young minds tell their stories to our amazing panel of judges including the ABC’s Science show host Robyn Williams, neuroscientist and former Chief Scientist of Western Australia, Professor Lyn Beazley AO, and Director of the British Council in Australia, Helen O’Neil. 

Superstar astronomer Associate Professor Alan Duffy will MC the event and introduce the 11 finalists to the stage. 

The winner will be announced on the night and go on to represent Australia in the world's largest science communication competition - the international FameLab final - at the Cheltenham Science Festival in the UK in June.

And the finalists are:

•             Bronwyn Ayre, University of Western Australia and Kings Park

•             Ronald Chun-Wai Yu, CSIRO Agriculture and Food

•             Nural Cokcetin, University of Technology Sydney

•             Ken Dutton-Regester, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute 

•             Vini Gautam, Australian National University

•             David Harman, Griffith University

•             Andrew Katsis, Deakin University

•             Naomi Koh Belic, University of Technology Sydney

•             Maria Nayfa, James Cook University

•             Tahlia Perry, University of Adelaide

•             Chaminda Ranasinghe, Edith Cowan University

Helen O’Neil, Director of the British Council in Australia, says, “There has never been a more important time to support science, technology, engineering and maths. This year’s competition is strong with 11 finalists competing on Thursday, who are passionate about science advocacy and storytelling, and an exciting range of topics ranging from neuroscience to birds, and Kangaroo Paws to the prebiotic properties of honey.”  

Presentations as always will be judged according to FameLab’s 3Cs - content, clarity and charisma - by an esteemed panel of media professionals, and public figures. 

MORE ON THE SPEAKERS here and below:

Andrew Katsis, Deakin University

The benefits of being an attentive embryo  

Andrew's research investigates the ecological role of incubation calling and prenatal learning in a small Australian songbird - the zebra finch. Specifically, he is investigating whether calling to an embryo can alter its development by exploring the effects of prenatal sound on nestling begging behaviour and cognition. Understanding these adaptations will help us predict how species might respond to extreme conditions occurring under climate change.

Bronwyn Ayre University of Western Australia 

The Birds and the Bees

Little is known about the impact of birds, mammals and reptiles on pollinating plants. Bronwyn’s research has discovered that insects are not good at pollinating Kangaroo Paw flowers - an iconic group of plants in Western Australia. Flowers visited by insects produce 95% less seed than flowers visited by birds. Improving our understanding of the role that birds and mammals play in pollination will allow us to make more effective management and conservation decisions.

Chaminda Ranasinghe Edith Cowan University

The bloody affair

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease that causes cognitive impairment and untimely death in the elderly. There is no definite cure. With a rapidly ageing global population, Alzheimer’s disease poses social and economic challenges. Early detection is critical but current modes of diagnosis are expensive. Chaminda is studying the posttranslational modifications of potential biomarkers identified from human blood to aid early detection of Alzheimer’s disease.

David Harman Griffith University

Epidemic Modelling: Dealing With Uncertainty

The ability to accurately predict the likely course of an epidemic is invaluable. There are many mathematical models for these predictions, but they all suffer one major flaw: they assume we know how people will behave when infected. David’s research looks at a new method called 'polynomial chaos', which allows us to include this uncertainty directly in the model from the beginning to make the predictions far more accurate and much faster.

Ken Dutton-Regester - QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute

What's in a Signature?

Researchers have linked two known distinct ‘cell states’ in melanoma as being either ‘drug-sensitive’ or ‘drug-resistant’. Evidence suggests melanomas can change from a ‘drug-sensitive’ to a ‘drug-resistant’ cell state during the course of therapy, but it is not yet known which genes are responsible for causing this switch. Ken's research attempts to fill this void to improve long term survival for late-stage melanoma patients.

Maria Nayfa James Cook University

Supersize Me: Determining the Genomic Health of Selective Breeding Programs

Maria’s research uses a combination of pedigree records and DNA to better understand the effects of supersizing and domesticating fish in order to advise management practices. In particular, she is working with non-profit organisation WorldFish on the Abbassa Selection Line of Nile tilapia to increase harvest yield and survivability in developing countries in Africa and the Middle East. 

Naomi Koh Belic University of Technology, Sydney

Multiple sclerosis: a disease in a…dish?

Multiple sclerosis is the most common cause of neurological disability in young adults. However it is poorly understood, as it’s difficult to get pieces of brain tissue from patients and to create an accurate animal model. Naomi's research fills this gap by creating a disease in a dish, which uses stem cells that are isolated from fat. This disease in a dish will ultimately lead to more effective treatments for patients.

Nural Cokcetin, University of Technology, Sydney

The sweet treat(ment) for your microbiome

Nural's research focuses on the antimicrobial and prebiotic properties of honey, with a drive to use this knowledge to develop new treatments for infections caused by multi-drug resistant superbugs, and to use honey to improve human gut health. Her research has investigated 25 different Australian honeys and her studies show that favourable changes to the beneficial bacteria of the gut could be achieved with daily consumption of just 20g of honey. 

Ronald Chun-Wai Yu CSIRO Food and Agriculture

Big Bran Theory

Ronald's research looks to enhance the nutritional properties of cereal grains. He and his colleagues have developed a new type of rice with an outer bran layer that is six to seven times thicker than the usual layer, resulting in increased fibres, lipid, minerals, B vitamins, and antioxidants. Ronald's research hopes to give further incentive for wholegrain consumption and provide communities with wholesome and more nutritious food.

Tahlia Perry University of Adelaide

Saving our beloved echidnas using genetic tools

Tahlia's project aids echidna conservation and captive breeding. She has helped captive breeding programs in Australia by developing a genetic test to identify the sex of echidnas, as males and females have an identical appearance. This has allowed keepers to know which echidnas to pair, ultimately increasing reproductive success rate. Her aim is to help ensure survival of echidnas in a time where many mammals are in danger of extinction.

Vini Gautam, Australian National University

Rewiring the brain

Vini is developing scaffolds that guide the growth and function of brain cells and restore the connectivity of neuronal circuits after brain damage or injury. Damage to the brain due to an accident, stroke or degenerative neurological diseases can result in cognitive, physical and emotional disabilities. Vini is using state-of-the art tools to develop a neural engineering scaffold, which will provide a platform for the neuronal cells to re-connect with each other after damage.

Ifrah Abdullahi, University of Western Australia

Ensuring the scale is equal for all. (Ifrah will not be competing due to the imminent arrival of her first child but is available for media interviews)

Ifrah’s research project is titled ‘Investigating the health and developmental outcomes of children of immigrant and refugee backgrounds in Western Australia’. Its benefits will extend to the mainstream community and particularly communities of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Her research addresses an area of unmet needs. It will determine the health outcomes, especially the neurodevelopmental outcomes of immigrant children.

When: Thursday, May 4 2017 

Time: 6.00 - 8.30pm – note: doors open at 5.45pm for a 6.00pm start.

Join our livestream on Australia's Science Channel via 

Co-presented by Cheltenham Festivals and the British Council, FameLab International has been running annually since 2007. More than 5,500 participants from 30 countries have ‘performed’ on the FameLab stage, bringing their science to live audiences.

Notes to Editor


Keep up with all of the action by following British Council Australia on Facebook and @auBritish on Twitter and Instagram, and join the conversation using #FameLabAus.  For further information, visit

FAMELAB 2017 is presented by British Council and Cheltenham Festivals | Founding partners: Western Australian Museum and The McCusker Foundation | University partners: Curtin University, Edith Cowan University, Murdoch University and University of Western Australia | Venue partners: Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Queensland Museum, Museum Victoria and Western Australian Museum | NSW presenting partner: Office of the Chief Scientist and Engineer | QLD presenting partner: World Science Festival, Brisbane | WA presenting partner: Department of the Premier and Cabinet’s Office of Science | media partner: Australia’s Science Channel | training and advocacy partner:  Inspiring Australia

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create friendly knowledge and understanding between the people of the UK and other countries. Using the UK’s cultural resources we make a positive contribution to the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust.

We work with over 100 countries across the world in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Each year we reach over 20 million people face-to-face and more than 500 million people online, via broadcasts and publications.

Founded in 1934, we are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body. The majority of our income is raised delivering a range of projects and contracts in English teaching and examinations, education and development contracts and from partnerships with public and private organisations. Eighteen per cent of our funding is received from the UK government.

FameLab® is an initiative of the Cheltenham Festivals in the UK. The British Council is licenced to deliver the competition in 25 countries. NASA delivers the competition in the USA.