Friday 31 March 2017

FameLab returned to the Melbourne Museum on Thursday 30 March. Marking the second FameLab semi-final of 2017, the night was hosted by molecular biologist, science communicator and writer Upulie Divisekera and was jam-packed with future-thinking ideas. 

Twelve competitors told their dynamic three-minute science stories — on topics as diverse as epidemic modeling and the biological and genetic characteristics of depression — to an enthusiastic audience.

But it was winner Andrew Katsis from Deakin University who wowed the crowds with his presentation 'the benefits of being an attentive embryo': a fascinating explanation of how mother birds teach their unhatched chicks through birdsong.

The runner-up was Vini Gautam from the Australian National University. Vini's presentation 'Rewiring the brain' gave an informative insight into her research on developing scaffolds to guide and repair the circuits and connections between brain cells after brain damage or injury.

Brooke Huuskes from Monash University won the audience's vote for her talk on how pregnancy hormones and bone marrow cells can be used to reverse kidney damage and restore 'pee-phoria' to those who have been suffering from kidney disease.

Helen O’Neil, Director of the British Council in Australia, says, “The semi-final in Melbourne was a fantastic evening that provided an enlightening insight into some of the great research coming out of labs across Australia. We heard 12 engaging and inspiring stories of science from some of the country’s brightest minds, but it was Andrew who stood out to the judges on the three key criteria of content, clarity and charisma.”  

Andrew and Vini are now set to compete in the national FameLab grand final hosted by superstar astrophysicist Dr Alan Duffy at the Western Australian Maritime Museum in Fremantle on 4 May 4!

The Australian winner will be flown to over to the UK to present their piece at the huge FameLab International Grand Final at the Times Cheltenham Science Festival in June, competing with scientists from more than 25 countries. 

More than 120 researchers in Australia have taken part in FameLab, joining an international network of 7,000. FameLab trains them to be advocates and storytellers with the aim of making science part of national and international conversation.

Notes to Editor

Media enquiries; to speak with any of the winners or British Council Director Helen O’Neil, contact Siobhan Moylan on  +61 422 755 785 or at

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

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

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. 

See also