Winners of FameLab Galway 2019 Set to Advance to National Final

Winning participants of FameLab Galway heat 2019 are pictured from l-r: James Blackwell (runner-up), Dr Fiona Malone (winner) and Megan Griffiths (audience vote winner). Photo: Aengus McMahon
Apr 02 2019 Posted: 10:29 IST

The 2019 Galway heat for FameLab, the worlds biggest science communication competition, was held recently at An Taibhdhearc in Galway City. The event saw 12 scientists compete for two places in the national final in front of a crowded audience. FameLab Galway 2019 was organised by the College of Science at NUI Galway in association with the British Council in Ireland.

The goal of a FameLab presenter is to explain scientific concepts to a general audience in just three minutes. The competition is open to scientists, mathematicians and engineers working across Ireland in both the public and private sectors. The 12 participants in FameLab Galway 2019 came from a variety of backgrounds and career stages ranging from undergraduate students to established postdoctoral researchers, as well as IT professionals. The presentations gave the audience an insight into some fascinating areas ranging from Rock and Roll and the Right Hand Rule to Threats to Modern Medicine.

The winner of this year’s FameLab Galway heat was Dr Fiona Malone, a Biomedical Engineer and postdoctoral researcher from GMIT. Her PhD investigated the trajectory paths of the blood vessel arrangement in ischaemic stroke patients. She has represented GMIT at various science communication events like Thesis In 3, Research Fest and Soapbox Science, and is featured regularly in STEM blogs and podcasts.

The runner-up was James Blackwell, a full-time PhD student in NUI Galway. His research is funded by The Irish Research Council and sees James split his time between the School of Physics and School of Applied Mathematics. Through his research, he is investigating how ultrasound can create stiffness maps of the brain which could help surgeons identify brain tumours and other diseases. James was also the winner of the Threesis final last December.

The audience vote went to Megan Griffiths for her talk titled ‘Soothing Scales and Scutes’. Megan spoke about the therapeutic potential of reptiles as she balances her final year in Zoology studies at the Ryan Institute teaching first and second year labs as well as running the animal room on campus. Megan captured the audiences’ attention with her engaging talk and the very large live snake wrapped around her body.

Winner, Dr Fiona Malone and runner-up James Blackwell will both have the opportunity to participate in the FameLab Ireland Final which will be held at the Science Gallery, Dublin on Thursday, 11 April 2019. Before that they will be invited to attend an all-expenses paid Communication Masterclass. The winner of the National competition will have a chance to compete in the International FameLab Final at the Cheltenham Science Festival, in the UK in June 2019.

The compere for the evening was Professor Michel Destrade, Chair of Applied Mathematics at NUI Galway, previous winner of FameLab Galway and runner up of FameLab Ireland 2016. The judges panel included Paul Fahy, Artistic Director, Galway International Arts Festival; Laura Rigney, Director of Brigit’s Garden; Laoise McNamara, Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Principal Investigator, NUI Galway; and Brenda Romero, game designer, artist and Fulbright recipient, Romero Games.

Commenting on the success of the event Brenda Romero, one of the event judges, said: “FameLab was such an incredible, intellectual pleasure! I loved the variety of topics, and particularly enjoyed the winning presentation. Fiona had such a great presence and important information to boot!” 

Eoin Murphy, Centre for Chromosome Biology at NUI Galway and FameLab organising committee member, said: We were really happy with the success of this year’s Galway FameLab heat. The energy in the room was amazing and I am personally delighted to see FameLab continue to grow.”

FameLab Ireland 2018-19 is funded by Science Foundation Ireland and is supported by Cpl Resources Plc and Henkel Ireland Limited. It is managed by the British Council Ireland in collaboration with Newstalk 106-108FM, NUI Galway, Science Gallery Dublin, TCD, UCC, UCD, and UL.

For more information on FameLab visit or follow on Twitter @FameLab_Ireland and @FameLab_Galway.

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