FameLab South Africa: University of the Free State’s Emmie Chiyindiko wins

Creating conversations between science and society was the focus of the FameLab South Africa final held at the Future Earth conference in Port Elizabeth.

Thirteen South Africa researchers gathered to compete for the chance to represent South Africa in the international FameLab competition. Emmie Chiyindiko from the University of the Free State won the title and will now compete in the international competition in the United Kingdom.

Runners-up Sebabatso Maifadi from the University of South Africa and Buhle Buyana from the University of Fort Hare engaged and entertained the audience, linking their research to sustainable development goals, the theme of the Future Earth conference at which the final was held.

Deputy chief executive of the National Research Foundation Dr Gansen Pillay praised the young researchers for their commitment to engaging the public with their research.

He invited all of the FameLab finalists to a discussion with the foundation on their thoughts about the future of science in South Africa, and undertook to receive their proposals for further research into each of their disciplines.

Director of science engagement agency Jive Media Africa Robert Inglis highlighted the importance of the skills developed through FameLab for “having conversations about science which can ultimately lead to solutions for a more sustainable and equitable future”.

The format of the FameLab competition requires participants to present a scientific topic or concept to a panel of expert judges in a time of no more than three minutes. Talks are judged on content, clarity and charisma. The challenge is that talks should be accurate and informative but also entertaining and original, all while ensuring that they are accessible to public audiences.

“We must ensure that all voices are part of the science conversation, and we are therefore really thrilled to have so many women among the top 13,” said Anisa Khan of the British Council.

FameLab is an international competition and training programme designed to inspire, motivate and develop young scientists and engineers to actively engage with the public. With over 30 participating countries worldwide, it has been dubbed the “Pop Idols of Science”. The South African winner will go on to compete against their peers on an international stage at The Times Cheltenham Science Festival in the UK in June.

FameLab in South Africa is made possible by a partnership between the British Council, the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement and research communication specialists Jive Media Africa.


The South Africa Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA) is a business unit of the National Research Foundation (NRF) with the mandate to advance public awareness, appreciation and engagement of science, engineering, innovation and technology in South Africa.

About the British Council:

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. We create international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and build trust between them worldwide.

About Jive Media Africa:

Jive Media Africa supports top researchers with innovative, cutting edge communications. Winners of the National Science and Technology Forum Award for Science Communication, they brought the FameLab competition to South Africa in 2013.

For more information, please visit http://www.saasta.ac.za/.
Anisa Khan, British Council: Newton Fund and Higher Education Programme Manager Tel: 011 560 9322 Email: [email protected]
British Council website https://www.britishcouncil.org/education/science/public-engagement/famelab
Robert Inglis, Jive Media Africa Director Tel: 033 342 9380/2
Email: [email protected]
Joanne Riley, SAASTA, Science Editor: Science Communication
Tel: 012 392 934 9
Email: [email protected]

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