On the 9th of April the FameLab Germany preliminary event for Lower Saxony and Northern Germany took place at the HZI for the first time. After the event we caught up with the winner and the runner-up of the event Marcia Duarte (first prize and audience award) and James Tsatsaronis (2nd place) who won the competition against six other participants. Both of them are scientists from the HZI, while Marcia is doing her phd in the research group Microbial Interactions and Processes led by Dietmar Pieper, James is a postdoc in the Regulations in Infection Biology of Emmanuelle Charpentier. We spoke to them about the event and about the upcoming FameLab Germany final on the 13th of May in Karlsruhe.
How did you like taking part in the FameLab Event?
James: There were two main parts. There was the preparation for the event, which I really enjoyed, and then the event itself which was more stressful, but still enjoyable. In any case, I was very happy to take part in it. However, I did feel a bit overwhelmed, as I didn’t expect it to be such a big event, but something a bit more casual. However I really enjoyed it and had fun.
Marcia: It was a great experience! I heard about it and really wanted to take part. I didn’t think it would take me too long to prepare for it but actually it did as I had to rehearse. It was the first time ever that I practiced a talk before giving it as it isn’t really that easy to be precise in three minutes only. I also did not realise that it would be such a big event with so many people and experienced participants. I was a bit nervous but I really enjoyed the event and the engaging talks. In the end, it was real fun and I would recommend it to everyone.
Do you think the FameLab event is a good way of getting people interested in science?
James: That’s one of the major goals of it and a good thing. I have done something similar before back home in Australia called the three-minute thesis competition, which is almost the same thing. The main challenge of preparing for the talk is to make it short because you have a very tight deadline. But at the same time you have to think about how to explain your project to your mother, father or grandparents; an audience that does not necessarily have an idea what a neutrophil is or how the immune system really works. The difficult thing is to keep it short and easily understandable, but at the same time it has to be accurate. You have to find an analogy and a way to explain it using props. So I tried to personalise my project and make my cell become part of a story.
Marcia: I think most scientists do an unconscious FameLab every time they try to explain their projects and science to their family or friends who do not work in science. What I also like about FameLab is the chance to explore areas of science that usually get less attention. For example, medical and pharmaceutical science get covered a whole lot more by the media and people tend to focus on those topics. Thus, the FameLab provides a stage for all kind of different scientific areas.
So you are both in the final now. Will you change your talk?
James: Well, according to the rules you have to change your talk, but I was planning to do so anyway and had a different talk in mind already. The new talk will be strongly influenced by the work of my current lab as I am working with Emmanuelle Charpentier, who is a very illustrious and well-decorated scientist. Thus, I will try to incorporate the CRISPR-Cas9 discovery in this talk.
Marcia: There is no chance to give the same talk so I will try to change it and talk about a different aspect of bioremediation. I also hope to get some tips in the master class which I will definitely incorporate.
Do you think the FameLab experience will help you in your general life as a scientist?
James: Definitely. I think there are a lot of things in scientific research nowadays that you don’t get prepared for. For example, you don’t get much training on writing and giving talks about your work. So every chance you get to think about your project in a way that attracts attention to your topic is a good experience. In this particular case you learn how to present your work in a punchy and attractive way, which has become more and more important in science.
Marcia: Yes and also the budgets in science are getting smaller. You should be able to talk and explain your science in an engaging way to obtain funding. It is important to learn how to do that.
Do you feel that your supervisors or bosses support you taking part?
James: I got really nice support from my supervisor who wished me good luck, and was there at the end of the event. I think she liked the fact that I took part in it.
Marcia: I told him before and he knows that I like science communication. He is generally supportive.
Are you looking forward to the final or are you stressed out about it?
James: I have not even really thought about it. I think we prepared for the first one for two or three days we might prepare for this one a bit more.
Marcia: Yes, I will put a little more effort into this one but still without stressing too much. We will definitely practice together and give each other some feedback.
James: I feel that this was a huge advantage because we supported each other and helped each other in the preparation and so we are going to do that again and have some fun.