Algae expert proud to represent Murdoch in FameLab final

May 14, 2015

Dr Navid MoheimaniMicroalgae expert Dr Navid Moheimani narrowly missed out on winning the Australian FameLab final in Fremantle last night.

He thrilled judges and audience members with his three minute presentation on the sustainable conversion of light to biomass and electricity, inventively using marbles to illustrate his talk.

But it wasn’t quite enough to win the overall title, which went to Dr Sandip Kamath from James Cook University who presented on the improved diagnosis of shellfish allergy.

He will fly to the UK next month to present at the Cheltenham Science Festival in the international FameLab final against the world’s top science communicators.

Dr Moheimani, who is director of the Algae Research and Development Centre in the School of Veterinary and Life Sciences, said the FameLab experience had been an exciting one.

“It was a wonderful atmosphere. Very relaxed, great audience and my presentation went very well, at least I think. I had a few people approaching me at the end of the competition asking questions,” he said.

“But at the end of the day there would be only one winner. I congratulate Sandip for his effort. Overall, all the presentations were great.

“I think we at Murdoch need to encourage our students (especially postgrads and postdocs) to take science communication more seriously. I have every intention to use what I learned in my teaching of undergrads. And I am also going to encourage my postgrads to be more proactive when it comes to science communication.

“The highlight of FameLab for me was the one-and-a-half days of training we did prior to the final with Malcolm Love, who is a public communications skills coach from the UK. I learnt a great deal on how to transfer science to the public.”

Dr Moheimani competed against 11 other scientists from across Australia in the final, which was held at the WA Maritime Museum.

He was a late addition to the line up having been beaten to the top spot in the WA heat last month. Dr Moheimani was invited back to the competition after judges reviewed his original presentation about the process of repetitively milking microalgae to cost effectively produce biofuel.

All the finalists were asked to speak on different topics for the final so Dr Moheimani decided to focus on the project he has been developing with Dr David Parlevliet from the School of Engineering and Information Technology.

It involves maximising the productivity and growth of microalgae through the use of certain colours of the solar spectrum while diverting the remaining solar energy to photovoltaic devises that generate electricity to run the equipment needed to make biofuel.

He and the other finalists got the chance to inform and refine their presentations over two days of intensive communications and media training before the final.

FameLab is an annual science communication competition organised by the British Council in Australia.

The event was hosted by science journalist Robyn Williams from The Science Show on Radio National and ABC TV. The judges were Helen O’Neil from the British Council Australia, Gillian O’Shaughnessy from ABC Perth and Professor Ryan Lister from UWA, the 2014 Life Scientist of the Year.

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