The science of extraction in FameLab final

May 2, 2016

Rorie Gilligan in the WA heat of FameLab

Rorie Gilligan in the WA heat of FameLab

An extractive metallurgy researcher from Murdoch University has made the national final of science communication competition FameLab.

Rorie Gilligan from the School of Engineering and Information Technology will present on his pioneering study into extracting uranium and rare earths from brannerite at the WA Museum, Perth on Thursday, May 5.

Mineral mining companies have long viewed brannerite as a waste material, but Mr Gilligan’s new technique, developed with his supervisor Dr Aleks Nikoloski, could boost extraction by up to 15 per cent. The technique is also more energy efficient than other extraction methods for different materials.

Mr Gilligan will have just three minutes to present on his research and can only use a few props to illustrate his ideas. No power points are allowed.

He was encouraged to apply for FameLab after telling his Murdoch IT colleagues about his study in a social setting.

“They told me I made these complex ideas easy to understand and said I should apply. So far it’s been really enjoyable,” he said.

“Normally when I speak it’s in front of a room full of geologists and engineers and I use a lot of jargon and technical terms.

“But being in front of a general audience means I have to step back and look at the bigger picture aspects of my research and use terms they can understand.

“The experience has already been helpful. As a researcher, I speak at conferences regularly and the training provided before the WA heat of FameLab has made me think about my delivery so I can best demonstrate the applicability of my research to people in industry.

“Communication is becoming ever more important as competition for research funding grows, so experiences like this are very worthwhile.”

Mr Gilligan also acknowledges the opportunities available for research students at Murdoch University to improve their presentation skills.

He was a late addition to the Australian final having been beaten to the top spot in the WA heat in March. He was invited back into the competition after judges reviewed his original presentation.

As a finalist, Mr Gilligan will be given the chance to inform and refine his presentation over two days of intensive communications and media training. He will compete against 11 other scientists from across Australia in the final.

The winner will fly to the UK in June to present at the Cheltenham Science Festival in the international FameLab final against the world’s top science communicators.

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

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