Jargon-free science!

Thursday 7 June 2007

A University of St Andrews student has straight-talked his way into the finals of a national science competition.

Phil Jess

Phil Jess, a PhD student in the School of Physics and Astronomy, could become the new face of public science after reaching the final stages of FameLab. To win his place, Phil, a PhD student in the Optical Trapping Group, explained invisibility cloaks and used a chocolate egg to illustrate relativity.

The national competition, supported by Channel 4, aims to find would-be science presenters with charisma, emotion and the best brains.

Phil’s research interests focus on using lasers to study and diagnose cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. He is currently focusing on the development of a screening test for lung cancer.

Phil, one of just eight finalists, said, “The presentations were based around science you can do with things you can find in your own kitchen. You can do some really cool and jaw-dropping stuff in your own kitchen, like make an invisibility cloak without having to go anywhere near a research lab! I hope my own personal enthusiasm and fascination with science take people along with me and get them excited about science too. I really like the style of Richard Hammond and the Brainiac team. They explain some cool science while keeping it uncomplicated, fresh and interesting. I also liked Stephen Hawkings’ books – he manages to get some really tough concepts over without the use of crazy equations or serious jargon”.

Phil’s success in reaching the finals seems all the more miraculous given his last-minute rush around Belfast to source props for his presentation!

Phil explained, “The first presentation went okay, although I was a bit nervous. However, I didn’t think I would make it through to the afternoon round and hadn’t really prepared a second presentation so I had to run into Belfast at lunchtime and pick up some stuff but it wasn’t too bad in the end!”

Now in its third successful year, FameLab aims to discover the new public faces of UK science. Each year, hundreds of hopeful scientists attend national heats to present live in front of prominent figures from the world of science. The lucky winners of each heat will compete at the grand FameLab final at the Cheltenham Science Festival on Saturday 9 June 2007.

Kathy Sykes, Director of the Cheltenham Science Festival and a judge in the final said, “A new way of presenting TV science is emerging, with an emphasis on scientists as human beings, more than authoritative experts. We’re trying to identify fabulous scientists – with personality and humanity – and develop and support them to become maybe the Attenboroughs of tomorrow”.

FameLab is offering a number of prizes including a master-class in science communication, an international tour of speaking engagements, an internship at Channel 4 and £2000. For more information, visit: www.channel4.com/famelab



For more information, call Phil Jess on 01334 461655. Jpeg image of Phil available from Claire Grainger – contact details below.

Issued by Press Office, University of St Andrews


Claire Grainger, Press Officer – 01334 462530, 07730 415 015 or email [email protected]

Gayle Cook, Press Officer – 01334 462529, 07900 050 103 or email [email protected]

Ref: Famelab070607

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