Five of the ten finalists in the South African leg of FameLab – one of the biggest science communication competitions in the world – were from Stellenbosch University.
During this competition scientists have only three minutes to explain a scientific concept to a general audience. In 2015 5 500 students from 25 countries participated.
Savannah Nuwagaba, a PhD student in biomathematics in the Department of Mathematical Sciences, and Claude Moshobane, a biosecurity specialist from SANBI doing his internship at the DST/NRF Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology (C·I·B), were runner ups and each received prize money of R2500. Savannah is also affiliated with the C·I·B.The winner, Nozipho Gumbi from the University of South Africa, will represent South Africa at the international FameLab final at The Times Cheltenham Science Festival in the United Kingdom.
The other SU students were Taime Sylvester from the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Marli Louw, a PhD student from the Department of Viticulture and Oenology.
The South African finals took place on 4 May 2016 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. FameLab is supported by the British Council and the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA).
Their topics were:
Savannah Nuwagaba (Department of Mathematical Sciences): Using biology and mathematics, Savannah's research aims to understand how the body size of different animals is affected by the time it takes them to catch, eat and digest their food. Because these processes depend on temperature, the research is important given the current climate change debate.
Claude Moshobane (DST/NRF Centre of Excellence Centre for Invasion Biology): Claude is responsible for the development of specific risk assessments and performing risk assessments of regulated species in South Africa.
Marli Louw (Department of Viticulture and Oenology): Marli's research focuses on Brettanomyces bruxellensis, or Brett, a typical red wine spoilage yeast. She aims to understand how and why Brett is tolerant to sulphur dioxide, the most commonly added preservative in wine.
Taime Sylvester (Department of Biomedical Sciences): Taime investigates tuberculosis in African Lions, looking at how the disease affects their immune responses. Including those bred for hunting and commercial use, lions are not a particularly endangered species; those living in the wild, however, are becoming scarce. Her research could help inform ecological decisions in wildlife conservation.