Matia Mukama, a doctoral student in Food Science at Stellenbosch University (SU), finished second at the 2019 South African FameLab science communication and public speaking competition held in Durban recently. As the winner of the institutional heat, Mukama represented SU at the national contest where he competed against 14 other finalists from research centres and universities across the country.
The winner of the competition was Keneilwe Moropa from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Tshwane University of Technology with third place going to Charmaine Tshangana from Unisa's Nanotechnology and Water Sustainability Research Unit.
At the national event, finalists shared their research with the public and were scored on content, clarity and charisma.
Commenting on his second spot, Mukama, who is designing new cartons to improve the shelf life of pomegranates and also increase exports and reduce labour costs, said he was very happy about this achievement, but most of all, for the science communication presentation skills he acquired.
He also emphasised the importance of researchers sharing their work with the public.
“The time is now for scientists to spend some time outside labs, verbally and visually sharing our key methods and findings. Communicating science to the general public is more or less an obligation. As scientists, we generate quite a lot of knowledge and innovations that the public needs to better their lives."
Mukama challenged his fellow researchers to communicate their science, saying that innovations and discoveries sometimes didn't fulfil the desired goals because they were hidden in scientific journals that need a subscription, behind jargon and other communication platforms that were inaccessible to the public.
He added that “to influence evidence-based policies, politicians most times need well-explained, easily understandable science."
The International FameLab competition will be in Cheltenham, the UK in June. South Africa is among 30 countries that take part in FameLab.
- Photo: Matia Mukama (left) with one of the judges Prof Nceba Gqaleni at the FameLab competition. Credit: Jive Media Africa