Universiteit Leiden

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Leiden heat of FameLab Competition

Biologists Michelle Spierings and Ryan Bogaars are 2 of the 4 winners of the Leiden heat for the international FameLab competition in talking science during a public presentation.

Communicating science accessibly and attractively is an ever-growing priority for researchers worldwide. FameLab is an initiative to help and stimulate young beta scientists to acquire valuable skills to communicate their work to a non-scientific audience. The associated international competition starts with local heats after which the local winners continue to the next national round, to finally compete with the international top.

Michelle Spierings

Michelle Spierings and Ryan Bogaars took part in the Leiden heat of FameLab on the 17th of February. The IBL-representatives were able to stand out among the 15 competitors in terms of content, clarity and charisma in just a three-minute pitch. Other winners were astronomer Margot Brouwer and neuro-psychologist Marcia Brandenburg-Goddard. The jury consisted of: Jaap de Jong (Professor Journalism and New Media), Bas Haring (Professor ‘Public Understanding of Science’) and ‎Vice-Rector Simone Buitendijk. Michelle Spierings presented her PhD-research on linguistic capacities of songbirds and infants. The birds seem to be able to distinguish intonation, while this was assumed to be a trait unique to humans. Her studies provide insight into the evolutionary origin and development of language. The jury commented that Michelle told ‘a powerful story’.

Ryan Bogaars presented work from the Natural Products Lab on the topic of Natural Deep Eutectic Solvents (NADES). Some medications are difficult to dissolve in water. Adding sugar makes the process easier. Plants make sugars in order to be able to dissolve and spread substances. The jury praised his metaphor: ‘It’s like Moroccan-style tea: with lots of sugar.’

The four winners will take part in a two-day fully funded master class together with the winners of other Dutch heats (altogether 16 people). At the end of this training there will be a selection of 10 participants who will join the Dutch Final on April 21st. The winner will represent the Netherlands in the FameLab International Final in the UK.


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