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Liza Cornet on her FameLab adventure

On 11 November, neuropsychologist Liza Cornet competed in the semi-final of the FameLab international science communication competition. Her adventure ended there but she’s still ‘delighted’ to have taken part. What did she learn? ‘FameLab forced me to explain my research in everyday language.’

Present your research in under three minutes, and make it clear and entertaining. Oh and you can bring two props but can’t use PowerPoint presentation or a video. These are the rules of FameLab. Liza Cornet won the Leiden and Dutch preliminary rounds, but was defeated on 11 November in the international semi-final where she competed against young researchers from all over the world.

Liza Cornet in the FameLab semi-final

How do you look back on your adventure?

‘It’s a pity I didn’t make it to the international final, but I’m delighted I got to take part. Science communication is extremely important, so making it to the semi-final already feels like a major achievement. When I entered FameLab I had no idea it was such a prestigious competition.’ 

Watch Liza’s pitch starting at 39.05

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What was your pitch about?

‘About a study some colleagues and I are currently doing of young delinquents and students, as part of a research project led by Professor Jean-Louis van Gelder. We are trying to make use of the phenomenon that people tend to be better at advising others than themselves. When it’s about you, you’re more likely to develop tunnel vision, which makes it harder to distance yourself from the problem and see the bigger picture. With the aid of Virtual Reality respondents get to step into the shoes of an older and wiser version of themselves and give their younger self advice on how to deal with certain aspects of their life. I can’t say much yet about the results because we’re in the middle of the research.’

FameLab is usually in front of a live audience, but you had to give your pitch online from your living room. How did it feel?

‘It took a bit of getting used to. I converted my living room into a DIY studio with good lighting so I’d look my best. Normally, you competition mode kind of kicks in as soon as you climb the steps to the stage. And hearing the audience, gives you a real buzz. Now I summon this up myself, but I managed.’ 

Why did you take part in FameLab?

‘I really want to communicate science to a wider audience. As a PhD student and postdoc you learn to write and present for an academic audience, which is good, but the risk is that you’re no longer able to explain your research in everyday language. FameLab forced me to do that. I hope my experience will also help other young researchers make their story accessible to the general public. And I highly recommend taking part in this competition.’ 

Watch the international final on 26 November via the Famelab YouTube channel.

Liza Cornet recently gave a University of the Netherlands  lecture (in Dutch) on how Virtual Reality can help reduce criminal behaviour. 

University of the Netherlands

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