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Telling a scientific story with charisma and conveying it clearly. That is the challenge that the FameLab competition sets. Famelab is an international competition for science communication. Young researchers are given the opportunity to tell their story in three-minute-long bite-size pitches in front of a general audience. Without Powerpoint slides – just words and a few optional props are allowed. The Eindhoven University of Technology is organizing the national finals this year. They’re set to take place on 1 June, during the Dutch Technology Week.

Ten young researchers from four Dutch universities – Wageningen University & Research (WUR), University of Twente (UT), Amsterdam University Medical Center (Amsterdam UMC), and Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) will be competing against each other. Kalpit Bakal, Chan Botter and Mohammad Jouy Bar won the preliminary round on 29 April. They represent TU/e. Here’s a brief introduction to these three finalists.

Kalpit Bakal

Kalpit Bakal took part with a subject that touched him personally: jet-driven injections. This is a project that is not his own, Bakal emphasizes. He has a mild fear of needles, which is a tricky issue in this time of vaccinations. “I get a little nervous, others faint. With my pitch, I wanted to let all the needlephobes out there know that something is on the way.”

The PhD candidate deliberately chose not to talk about his research project. He is researching the mechanics of human cells. For the purpose of characterizing the mechanical properties of these cells so that it is possible to distinguish the good ones from the bad ones. He speaks more often about his research into this. For instance, at conferences for specialists in the field. Bakal says that he purposefully chose a different topic altogether as a way to step out of his comfort zone.

He used a balloon and post-its to make his pitch. The post-its depicted the three layers of the skin and the balloon accounted for the jabbing effect. With these, he told in a simple way that vaccinations will soon be able to be executed without the use of a needle. Bakal is speaking on the same subject for the national competition. Only he plans to go one step further with his props. “You will be amazed.”

Apart from learning how to better convey his message himself, Bakal also wants to help his students. His first master’s student will soon be graduating. He sat down with him for an hour to prepare his presentation in such a way that his parents would also be able to understand it.

Watch Kalpit Bakal’s pitch here, which led the jury to award him second place.

Chan Botter

The Solid student team is creating a sustainable and circular alternative for energy storage by burning iron. At the end of 2020, the first system was put temporarily into operation at the Swinkels Family Brewers brewery. Team manager Chan Botter won the FameLab TU/e competition that year. She uses a jar of iron oxide to explain that this can be made into iron powder again by using sustainable energy. Which she also had with her in a jar.

Participating in FameLab is a great opportunity for her to spread the Solid story about, the industrial design student notes. “You might have a lot of innovations, but if no one knows about them, then those innovations won’t get very far. I think it’s important that people know about them and see that science can really have an impact on the future.”

Botter positioned the use of iron powder as one solution within a larger problem: The energy transition. “I hope that transition will really happen, because it is my future. It’s important that we all work to make the energy transition happen. It’s good to know that there are people who are working fanatically to make it happen, but everyone can do their part.”

Botters’ pitch during the national competition is not about Solid. But at its core, it will be the same, she says. “Inspiration and hope are coming back, although what that entails is quite different.”

Watch Chan Botter’s winning pitch here.

Mohammad Jouy Bar

The audience chose Mohammad Jouy Bar as the winner. He was the first to take to the virtual stage on 29 April. Because it was not known in advance who could present their pitch and when, Jouy Bar was a little nervous. He looks back on a rewarding experience. “It all started out as a bit of fun. But when I was preparing it, I became motivated and it suddenly became more serious by the day.”

Jouy Bar started his PhD research at TU/e this year and is working on ‘breast cancer cells on a mirco-chip‘. He is using this technique to study cancer on a minuscule chip in order to eventually be able to test the effect of a variety of medications, such as chemotherapy. “What may work in one person may actually cause damage in someone else,” he explains.

His research involves making micro-chips to examine medication in breast cancer. He won with a pitch focusing on micro-chips and lung cancer as a step toward personalized medication. Which was a research project he worked on during his graduate studies in Milan. His challenge is to cut to the heart of his topic in three minutes, without omitting any relevant information. “I can talk about my research for hours,” he adds.

That the public chose him may be because he shared his entry via social media, the doctoral student explains. “I’m originally from Iran. I have a lot of friends there. Then I graduated in Milan, so I have a lot of friends there too. I’ve been living in the Netherlands for a year now. And I’ve got colleagues and made new friends here too. They’ve all reacted positively to my post. That may have helped, although I did try very hard as well.”

Watch the entry here that Mohammad Jouy Bar won the audience award for.

You can register to attend the online finals on 1 June via this link.