Published: 22 January 2014

University of Surrey students shine at science’s answer to the X Factor

Two students from the University of the Surrey have made it through to the regional finals of FameLab, which is being held on campus this Thursday 23 January.


FameLab was started in 2005 in the UK by Cheltenham Science Festival and gives scientists and engineers the opportunity to share their enthusiasm for their subjects with the public. Contestants are challenged to explain a topic in an engaging way in just three minutes.

This global competition has already seen more than 5000 young scientists and engineers participating in over 23 different countries from Hong Kong to South Africa, USA to Egypt. In the USA, NASA is the FameLab delivery partner.

Amy Sanders who is studying for an MSc in Health and Clinical Sciences, and Sarah Campbell who is studying for a PhD at the School of Psychology, University of Surrey wowed the judges at the regional heats with their passion for their subjects.

Amy Sanders spoke about height, hormonal control and genetics. She based her presentation around her own ‘bad example’ of the growing process, exploring how growth hormones, diet and the role of genetics may have affected her own 4’11” height.

Amy, who also completed her undergraduate degree in Biochemistry at the University of Surrey, said: “I was completely shocked when I got through to the next round. The standard of talks was really high.”

“For the next round I'm going to use the positive feedback from the judges and apply it to muscle contractions, using an ice skating jump as an example.”

Sarah Campbell highlighted how music can make us feel happy, and how we know we feel happy based on physiological signals.

“I encouraged the audience to ask themselves what does it feel like to feel happy, next time they feel elated listening to music,” she said. “The other speakers were those that people tend to call 'proper' scientists, commenting on physics and biomedical sciences, so I thought it would be good opportunity to highlight psychology as a proper science subject!”

The regional final, which will showcase the most impressive entries from across the South East, takes place at the University of Surrey’s Heart & Soul venue, Manor Park on 23 January at 6.30pm.

One winner and one wildcard will then go forward to the national final, held at London’s Bloomsbury Theatre on 23 April 2014. They will also get the chance to receive intensive coaching from experts in media and communication skills at a weekend masterclass organised in the run-up to the FameLab finals.

The overall winner of FameLab UK will claim a prize of £1,000, and a further £750 to spend on a science communication activity. She or he will also go on to compete in the International Final of FameLab at the Cheltenham Science Festival on 3 to 8 June 2014.

Share what you've read?