Here are the 12 finalists of Ireland’s last FameLab competition

27 Sep 2021

Image: © Jacob Lund /

This year’s event marks the ninth and final edition of the science communication competition in Ireland.

The 12 finalists of FameLab Ireland 2021 have been announced, and this Thursday (30 September) one of them will be named as the country’s best science communicator.

The competitors include eight PhD students, two researchers, one lecturer and one clinical scientist. As well as scientists from around Ireland, the list of finalists includes participants from Spain, the UK, Portugal, Malaysia, South Africa and Canada.

The competition is run by the British Council of Ireland with funding from Science Foundation Ireland (SFI). This is the ninth and final year of FameLab, and has taken place entirely virtually due to the pandemic.

Previous winners of the competition in Ireland have included Simon Spichak and Dr Niamh Kavanagh.

The finalists beat out more than 70 other contestants in regional heats around the country. In the final, they’ll have three minutes to explain a complex scientific topic in an accessible manner, trying to maximise the ‘three Cs’: content, clarity and charisma.

The winner of this week’s national final will go on to represent Ireland in the FameLab International Finals in November.

Without further ado, this year’s finalists are:

Adam Stapleton

Stapleton is pursuing a PhD in machine learning from University College Dublin (UCD) and completed an undergraduate degree in theoretical physics. He’s looking at how machine learning can be applied to climate issues, “from predicting air pollution to understanding how the planet breathes”.

Debismita Dutta

Dutta is working towards a PhD in materials science at the Tyndall National Institute at University College Cork (UCC), studying magnetic nanoparticles. She holds a bachelor of technology degree in chemical engineering and believes “creative, distilled teaching can make science simpler, exciting and fun”.

Fernando Diaz

Diaz is also a PhD student at the Tyndall Institute at UCC. He’s working on developing an immunosensor for detecting microorganisms present in plants. Originally from Spain, Diaz came to Ireland to learn English but said he fell in love with the country.

Ifeolutembi Fashina

Fashina is pursuing a PhD at the McCoy Lab at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI). She moved to Ireland from Nigeria to get a degree in human genetics from Trinity College Dublin (TCD), before working in the industry for some time. Her research focuses on bioinformatics tools, and the link between mRNA variations and multiple sclerosis.

Jack Daly

Daly describes his research background as “as diverse as a Christmas selection box” including work in plant biotech, gut microbes and the physiology of humans. He’s currently pursuing a PhD at UCC.

Kevin Mercurio

Mercurio is a first-year PhD student at TCD, looking at how mRNA affects the microbiome of the human gut. He’s also a podcast host, blogger and fiction writer and has participated in other science communication initiatives such as Science Slam Canada.

Kyra Menai Hamilton

Hamilton hails from northern Wales, and holds a BSc in bio-veterinary science. She worked as a research technician before pursuing a PhD with UCD, in conjunction with Teagasc and New Zealand’s AgResearch. Her research focuses on parasite fitness and anthelmintic drug resistance.

Mariana Silva

Silva is from Portugal, and came to Ireland as a Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellow to pursue a PhD at the Bernal Institute at the University of Limerick. She worked with Janssen in Belgium during her postgraduate programme, and is now working on developing a way to deliver medicines as infrequent, long-lasting injections rather than daily pills.

Reabetswe Zwane

Zwane came to Ireland to study for a PhD at Dublin City University three years ago. Her work, which she recently told about, focuses on computational modelling for pharmaceutical research.

Roshaida Abdul Wahab

Wahab is originally from Malaysia. She obtained a degree in medicine and a master’s from TCD, followed by a PhD from UCD. She specialised in pathology during her studies, and currently holds the diplomateship of the UK’s Royal College of Pathologists.

Tammy Strickland

Strickland comes from a background in human health and disease, paediatrics and regenerative medicine. She studied at TCD and NUI Galway, and now does research at RCSI. Strickland is investigating the link between disruptions to circadian rhythms and neurological conditions, including epilepsy.

Walter Stanley

Stanley is a senior lecturer in mechanical and aeronautical engineering at the University of Limerick with more than 25 years of experience in the field. His entry to the competition focuses on how plastic bottles can be repurposed as composite building materials.

Science through storytelling

Dr Ruth Freeman, director of science for society at SFI, congratulated all participants on their “fantastic presentations and communications skills”.

“Now, more than ever, it is important for people to engage with STEM. Science Foundation Ireland, through the SFI Discover Programme, is delighted to support FameLab, which facilitates participants to learn and practice vital skills in communicating often complex research topics.

“Through the art of storytelling, science subjects are brought to life for new audiences in an engaging and inspiring way that generates discussion and improves scientific literacy at this very critical time.” also reviewed the finalists of FameLab Ireland in 2020 and 2019.

The FameLab Ireland final will be broadcast live on the British Council Ireland Facebook page at 6pm on 30 September.

Jack Kennedy is a freelance journalist based in Dublin