UCC researcher wins FameLab science competition

12 Jun 2013

Fergus McAuliffe, 2013 winner of the FameLab science communication contest

Fergus McAuliffe, a post-graduate researcher at University College Cork (UCC), has beaten off competition from 20 other finalists from across Europe, Asia and Africa to win the FameLab science communication contest.

McAuliffe, whose PhD research focuses on the use of willow trees as a sustainable means for waste-water treatment, was announced as the winner of the FameLab competition at the weekend.

The contest, which is organised by British Council and Cheltenham Festivals, aims to put the spotlight on emerging scientists who have the ability to communicate a scientific topic in just three minutes without the aid of slides to a non-scientific audience.

This is the first year Ireland has entered the competition. In all, there were entries from 23 countries.

Every presentation was judged based on the presenter’s ability to express their chosen scientific topic with clarity and charisma.

McAuliffe was crowned champion for his presentation on how the wood frog in Canada blurs the line between life and death.

His topic covered the strange physiology of the wood frog, which has the capacity to freeze during the winter in Canada and continue its lifecycle again in the spring.

“Every winter in Canada, this frog freezes itself solid. Its heart stops beating for weeks, and then in spring, it comes back to life as it thaws out,” explained McAuliffe.

“We aren’t close to trying this with humans but one possible application in the future could be for storing organs for transplantation,” he said.

McAuliffe is currently pursuing a PhD at the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences at UCC.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic