Niamh Kavanagh named winner of FameLab national finals

8 Apr 2016

IPIC photonics researcher, Niamh Kavanagh. Image via IPIC

Irish photonics researcher Niamh Kavanagh can consider herself at the forefront of Irish science having been named the national winner of the FameLab, a competition in which scientists pitch their research to peers and the public.

Running internationally, FameLab is one of the biggest scientific research competitions around, with nations called upon to select a national entry into a tournament where academic researchers are asked to convey a scientific concept of their choice in just three minutes to researchers, media personalities and science policy makers.

Each contest is then marked on their presentation’s content, clarity and charisma, and Ireland’s national judging panel choose photonics researcher and PhD student Niamh Kavanagh as Ireland’s representative.

During her presentation entitled Illuminating the Invisible, Kavanagh explained how lasers, which reflect pulses of light off anything in their path, are leading the way in aviation safety.

More specifically, she discussed LiDAR technology, which uses laser beams to monitor air pollution levels worldwide and is now being fitted to airplanes so that pilots can see ash clouds and avoid any potential hazards.

Experienced science communicator

Kavanagh has plenty of experience working against the clock, having previously been named as one of the finalists of the Thesis in 3 competition in November last year.

Much like FameLab, the Thesis in 3 competition had PhD researchers explain their work in easily understandable terms in just three slides, in three minutes.

Working with the Irish Photonics Integration Centre (IPIC), Kavanagh’s current research, funded by the Irish Research Council (IRC) has her looking at using new types of fibres that have hollow cores, which offer much higher potential capacity to carry information.

Those who just missed out on first place in the Irish leg of the competition were Michel Destrade from NUI Galway and medic Daragh Finn, INFANT research centre, who came in second and third place, respectively.

For her achievement, Kavanagh will now go on to represent Ireland against around 30 other national winners at the global finals in June at the Cheltenham Science Festival in the UK.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic