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Biochemistry student wins place in FameLab finals


A set of cardboard cut-out waves has helped DPhil student Jonny Brooks-Bartlett land a place in the National Finals of FameLab, the quick-paced science communication competition.

Jonny, a second-year student on the Systems Biology DTC programme working in the lab of Elspeth Garman, will compete against other regional finalists at the Bloomsbury Theatre in London on April 23.

With a first degree in Maths, Jonny took advantage of his excellent grasp of the topic to deliver two punchy presentations.

In the heat at the beginning of December, he gave a 3 minute presentation without props on the history and development of geometry and how this relates to the space around us and Einstein's Theory of General Relativity.

‘Before I went on stage I felt really nervous,’ Jonny says. ‘But as soon as I was standing up in front of everyone the nerves went and I felt so good delivering the talk. I love talking about maths and I felt like I was telling an exciting story to a group of people.’

He was one of 6 contestants selected to go through to the South East Regional Final.

As well as getting him a place in this, the presentation also won him the audience vote and a bottle of wine.

On December 12, Jonny wowed the audience and judges once again at the regional final at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. This time, he gave a 3 minute presentation on the magic of the Fourier Transform using cardboard props that were cut into the shapes of waves to demonstrate what the Fourier Transform does to waves.

Jonny Brooks-Bartlett

Jonny Brooks-Bartlett

Jonny also talked about some of the applications of the Fourier Transform in signal processing such as removing noise from scratched vinyl records and removing unwanted signals from telephone conversations. You can watch his presentation here.

Feeling much less nervous before this second talk, he delivered it to an audience including the three judges: science writer Georgina Ferry, RAL Harwell space scientist Hugh Mortimer, and Public Engagement Research Fellow at the Cognition Institute at Plymouth University Martin Coath.

‘When they announced that I had won, I was quite shocked,’ he says. ‘I didn't expect to get this far in the competition. I entered because I thought it would be good experience in science communication which I'm very passionate about.’

His DPhil supervisor Elspeth Garman was amongst the audience and agrees that Jonny did a fantastic job of explaining the science and sharing his enthusiasm for it.

Along with the other regional finalists, Jonny will be going on a master class later in the year to prepare the group for the National Final.

For the final, he can choose either of the two presentations he has done already or can do a completely different presentation. ‘I'm undecided what I'll choose because I'd like to do something new, but it'll be tough trying to make it as good as I feel my Fourier Transform presentation went,’ he says.





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