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Malaysia names ‘Best Science Communicator’

  • Daniel Nesan, FameLab Malaysia 2021 Champion, advocates the need to restore soil for our future
  • He receives a RM3,000 cash prize and wins a trip to the UK
  • Daniel will represent Malaysia at the FameLab International Final later this year

KUALA LUMPUR, 11 September 2021 – Daniel Nesan was crowned the FameLab Malaysia National Final 2021 Champion today, coming up tops against 11 other science communicators from across the country. The championship was streamed live on YouTube due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Daniel, in his winning talk titled Are We Running Out of Dirt?’ said: ‘Every single grain of rice, vegetable, fruit tree and fodder for livestock grow using the support and the nutrients from dirt (soil)—and the trouble is, we might be running out’.

Daniel will represent Malaysia at the FameLab International Final later this year. He receives a RM3,000 cash prize and wins a full-board trip to the UK to visit any research institution or university.

Daniel Nesan, FameLab Malaysia 2021 Champion
Daniel Nesan, FameLab Malaysia 2021 Champion

‘Half of the habitable land on Earth used for agriculture now experience the continuous application of inorganic fertilizers and pesticides, permanently altering the chemical composition of the soil. Every year, we lose millions of hectares, and some parts of the world can no longer support the growth of future crops. But as the population continues to grow, so does our need for food,’ he further explained.

Daniel is a plant scientist at BoomGrow, an indoor farming company that is reimagining a better future for farming. He is passionate about food security and sustainability as well as the development of environmentally friendly agricultural practices.

‘So what should we actually do? Unfortunately, there’s no perfect answer. High-tech solutions are expensive and doesn’t really work everywhere, and organic farming methods will never meet the yields of industrial agriculture. Socially, we can buy and eat locally, purchase from farmers nearby and understand that we might not get everything throughout the whole year. This is a serious problem, and the solutions are not easy. But it’s worth looking at if you want to restore the soil that supports both our feet and our lives,’ he concluded.

Jazreel Goh, Director Malaysia, British Council, said: ‘Through our work in science communications and FameLab, the British Council taps on international networks to support researchers to use their skills in bridging the gap between science and society and enhancing equality and diversity in science. We are proud of the Malaysian talents displayed this year, building on the excellent standards Malaysia has become renowned for in recent years. They have proven to be well deserving of the “Malaysia’s Best Science Communicators” title!’

The British Council collaborates with the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT) to deliver FameLab in Malaysia, with supporting partners the Ministry of Higher Education Malaysia (MoHE) and Ministry of Science, Technology & Innovation (MOSTI).

Datuk Dr Mohd Yusoff Sulaiman, President & CEO of MIGHT, highlighted the importance of both   FameLab and science communication in inculcating awareness of science and STEM education among the public: ‘All FameLab participants are ambassadors of science because they communicate scientific facts, and indirectly promote science literacy and diplomacy. We hope that this science communication experience and journey will continue long after FameLab. Please continue to disseminate and share evidence-based research as it could be the solution for many global challenges’.

This year’s competition in Malaysia attracted 67 applicants, with a total of 11 finalists selected from the Virtual Heats held in June 2021. The finalists were equipped with science communication skills through a two-day masterclass organised by the British Council, delivered by Dallas Campbell, a science television presenter and writer who has worked for the BBC and currently presents a series for NatGeo called Science of Stupid.

FameLab was started by Cheltenham Science Festival in 2005 and has grown into a global phenomenon in partnership with the British Council since 2007. It is a competition aimed at finding, developing and mentoring young science and engineering communicators. FameLab requires the participants to engage audiences in a three-minute presentation on scientific topics and concepts. Every presentation is judged according to the golden rules of the ‘3 Cs’: content, clarity and charisma. The competition consists of national heats and finals, followed by an international final in the UK at Cheltenham Science Festival.

Dr Siti Khayriyyah Mohd Hanafiah was crowned the 2018 FameLab International Champion at the Cheltenham Science Festival in the UK. She followed in the footsteps of Professor Dr Abhimanyu Veerakumarasivam, who was the first Malaysian to win the title ‘World’s Best Science Communicator’ in 2016.

Since its inception at the Cheltenham Festival in 2005, FameLab has grown into the world’s leading science communication competition. The partnership with the British Council has seen the competition go global with more than 10,000 young scientists and engineers participating to date.