Annahilt’s Phillip Jess Calls On Scientists To Enter FameLab NI

Californian researcher and Annahilt native Phillip Jess, is urging future science communicators to enter FameLab Northern Ireland. So now is the pime to get that three minute pitch sharpened up.

The global science competition, organised by the British Council, in conjunction with the Northern Ireland Science Festival and Cheltenham Science Festival, is coming back to Northern Ireland for February 2015 and is on the lookout for scientists or engineers who can communicate their topic to a wider audience.

[caption id="attachment_53558" align="alignleft" width="370"]Philip Jess from Annahilt now working in California, is calling on scientists, engineers and mathematicians to enter the FameLab competition. Philip Jess from Annahilt now working in California, is calling on scientists, engineers and mathematicians to enter the FameLab competition.[/caption]

Held annually in over 20 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and the United States, FameLab has helped a number of our local scientists climb the career ladder and lead the way in their chosen scientific fields.

They include Philip (34), who comes from the small village of Annahilt, in Co Down and is an ex-pupil of Dromore High School, Dromore. He now works as a Bioengineering Research Associate at Stanford University in California and previously worked as a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley. He originally took part in the competition back in 2007, when he was studying for his PhD in Biophysics at the University of St. Andrews, Fyfe, Scotland. Speaking about the competition he said: “I initially entered as I was already involved in science festivals, including the government’s NOISE project – which aims to promote and encourage science – and thought that FameLab would only improve my communication skills. “I was also the only science major amongst my friends and was constantly trying to make science more interesting for them and explain it in more general terms, so thought I was the ideal kind of candidate for FameLab.” Philip, who produced talks as varied as the refractive index of light and the acoustics of a perfect pint of Guinness, won the Belfast heat and got through to the UK grand finale at Cheltenham. Though Phil found FameLab nerve-wracking, he’s in no doubt that it is a worthwhile experience. He added: “The competition has a science meets X-factor feel — it puts you under the spotlight and in front of the camera and is pretty nerve-wracking — but after the presentation, the judges were really positive and gave some great pointers for improvement.”

dn_screenFor Phil, the competition especially helped him move forward in his career.

“FameLab introduced me to a new way of thinking about science and opened up a lot of doors. The masterclass, which the British Council provides, was fun in itself, but it also improves and hones skills, helps shake off bad habits and inspires new ideas — this I found invaluable. “Most importantly, the experience has really helped me take complex science and make it understandable for the general public, which is so important. Being a scientist, it’s my job to make science engaging but also faithful to the evidence, and if we can get even a small amount of that across, we’re doing something right.” According to Jonathan Stewart, Deputy Director at British Council Northern Ireland, there are many reasons to take part in this global communication competition. He said: “By entering FameLab you will begin a journey with like-minded people, explore your own potential and, most of all, have a fantastic time. Globally more than 4000 individuals studying or working in STEM have taken part. The result is a vibrant network of exciting scientists and engineers engaging international audiences but also engaging with each other, broadening each other’s views of what it means to be working in science right now. “If all that isn’t enough you could also win a place on an all-expenses paid communication master class, a trip to Cheltenham Science Festival, as well as various prizes if you make it through to our live final at the Black Box, Belfast. “The British Council is proud to bring such a prestigious competition to Northern Ireland in conjunction with the NI Science Festival and we look forward to seeing how creative our scientific community can be.” Entries for FameLab Northern Ireland are now open. To enter, you’ve got to be passionate about science, engineering, technology or mathematics and be able to communicate this effectively in less than three minutes. Contestants, who should be over 21 and working or studying in a scientific field, will need to upload a short video to YouTube which inspires, excites and engages the public with modern science. These submissions will then be whittled down to just 10 who will compete to be crowned the winner of FameLab Northern Ireland. The final will take place at The Black Box, Belfast on Wednesday, February 25, 2015. The winner of FameLab Northern Ireland will then progress onto the UK National final, where they will compete to enter FameLab International. For more information, rules and eligibility visit:

or email

 Applications close at midnight, December 31 2014.

Tickets for the final at the Black Box Belfast on February 25 2015 are free and are available, along with a number of other pre-sale events, at: