My Brush with Fame(Lab)

Proudly supported by

  Last updated November 27, 2017 at 12:30 pm

Topics:  

This young scientist couldn’t bee-lieve her story about honey research and the gut microbiome could lead her all the way from Sydney to Cheltham, UK. Dr Nural Cokcetin tied as the runner up winner in the 2017 International FameLab science communication competition. Here she recounts her brush with FameLab.


An Australian, a Frenchman, a South African and a Ugandan walk into a bar. It sounds like the start of a great (or terrible) joke, right? Nope, just a typical afternoon for FameLabbers at the Cheltenham Science Festival this year.


My FameLab journey started one Tuesday afternoon with a three-minute speech detailing the four years of my PhD, some about-to-be-binned lab scales, two bits of cardboard, and a very encouraging (read pushy) supervisor (thank you Shona, really!). You have a great story to tell, she had said. People will want to hear it. But I didn’t enter FameLab because I had a great story to tell – I entered because it was my story to tell, and I’d never had the chance to tell it. I uploaded my submission video and vowed never to share it with anyone or think about it again. At least I could say that I had tried that science communication thing once.


A couple of weeks later I received an email, subject header ‘FameLab 2017: Congratulations’.


Part One – The NSW Masterclass and Semi-Finals


Armed with my new prop (upgraded the cumbersome lab scales to a coat hanger), an open mind, and a backpack full of nervous energy I headed to the Powerhouse Museum for our masterclass. Emma, our trainer, was the kind of person that demands attention from the room when she talks – yep, I wanted to learn to do that! She is also the kind of person that I try to avoid eye contact with for fear of being called on to do or say something (it didn’t work, I was called on a lot!). I learnt the importance of telling a good story, a sticky story. I may have made an awkward joke about having that bit in the bag because I worked with honey. Sticky… honey… geddit?


After the masterclass, we all gathered at the Transport Hall, under the planes and surrounded by trains for the competition. This bit is still a blur, but I do remember the fabulous Natasha Mitchell doing an amazing job MCing the event and the judges asking all the right questions to showcase and highlight our research. The presentations were fantastic as was the audience, they cheered and applauded and made every single one of us feel loved. It was a very special night, and I was stoked to be going home with the Runner-up award and the Audience Choice award. Next stop, Fremantle, WA!



Part Two – The Two-Day Masterclass and National Finals


We all had to prepare a second presentation with new props to take to the national finals. I used some of the comments from Emma and the judges to improve my pitch. I managed to sneak in a few excellent (some might say terrible) puns in there. After all, there is nothing more ‘me’ than puns.


I was psyched for the masterclass, I know it sounds cliché but the competition didn’t matter. I found the first one so inspiring that I couldn’t wait to see what tips I’d pick up this time. My fellow UTS buddy Naomi and I (along with some other FameLabbers we picked up in the hotel foyer) walked over to the (wrong) Maritime Museum (yes, there was more than one, and yes we used Google maps and also asked for directions – embarrassing).


The two-day training with Dr Emily Grossman, sci comm extraordinaire, was intense. There were a few highlights for me from this masterclass. Firstly, giving our presentations in front of 150 high school science students. I’ve never presented to a younger audience before, and the questions and feedback that those students had was incredible! They were so attentive and not afraid to tell you what they liked and what they didn’t understand. Secondly, playing the ‘critically supportive friend’ role. We had some exercises on how to give each other constructive criticism following some short presentations. Although we all felt uncomfortable and vulnerable, it was also very insightful to see the little quirks we had that added or took away from telling our stories. After presenting to the high schoolers, we repeated this exercise on each other. We each took on board all that feedback and every single one of us came out onto the stage that night with an improved version of our presentation. And then there were a couple of bits of advice from Emily that will stick with me: 1) Talk your talk, don’t write it – sounds simple, but usually we write what we want to say, instead of talking it into existence, and 2) Say yes now, panic later – my new life mantra. It does, however, mean that I am living in a constant state of panic. I guess it keeps things exciting?



The FameLab final event was incredible. I was excited to see some family in the audience that night, especially as it had been ten years since I’d seen some of them! We had an amazing panel of judges, the presentations were some of the best I’ve ever seen, the MC Alan Duffy did a stellar (hah, cos he’s an astrophysicist!) job of pumping up the crowd. It was a huge honour to take home the national title, and even more so to nab the Audience Choice award. My excellent/terrible puns had gone down a treat – PooTube FTW!


I talked so much that night that I lost my voice. Worth it! I also came home with 10 new incredibly supportive (and critically so) friends. I took the weekend off to celebrate with my west coast family, squeezed in a trip to Rottnest Island to see some quokkas, and a drive up to see the Pinnacles. Next stop, London baby! Well… Cheltenham.


Part Three – FameLab International and the Cheltenham Science Festival


After a phenomenal 30-hour (!!!) transit, I arrived at Cheltenham Spa. We had a welcome event in the evening and I met some of the 31 finalists from around the world – so many beautiful foreign accents! We didn’t have names, we were just countries. Hey Australia, I’m Switzerland. Hi Italy, I’m Azerbaijan. It was like Eurovision mashed with a world pageant. It made for some interesting conversations over the next few days: land rights (or lack thereof) in South Africa, setting things on fire in the bomb squad lab in Bulgaria, boarding schools and fresh water in Uganda, weather in Mauritius, vegetarianism in France, marriage and social status in India, climate change and what our respective countries were doing about it. We did find a universal language, and you’d think it would be science, but nope – it was food!


Our half-day masterclass was with Malcolm Love who taught us some more tricks to telling good stories, ways to handle nerves (that’s still a work in progress for me!) and left us with food for thought. Now I know to ask myself: what do you want to happen at the end of the day? And to remember when you’re on the stage: This is my floor. This is my turn to talk.



We had passes to lots of the Cheltenham Science Festival events. There were some incredible talks and a standout for me was ‘How does a hack work’ by cybersecurity experts FC and Jessica Barker. Note: I did change all my passwords and cover up my webcam with some masking tape as soon as I got back to the hotel that night. There were lots of interactive areas and some awesome displays of science and research.



The delightfully hilarious Quentin Cooper hosted the semi tremi-final event and from these three rounds, 31 finalists became nine. I am so glad I wasn’t in charge of judging which ones made the cut because I thought they were all outstanding… but if I was a gambling type of girl, I’d have put all my money on South Africa for the win (spoilers-  she won!).


I hadn’t expected to get as far as I did, but I’d made it to the final-finals. Quentin hosted the night again and from him I learnt two things: 1)I ’m a melittologist (the scientific study of bees and honey is melittology); 2) Nural Cokcetin is an anagram of Reckon Lunatic. I bet Quentin is great at cryptic crosswords.


He also did a fantastic job at reminding us that while we were all winners back at home, tonight there would be one winner and lots of losers. It was weirdly encouraging. On stage, I forgot my lines momentarily and thought ‘what would Emma/Emily/Malcolm say’ and remembered that they’d say, just take a breath and keep going. Words will come out. So I did. And they did. And it was over before I knew it. The winner (and audience choice) went to the most deserving Tshiamo Legoale (aka South Africa) – and everything was right with the world. Nicole (Hong Kong) and I were equal runner-ups, or perhaps by Quentin’s terms… equal-first losers?



A few teary goodbyes later and promises (kept!) to stay in touch, we all left FameLab headquarters. I spent the next week exploring London and loved it. Although I never did get used to the taste of the water, or figure out what side of the footpath to walk on, and what is the deal with the sun still being out at 9.30pm?


On the whole, the FameLab journey has been a remarkable one. I feel incredibly honoured and humbled to have met so many great, young scientists who are passionate about doing research that has positive impacts in the world. But the journey isn’t over yet. There have been lots of exciting opportunities to come out of it since I’ve been back home including more TV and radio interviews about my research, invitations to give public lectures for National Science Week and even one for a TEDxYouth talk. Best of all, I’ve loved receiving messages, emails and tweets from people all around the world to say that they are having their daily spoonful of honey to boost their gut heath. I told a story. And it was a sticky one.



 


 


 


 


 


 


I am incredibly grateful to the British Council team in Australia for this opportunity, and for giving young scientists a platform on which to speak. I encourage all young researchers to give it a go. The training is some of the best you’ll ever receive, and the connections you make are invaluable. Finally, I must express my sincere gratitude to the NSW beekeepers because, perhaps unintentionally, you have helped me communicate my science more effectively by listening to me talk since I started research as an honours student all those years ago. I totally agree that my first presentation was too technical, with too many graphs.


Find your Ultimate Career, download the Ultimate Careers magazine here.


Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to get all the latest science.




About the Author

Nural Cokcetin
Nural (@nural_c) is postdoctoral research scientist specialising in microbiology. Her research focuses on understanding both the antimicrobial and prebiotic properties of honey - with a drive to use this knowledge to develop new treatments for infections caused by multi-drug resistant superbugs, and to use honey as a prebiotic to improve human gut health. She is equally passionate about doing research that has direct positive impacts for society, as she is about communicating her research to as broad an audience as possible.

Published By

Science and technology is as much a part of our cultural fabric as art, music, theatre and literature. They play a significant role in our daily lives, yet, in a world dependent on science, we often take them for granted. Australia’s Science Channel believes every citizen has a right, and a responsibility, to be informed, and our mission is to create programs to bring that about.


Featured Videos

Placeholder
How technology is changing the future of cancer treatment in Australia
Placeholder
Sean Geoghegan - Meet a Medical Physicist
Placeholder
Bringing Japan's breakthrough cancer technology to Australia
Placeholder
Columbia: NASA blew it
Placeholder
The Face of a Stranger
Placeholder
Where Does Space Begin?
Placeholder
The Rarest Drug on Earth
Placeholder
Why is blue so rare in nature
Placeholder
Ant Sisters
Placeholder
Jeremy the Lefty Snail and Other Asymmetrical Animals
Placeholder
Tracking Snow
Placeholder
Smart Slime?
Placeholder
Good in the machine
Placeholder
Kessler Syndrome: What happens when satellites collide?
Placeholder
Why This Skateboarding Trick Should Be Impossible
Placeholder
Charles Camarda on becoming an astronaut
Placeholder
Alan Duffy on what it took to get humans to the Moon
Placeholder
Do aliens exist? Brian Cox explains
Placeholder
From Apollo to Pulsars: Parkes still dishing out the discoveries
Placeholder
Brian Cox on black holes
Placeholder
Australia's 60,000 years of space history
Placeholder
In Class With… Jane Goodall
Placeholder
Etienne Rastoin-Laplane - What's fishy about the Galapagos?
Placeholder
Kit Prendergast - Flowers to keep native bees buzzing
Placeholder
Rebecca Wellard - Eavesdropping on killer whales
Placeholder
Hossein Tavassoli - Mending broken hearts
Placeholder
Dilan Seckiner - Forensic gait analysis
Placeholder
Samuel Bladwell - A new spin on electronics
Placeholder
Sathana Dushyanthen - The double-edged cancer sword
Placeholder
Dwan Price - Nuts and Guts
Placeholder
Catriona Nguyen-Robertson - Exercise takes your immune system for a ride
Placeholder
Thimo Ruethers - The deadly danger of crocs on a plate
Placeholder
Amanda Tauber - Slamming the brakes on metastatic cancer
Placeholder
Hayley Teasdale – The ball that prevents falls (FameLab Australia 2019 Runner-up)
Placeholder
In the Shadow of a Black Hole
Placeholder
In Class With... Monica Gagliano
Placeholder
In Class With... Brian Cox
Placeholder
Start your FameLab 2019 journey now
Placeholder
Nural Cokcetin - It all starts with FameLab
Placeholder
Erinn Fagan-Jeffries - It all starts with FameLab
Placeholder
Ronald Yu - It all starts with FameLab
Placeholder
Noushin Nasiri - It all starts with FameLab
Placeholder
Grassroots
Placeholder
What is machine learning?
Placeholder
Mythbusting artificial intelligence with expert Anton van den Hengel
Placeholder
Using machine learning to predict medical outcomes
Placeholder
KCLOC
Placeholder
Nature Calls
Placeholder
Mexican Fishing Bats
Placeholder
Bittersweet
Placeholder
Timelapse
Placeholder
Invisible Blanket
Placeholder
Look
Placeholder
The Anomalies: Venom Race
Placeholder
Science Meets Making
Placeholder
Spiral
Placeholder
Looking Out There
Placeholder
Protectors of the Penguins
Placeholder
Astroturf
Placeholder
Virtual Humans
Placeholder
Rancheros del Jaguar
Placeholder
Searching For Dark Matter
Placeholder
Finding prehistoric mega-shark fossils on Victoria's coast
Placeholder
The Grandfather of computers
Placeholder
James Cameron talks science
Placeholder
In Class With.....David Suzuki - The Environment
Placeholder
In Class With.....David Suzuki - Career
Placeholder
Sustainable water use with Doug Green
Placeholder
Why is Indigenous science important?
Placeholder
Vanessa Pirotta - Using drones to collect whale snot (FameLab Australia 2018 Winner)
Placeholder
Toby Hendy - Poking Plants (FameLab Australia 2018 Runner-Up)
Placeholder
Muthu Vignesh Vellayappan - Groovy Patches (FameLab Australia 2018 Audience Choice)
Placeholder
Taryn Laubenstein - The Tail of Two Fishes
Placeholder
Richard Charlesworth - Coeliac disease diagnosis can be a pain in the posterior
Placeholder
Pegah Maasoumi - Solar Windows
Placeholder
James Wong - Breathing while you hop: How do kangaroos do it?
Placeholder
Ben McAllister - The ORGAN Experiment: Shining a light on dark matter
Placeholder
Mortaza Rezae - Empowering beautiful minds
Placeholder
Zane Stromberga - Can allergy drugs beat bladder disease?
Placeholder
Working In.....Art - Astrophotography
Placeholder
What's the best way to move - springs or muscles?
Placeholder
FameLab Australia Semi-Final Highlights
Placeholder
Saving lives with platypus milk
Placeholder
Australian astronomers witness death throes of a cocooned star
Placeholder
How Australia's politicians see our future in space
Placeholder
Keeping satellites in the loop
Placeholder
Tim Flannery talks about COP
Placeholder
Tim Jarvis & Tim Flannery talk Climate Change
Placeholder
Andy's Week in Science - robo baby, university rankings, and cancer on circadian rhythms
Placeholder
From chocolate factory to surgery - the milliDelta robot
Placeholder
Andy's Week in Science: video games, low tech transition windows and a new CRISPR technique
Placeholder
Science lessons useful in Art Restoration career
Placeholder
Are drones the future of racing?
Placeholder
The future of esports according to the experts
Placeholder
Seeing is believing with artist Eugenie Lee
Placeholder
The human impact of Art Science collaboration
Placeholder
Follow your Interests in Robotics
Placeholder
Zoz on 3D Printing
Placeholder
Flavia Tata Nardini on women in engineering
Placeholder
Flavia Tata Nardini on the future of the internet
Placeholder
Explore the ocean floor and Antarctic biodiversity
Placeholder
Follow your interests in Medical Research
Placeholder
Artists on Science
Placeholder
What is Space Archaeology?
Placeholder
Follow your Interests
Placeholder
Scientists on Art
Placeholder
3D Printing in Medical Research
Placeholder
Ethical Issues
Placeholder
Problem Solving - Robotics at Dermatec
Placeholder
Problem Solving with CSI
Placeholder
Tamarah King - Earthquake Geologist
Placeholder
True or False with Bajo and Rad BONUS ROUND
Placeholder
True or False with Bajo & Rad
Placeholder
Andy's Week in Science - Cats vs Dogs
Placeholder
FameLab 2018 - Get Involved!
Placeholder
Nural Cokcetin - How FameLab changed my life
Placeholder
Erinn Fagan-Jeffries - How FameLab changed my life
Placeholder
Noushin Nasiri - How FameLab changed my life
Placeholder
Ronald Yu - How FameLab changed my life
Placeholder
Alan Duffy's Top 5 Science Communication Tips
Placeholder
A Judge's Top Tips for FameLab Australia
Placeholder
Brain Candy - Why, Why, Why Michael Stevens?
Placeholder
The Past, Present, and Future of Malaria
Placeholder
This is a video of poo pills being made!
Placeholder
Mind Games - Sports Psychology
Placeholder
Fuel to Win - Sports Nutrition
Placeholder
Fifty years since Australia beat the world to space
Placeholder
ECR Network: Talk Your Science with Alan Duffy
Placeholder
Andy's Week in Science - chimps, klompen, and clouds
Placeholder
Our robot medicine future - heart huggers and micro biohybrids
Placeholder
Six Awkward Cancer Questions
Placeholder
How do you tell if a whale is left-handed?
Placeholder
She Flies - Turning Girls into Drone Pilots
Placeholder
Andy's Week in Science - Magnetic Fabric, Cancer Treatments, and Echolocation
Placeholder
The Science of Sexuality
Placeholder
Sailing Through Space with Bill Nye
Placeholder
Using Sports Science to Help Olympic Athletes
Placeholder
Three and a Half Minutes of Top Shelf Career Advice
Placeholder
New Space Tech with Andrea Boyd
Placeholder
Kelly Meets the Mars Curiosity Rover
Placeholder
Hearts, Opera, and Tough Conversations - Andy's Week in Science
Placeholder
Bill Nye on Science, Girls, and Saving the World!
Placeholder
2017 Prime Minister's Prizes for Science Part 2
Placeholder
2017 Prime Minister's Prizes for Science Part 1
Placeholder
Who Decides the Law in Space?
Placeholder
Scientists Watch Collision That Created Gravitational Waves
Placeholder
Getting Cold Feet Leads to a Whole New Career
Placeholder
ECR Network - Why Every Scientist Should Be on Twitter - The Benefits
Placeholder
ECR Network - Why Every Scientist Should Be On Twitter - The Fears
Placeholder
Live Podcast - Life Vs Science
Placeholder
Origami Robots, Babies, and Kidneys - Andy's Week in Science
Placeholder
Namira Salim and the Zero-G Peace Summit
Placeholder
Elon Musk's Mars Plan: Expert Analysis
Placeholder
SPACE AF - Thursday
Placeholder
My Time in Space
Placeholder
IAC TV Daily Broadcast - Wednesday
Placeholder
SPACE AF - Wednesday
Placeholder
IAC TV Daily broadcast - Tuesday
Placeholder
SPACE AF - Tuesday
Placeholder
IAC TV daily broadcast - Monday
01:00:41
Placeholder
SPACE AF - Monday
Placeholder
Live from IAC 2017
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Technology Rewrites History
Placeholder
Methamphetamine - Gateway Drug to Parkinson's Disease
Placeholder
Concussion, 3D BioPrinting, and The Universe - Andy's Week in Science
Placeholder
Pulsars, Clearwigs, and Pacemakers - Andy's Week in Science
Placeholder
Revolutions - The Quest to Transform HPV Racing
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Hurricane Irma Blows Away Tesla's Rip Off
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - The Limit of Your Lifespan
Placeholder
The Recipient
Placeholder
Think Like a Scientist: Natural Selection in an Outbreak
Placeholder
The End of Snow
Placeholder
The Next Rembrandt
Placeholder
The Discarded
Placeholder
The Spectators
Placeholder
Test Tube Babes
Placeholder
Pangolins in Peril- A Story of Rare Scales
Placeholder
Rock Art Project
Placeholder
Pork.0
Placeholder
OWSIA (Darkened Water)
Placeholder
Nex
Placeholder
Northern Quolls
Placeholder
Dish Life
Placeholder
At Street Level
Placeholder
Custom Love
Placeholder
Adrift
Placeholder
A Story from Space
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - The Most Dangerous Thing in Boxing May Be the Gloves
Placeholder
ECR Network 2017 – Get Interdisciplinary!
01:27:00
Placeholder
Chris Hadfield: The Future of Space Exploration
Placeholder
Chris Hadfield: Life After Space
Placeholder
Chris Hadfield: Life in Space
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Let's Make Algae Australian of the Year
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Australia's Energy Showdown
Placeholder
Nine Awkward Astrophysicist Questions
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - There's No Such Thing as an Exercise Pill
Placeholder
National Science Week Awards Show
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Your 5 Step Asteroid Success Plan
Placeholder
National Science Week Forecast
Placeholder
Open Doors. Open Future. Open Day.
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Lose a Little to Gain Millions
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Crowd Sourcing Origami Astronaut Protection
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - T-Rex's Prehistoric Power Walk
Placeholder
True or False with Kale Brock
Placeholder
The Grandfather Paradox
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - The Hidden Heroes Tackling Mozzies
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Emergency AI Assistance
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Frogs Forever, Dinosaurs Never!
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Australia, Let's Go To Space
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Welcome to the Microbiome, Archaea!
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Roos Blindside Driverless Cars
Placeholder
Biodiversity of Antarctica Under Threat From Increase In Ice-Free Areas
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - The Future of the Census
Placeholder
Tell Me! Brian Cox
Placeholder
Crash, Burn, Tweak, Repeat
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Humans Just Got Older and Wiser
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Cheers to Brain Health?
Placeholder
Gene Therapy Could Cure Allergies
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - iHeart Hacking
Placeholder
Ridiculology - New Hubble
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Trees Alone Can't Save Us
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Earth's Accidental Force Field
Placeholder
Dinosaurs on the Big Screen
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Farewell MP3
Placeholder
Kids Beat Grown-ups on Pneumonia Vaccines
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - The Booger Conspiracy
Placeholder
FameLab 2017 National Final - Part 2
Placeholder
FameLab 2017 National Final - Part 1
Placeholder
2017 Budget Response
Placeholder
What Are Animal Weapons?
Placeholder
If You Love Both Art and Science, Be a Scientific Illustrator
Placeholder
Getting Personal With Skinks
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - CSIRO Email Leaks
Placeholder
FameLab 2017 Western Australia Semi-Final Highlights
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - New Hope for Premmies
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Britain Goes Coal-Free
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Naked Mole-Rats (SFW)
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Easter Reminders
Placeholder
Meet Andrea Boyd - Space Flight Controller
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Sperm Drug Smugglers
Placeholder
FameLab 2017 New South Wales Semi-Final Highlights
Placeholder
The Science of Fiction
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Liquorice Poisoning
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Crowdsourcing Science
Placeholder
FameLab 2017 Queensland Semi-Final Highlights
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - SpaceX Preps for Relaunch
Placeholder
Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome Breakthrough