SANTHE PhD Fellow first runner-up in FameLab National Finals

Thursday, 23 July, 2020

Lerato Ndlovu, a SANTHE PhD Fellow based at the Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI) in Durban, South Africa, has gone from being a FameLab National Finalist to becoming its first runner-up.  

FameLab is an international competition designed to engage and entertain by challenging young scientists to communicate their science to a public audience in under three minutes. Talks are fun and engaging, making science relevant to everyone, without using jargon or formal presentations.

The National Finals were held on July 22nd and consisted of finalists presenting their science to a virtual audience. Ndlovu presented her PhD research project which uses blood to study the immune system’s response to a tuberculosis (TB) infection in order to find a simple way of knowing when a person has been successfully cured of TB. She offered up a brilliant three-minute talk and consequently won the position of first runner-up after an intense competition. Alongside her was Brenda Da Gama from the University of KwaZulu-Natal who was second runner-up and Pinky Mokwena from the University of South Africa who won the competition and will go on to represent South Africa at the international competition.  

FameLab has partnered with the National Research Foundation – South African Agency for Science and Technology advancement (NRF – SAASTA) and is aligned with science policy and public engagement goals of the South African Government through the Department of Science and Innovation. A regional competition was held in KwaZulu-Natal in February 2020 where Ndlovu and other participants learnt about the importance of science communication and the skills needed to effectively communicate science to audiences. After an intense session of workshops, the participants were then given an opportunity to engage the audience and panel of judges in presentations on their research. After several rounds of presentations, winners were elected and all participants were given constructive criticism to help them better communicate science.  

Ndlovu has been involved in community and public engagement activities in her hometown Estcourt, KwaZulu-Natal, where she and her team interactively engaged with school learners on her scientific work which aims to identify easy-to-measure changes in the immune systems of TB patients that indicate the severity of TB infections and can be used to monitor patient response to drug treatment. She ultimately aims to improve TB cure rates.