Malaysia gears up for the next ‘World’s Best Science Communicator’
Mohd Hazreen Bin Abdul Rashid, a medical officer in the psychiatry department of a public hospital, was crowned the FameLab Malaysia National Final 2019 Champion in front of a live audience at Zebra Square, Kuala Lumpur on 26 April 2019. He successfully competed against 11 other science communicators from across the country.
Hazreen’s winning talk focused on drug addiction and how society often labels patients as criminals, making moral judgements that do more harm towards recovery. ‘As many as 60 per cent of recovering addicts relapse within one year,’ he said.
Currently completing his final year post-graduate study in the Faculty of Medicine at Universiti Teknologi MARA, Hazreen receives a RM3,000 cash prize and will represent Malaysia at the FameLab International Final on 5–6 June 2019 during the Cheltenham Science Festival in the UK. He also receives the EURAXESS ASEAN Prize 2019 worth EUR600 which offers the unique opportunity to visit a research lab or university anywhere in the European Union immediately after the FameLab International Final.
Hazreen explained addiction can be caused by many factors and triggers. ‘Drugs induce cravings and hijack the brain, making it lose the ability to recognise problems, find solutions, and inhibit destructive impulses, which is a reason why addicts make terrible decisions.’ He ended his talk with some food for thought: ‘Maybe it’s time to ask ourselves—are addicts criminals or victims of their own circumstances?’
Sarah Deverall, Director Malaysia, British Council, said: ‘FameLab draws on international networks to support researchers in using science communications skills, bridging the gap between science and society. The competition strengthens capacity, facilitates collaborations for international research, creates a supportive environment for science development, translation, and innovation and helps build inclusive societies. The talent displayed in this year’s national final builds on the excellent standards Malaysia has become renowned for in recent years. Congratulations to all the finalists and of course to the 2019 Malaysia National Champion, Hazreen.’
Datuk Dr Mohd Yusoff Sulaiman, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT) highlighted, ‘FameLab is the ideal platform to expose these young professionals and researchers to the public and industry. MIGHT would like to see more industry and academia participation and support by bringing FameLab Malaysia to the next level and not just in communicating science. We hope that their projects and research can increase more scientific literacy, new business opportunities and influence decision makers in science policy matters. FameLab should be the Science populariser programme with the support from the media and government.’
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.
The British Council collaborates with MIGHT to deliver FameLab in Malaysia, with supporting partners the Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Education Malaysia, and EURAXESS ASEAN.
Dr Siti Khayriyyah Mohd Hanafiah was crowned the 2018 FameLab International Champion at the Cheltenham Science Festival in the UK last year. 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.
This year’s competition in Malaysia attracted 62 applicants, while a total of 12 finalists were selected from the Regional Heats held in February and March 2019. The finalists were equipped with science communication skills through a two-day masterclass organised by British Council, delivered by Huw James, a Welsh scientist, adventurer, film maker and a science communicator trainer.
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.