11 September 2021


  • 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

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 InternationalFinal 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.

‘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.


Notes to Editor

About FameLab

FameLab was founded in 2005 by Cheltenham Science Festival in the United Kingdom and has since grown into a global competition in partnership with the British Council. It was brought to Malaysia in 2015 by the British Council in collaboration with MIGHT with the objective of addressing the communication gap between scientists and the public. The participants will engage and entertain audiences in a three-minute presentation on their chosen STEM concept. Communicating science in an attractive and comprehensible manner to non-scientific audience promotes science education and inspires future generations of scientists whilst increasing public understanding of complex scientific information concerning their daily lives.

In 2016, Malaysia National Champion, Prof. Dr Abhi Veerakumarasivam went on to become FameLab International Champion defeating national winners from 27 different countries. He was the first FameLab International Champion for Malaysia and also for Asia region. Dr Siti Khayriyyah Mohd Hanafiah, or ‘Kye’, a 33-year old Biological Science lecturer from Malaysia, was crowned the FameLab International 2018 Champion in June 2018.

Globally, FameLab is a successful model in identifying, training and mentoring young scientists and engineers to share their enthusiasm for the subjects with the public. As one of the biggest science communications competitions in the world, FameLab reached out to more than 10,000 scientists and engineers from more than 30 different countries who have competed in FameLab worldwide since 2007 and earned more than 54 million media views each year. It is truly an international event where scientists and engineers from around the world meet, network and engage international audiences whilst broadening their views of what it means to be working in science today.

About Cheltenham Festivals

Cheltenham Festivals is the charitable organisation behind the town’s internationally acclaimed Jazz, Science, Music and Literature Festivals. Through cutting edge and creative programming, Cheltenham’s four inspirational festivals have been at the fore-front of the UK’s cultural scene since the inaugural Music Festival in 1945. www.cheltenhamfestivals.com

About Cheltenham Science Festival 

Cheltenham Science Festival is a six-day celebration of science, engineering and the arts and is produced by Cheltenham Festivals. The Festival brings the world's leading scientists and thinkers face to face with the public for debates, experiments and surprising discoveries. The Festival’s Science for Schools year-round programme offers inspirational and interactive opportunities including science communication competition FameLab Academy, LabLive touring science shows, hands-on workshops and a careers day for young people aged 14+. www.cheltenhamfestivals.com/science

About Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT)

The Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT) is a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee. MIGHT plays a key role in developing Malaysia’s high technology for business through its role as a think-tank, private-public consensus building and business nurturing platforms. It is an organisation built on the strength of public-private partnership with more than 100 members, both local and international, from industry, government and academia. www.might.org.my

Supporting Partners

About the Ministry of Higher Education Malaysia (MoHE)

MoHE’s integral role is to increase students’ achievement through an efficient education system that includes creating a higher education ecosystem. The Department of Higher Education (DOHE) is a department under the Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE) overseeing higher education matters in Malaysia. Higher education institutions under the purview of DOHE are Public Universities (UA) and Private Higher Educational Institutions (PHEIS). They are the main components of the national education ecosystem to generate first-rate thinkers, scholars, masters and skilled and semi-skilled manpower.  DOHE is the key department responsible for developing policies and programmes in pushing for Malaysian higher education excellence. DOHE is also responsible for strategising and realising initiatives to strengthen Malaysia’s research capacity. Since 2007, DOHE has introduced programmes to develop and strengthen research foundation in Malaysia. DOHE is now pursuing international collaborations to intensify research and innovation. www.mohe.gov.my.

About the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI)

Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation or better known as MOSTI, envision for Malaysia to be a high-tech nation through science, technology, innovation and economy (STIE) by:

  • Leading advanced technology and innovation to increase our country’s global competitiveness. technology
  • Prospering national technology development.
  • Providing effective and efficient STIE enablers and services through agile governance.
  • Harnessing talent through inclusive approach for high performance delivery.
  • Communicating science effectively for accelerated STIE growth.

MOSTI’s mission is to spearhead STIE to Address National Issues and Challenges for Societal Well-being and Sustainable Development by:

  • Leading STIE development through R&D&C&I towards wealth creation and High-Tech Nation for economic growth, environmental sustainability and societal well-being.
  • Developing STIE enablers and providing services in responding to national issues through scientific approach, advanced technology and capacity building.
  • Planning and enculturating STIE in all aspects of life and society to achieve High-Tech Nation and shared prosperity.

For media inquiries, please contact:

Ikram Khasim

Head of Communications
British Council
E: Ikram.Khasim@britishcouncil.org  

Ani Suzila Anas
Events, Media & Communications
E: ani@might.org.my

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We build connections, understanding and trust between people in the UK and other countries through arts and culture, education and the English language. Last year we reached over 80 million people directly and 791 million people overall including online, and through broadcasts and publications. Founded in 1934 we are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body. We receive a 15 per cent core funding grant from the UK government. www.britishcouncil.org

The British Council has been working in Malaysia since 1948.