09 July 2020

Atteleth Don, FameLab Malaysia 2020 Champion, advocates the urgent need to save mangrove forests

Atteleth Don was crowned the FameLab Malaysia National Final 2020 Champion, coming up tops against 11 other science communicators from across the country. In accordance with prevailing SOPs, the championship was held in the limited presence of participants and attending judges at the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT) in Cyberjaya, as well as streamed live on YouTube.

Don’s winning talk was titled ‘Save our Homes by Saving our Mangroves’. ‘Mangrove forests form a dense barrier along our coasts and become our first line of defence against natural disasters such as tsunamis as they absorb and reduce impact, saving lives and homes,’ he said.

After eight years studying in the field of marine science and oceanography, Don built an interest towards science communication to engage people through interactive approaches. Through jokes, stories and even drama, he uses everything in his arsenal to build public awareness and understanding on the environment.

Don further explained: ‘Mangrove forests are also home to migratory birds seeking refuge and rest during rough weather, and to small juvenile fish seeking protection in their dense root system underwater, while the muddy ground is a social site for male crabs to mingle with females. Mangrove forests don’t just save lives and our homes, but also various plants and animal species living within them too. Through conservation and proper forest management, we can coexist with nature for generations to come.’

Don receives a RM3,000 cash prize and will represent Malaysia at the FameLab International Final later this year. He also wins a trip to the UK sponsored by MIGHT, One Team Networks and the British Council worth RM11,500; the EURAXESS ASEAN Prize 2020 worth EUR600 which offers the unique opportunity to visit a research lab or university anywhere in the UK or the 27 European Union member states; and a visit to Cardiff and Eureka Robotics Lab sponsored by Cardiff Metropolitan University worth GBP1,000.

Sarah Deverall, 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. Our work creates new relationships, builds inclusive societies, strengthens capacity, facilitates collaborations for international research and creates a supportive environment for science development, translation, and innovation. We are proud of the Malaysian talents displayed this year, building on the excellent standards Malaysia has become renowned for in recent years. Congratulations to all the finalists and of course to the 2020 Malaysia National Champion, Atteleth Don.’

Datuk Dr. Mohd Yusoff Sulaiman, President & CEO of MIGHT highlighted: ‘FameLab is a unique, entertaining platform to nurture and showcase the communication skills of young professionals and researchers to the masses. The young communicators will share their research and knowledge in a light and lucid manner to promote science literacy, research findings and science diplomacy. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the important role of a ‘science communicator’ to heed science with the right facts and as a solution provider, and to use science and technology to overcome the world’s fragility. If done well, it can save lives and provide comfort and ease to the public.’

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 sponsorship partners One Team Networks Sdn Bhd, EURAXESS ASEAN and EUREKA Robotics Lab, Cardiff School of Technologies, Cardiff Metropolitan University. Supporting partners are the Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Higher Education Malaysia (MoHE), The Petri Dish, and Science Media Centre (SMC) Malaysia.

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.

This year’s competition in Malaysia attracted 53 applicants, with a total of 12 finalists selected from the Regional Heats held in January and February 2020. The finalists were equipped with science communication skills through a two-day masterclass organised by the British Council, delivered by Quentin Cooper who is one of the most familiar and popular UK voices of science and technology. He is a hugely experienced moderator, interviewer, trainer, lecturer and the host for FameLab International.

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 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, 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 with Malaysia since 1948.

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

Sponsorship Partners

About One Team Networks Sdn. Bhd.

One Team Networks Sdn. Bhd. advocates the fight against Aedes mosquitoes to save human lives by aiming to achieve practical and low-tech solutions that have a real impact in resource-poor disease-endemic areas, where this is needed the most. www.onedream.com.my


EURAXESS ASEAN is a networking tool for European researchers active/seeking activity in ASEAN and for ASEAN researchers wishing to collaborate with and/or pursue a career in Europe. EURAXESS ASEAN provides information about research in Europe, European research policy, opportunities for research funding, for EU-ASEAN and international collaboration and for trans-national mobility. Membership is free. Visit us at asean.euraxess.org

About EUREKA Robotics Lab, Cardiff School of Technologies, Cardiff Metropolitan University

As one of the flagship research clusters at the Cardiff School of Technologies, EUREKA Robotics Lab is the innovative research hub nested in the School of Technologies, Cardiff Metropolitan University, serving Wales and global stakeholders. It is profiled by the International Trade Department of the UK government (pp.11 & 21) as one of the leading specialist centres in the UK to access Social-Service Robotics facilities and long-term healthcare robotics R&D. Its contribution in education provision for Fourth Industrial Revolution has been published by the UK Parliament Education Department.

Grounding on the artificial intelligence techniques and data visualisation and analytics capacities, the lab aims to educate and research the service and social humanoid robotics, from the world-class research inquiry and education innovation. http://www.cardiffmet.ac.uk/eureka

Supporting Partners

About the Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Higher Education Malaysia (MoHE)

MoHE’s integral role is to increase student’s 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). These institutions are the main components in the national education ecosystem and training to generate first-rate thinkers, scholars, masters, skilled and semi-skilled manpower in accordance with their respective roles. DOHE is the key department responsible in developing policy and programmes in pushing the Malaysian higher education excellence. DOHE is also responsible in strategising and realising the initiative to strengthen Malaysia’s research capacity through various programmes. Since 2007, DOHE has introduced programmes to develop and strengthen research foundation in Malaysia. DOHE is now pursuing international collaboration to intensify research and innovation. www.mohe.gov.my

About The Petri Dish

The Petri Dish is Malaysia’s first science newspaper. It is published by The Malaysian Biotechnology Information Centre (MABIC), a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to create public awareness of science/biotechnology. https://thepetridish.my/

About Science Media Centre (SMC) Malaysia

Science Media Centre (SMC) Malaysia is an information resource centre aimed at promoting accurate and evidence-based reporting especially on complex or controversial science issues in the media. We connect journalists to credible and articulate scientists from across various research fields. We also help scientists to communicate their research effectively and ultimately make science mainstream and accessible to the public. https://sciencemediacentremalaysia.com/


For media inquiries, please contact:

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

Rowena Lim
Programmes Manager, Science
E: rowena.lim@britishcouncil.org.my