University of Sheffield helps to launch online search for the next Alice Roberts

The University of Sheffield has joined forces with Cheltenham Festivals to ensure that FameLab UK, the world's biggest international science communication competition, can go on during the Coronavirus pandemic

Dr Nate Adams, host of the FameLab Northern Final with the infamous “3-minute” presentation alarm.

Following the introduction of social distancing measures during the Coronavirus pandemic, the Public Engagement team at the University of Sheffield made rapid changes to ensure the FameLab UK Northern Final could go ahead. These changes resulted in the final being the first live FameLab UK competition to be held online, ensuring that the University could still bring people together and have a positive impact through public engagement despite current circumstances.

“I am thrilled that we managed to pull off the online event. It would have been a shame if we had to cancel it outright as these activities are so beneficial to the professional development of our researchers, and to the relationship between the public and science. Public trust in, and comprehension of, scientific research is incredibly important. I would like to say a huge 'thank you' to the judges and the contestants for taking part; they all did a fantastic job under challenging circumstances."


FameLab UK, launched in 2005 by Cheltenham Science Festival, is the only international science communication competition designed to find, train and mentor scientists and engineers to share their enthusiasm for research with the public. Participants from around the world engage and entertain attendees armed only with their wits and a few props – the result is an unpredictable, enlightening and exciting way to encourage viewers’ curiosity whilst informing them about current research. Since 2007 over 10,000 scientists and engineers from 31 countries have participated, with country winners coming together for the International FameLab Final at Cheltenham Science Festival each June. The result is a vibrant global network of scientists and engineers engaging with international audiences.

The Northern final, intended to be held at Tamper Seller’s Wheel in Sheffield, was instead launched successfully online. Seven contestants participated from across the region, including representatives from the Universities of Sheffield, Hull, Manchester and Leicester. Aimee Paskins from the University of Sheffield progressed to the FameLab finals, receiving up to £2000 prize money, a masterclass with a professional science communicator and the opportunity to take place in the FameLab UK final, which will be streamed live on Cheltenham Festivals YouTube Channel, on Wednesday 3 June at 7pm.

The technical development of the online event was shared with FameLab partners to enable others to utilise the Sheffield model. Further successful online events have now been held by both nationally and internationally.

Nate Adams, Research Scientist and Science Communicator, said “Being the first FameLab event after the social distancing measures were introduced was somewhat daunting, as I’m very much a live event person. But with the good will of the competitors, judges and compere, we pulled it off, and in the end, it felt like a really lovely friendly event. 

Fame Lab is a wonderful competition that I have followed for several years. I am really proud to be representing the North of England and excited to share my research with people from all over the world.

Aimee Paskins, Fame Lab UK Northern Finals winner

For further information on FameLab UK and future event information visit FameLab UK

Public Engagement at the University of Sheffield