Friday 19 June 2015


Queen's University Belfast student, Emer Maguire, took on the world’s best recently by making it through to the final of an international science competition. 

The Clinical Anatomy student took part in the final of FameLab International 2015 — a global science communication competition — at the Times Cheltenham Science Festival earlier this month.  (Thursday, June 4). 

Competing against 26 other finalists from around the globe — including Australia, Cyprus and Switzerland —  the 23 year-old from Strabane gave a talk on the science of flirting.

However, the self-confessed stand-up scientist was pipped to the post by Oskari Vinko, an MSc student of synthetic biology at ETH Zurich, Switzerland whose talk highlighted the ongoing threat of malaria. Oskari, who is originally from Finland, beat off over 1,000 scientists to win the FameLab title.

This is the eighth year of The FameLab International Final at the Times Cheltenham Science Festival. The prestigious competition – organised by the British Council and Cheltenham Festivals – aims to discover charismatic, up-and-coming scientists who inspire people to see the world from a new perspective in just three minutes.

For Emer, getting through to FameLab International was an amazing experience and she now hopes to carve out a career in science communication.

She said: “For me getting this far was such an achievement – anything else would just have been a bonus. I really enjoyed FameLab and didn’t think I’d ever get this far.

“It’s helped me see that I would like to get more involved in science and I’d like to work in science communication – maybe something more performance-based where I can add a little humour – but I’ll take it as it comes.

 “I’m so proud to have represented the UK and the support I’ve received has been unreal. I’d like to thank everyone for all their encouragement and support.”

It was a tough road to the International Final for Emer however, who had to win several heats — including FameLab Northern Ireland, FameLab UK and the FameLab International semi-final — but she says the long battle has been worth it.

“I’ve met some really inspirational and wonderful people along the way — the international final especially was great as that was the first time in the competition when I got to meet similar people to me from all over the world.”

Emer has a big year in the pipeline and is sure this won’t be the last time we hear from her.

She said: “I’ve got a busy few months ahead because of FameLab – including talking at the first ever TEDxOmagh event in November — but who knows what other opportunities will present themselves. I’m looking forward to embracing all the new challenges that come my way.

“Apart from science, I’m also a singer-songwriter and will be releasing my own song, Lazarus, for the upcoming American documentary — Lazarus Running — which is based on the world-record marathon runner Tom McGrath. 

“Exciting times definitely lie ahead.”

Speaking about Emer’s success, Jonathan Stewart, Deputy Director at British Council Northern Ireland said:

“Getting through to FameLab International is an amazing achievement and I have to congratulate Emer on her success – she’s done incredibly well and we couldn’t be more delighted for her. 

“By speaking at an international level she has done herself and Northern Ireland proud and is a great example to other budding science stars in Northern Ireland. Hopefully this can encourage more scientists to enter FameLab Northern Ireland next year at the Northern Ireland Science Festival and we can unearth even more STEM talent.”

FameLab is an initiative of Cheltenham Festivals started in 2005, and has quickly grown into arguably the world’s leading science communication competition. A partnership with the British Council since 2007 has seen the competition go global with more than 5500 young scientists and engineers having participated from over 30 different countries. In 2015 FameLab is running in 27 countries, with NASA delivering the USA competition, and CERN organising a special CERN-only competition in Switzerland. Cheltenham Festivals and the British Council co-produce the FameLab International Grand Final held at the Cheltenham Science Festival each June. 

This year’s international final was judged by Dr Gill Samuels CBE; British astrophysicist; Matt Taylor and British Council trustee, Tom Thompson OBE

The FameLab International final at the Times Cheltenham Science Festival can still be viewed online:

FameLab Northern Ireland 2016 will take place at the Black Box on Wednesday, February 24th 2016. Applications will open in autumn. For more information visit or follow on Twitter BCouncil_NI. Emer’s winning talk at the FameLab NI final, which has also received over 2,000 views on YouTube, can also be viewed here:


Notes to Editor

The Times Cheltenham Science Festival – 2-7 June 2015

The Times Cheltenham Science Festival is a six-day celebration of science, engineering and the arts and is produced by Cheltenham Festivals. A rare opportunity for the public to come face-to-face with around 300 of the world's leading scientists and thinkers, the Festival annually issues in excess of 45,000 tickets whilst the free interactive Discover Zone and other free events and exhibitions attracts over 17,000 visitors. The six day Festival promises a mix of serious debate, live experiments and surprising discoveries all based at Cheltenham Town Hall.


For further information please contact: 

Claire McAuley T +44 (0) 28 9019 2224 | M +44 (0) 7856524504 Twitter: @BCouncil_NI


About the British Council

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