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Teesside University researcher flying the flag for region at Famelab

13 May 2024


Teesside University PhD student Zoë Bell was named the regional winner of a competition to find the best new voices in science, technology and engineering.

The caption is Famelab regional winner Zoë Bell
The caption is Famelab regional winner Zoë Bell

Zoë was crowned Famelab UK regional winner at the North East heat of the competition, hosted at Teesside University.

FameLab UK is a national competition which aims to encourage scientists to find innovative and interesting ways of communicating their research to engage the public.

The regional competition showcased 12 talented researchers as they presented their work to the public and a panel of judges, all within a three-minute time frame.

Zoë’s winning project looked at the use of microscopic living organisms which can feed on plastic waste, as an alternative waste disposal method to landfill and recycling.

Winners of the regional competitions, including Zoë, now will progress to the national competition at Cheltenham Science Festival in June, for the chance to be named Britain’s best science communicator.

The national competition winner will go on to represent the UK at the FameLab International live online final, alongside researchers from across the world.

Zoë is completing a PhD at Teesside University’s National Horizons Centre, where she also works part-time as a research technician and special lecturer. She also works in the University’s student accommodation as a warden.

She said: “I was encouraged to submit a video entry, which in itself was a bit daunting, as it took me out of my comfort zone. I didn’t think I would even make it through to the next round of in-person presentations at the regionals.

“Giving the presentation itself is all a bit of a blur, so it was a massive surprise to realise I had won. The penny only dropped when the judges starting talking about my project as they announced the winner.”

Zoë, who is from Ashington in Northumberland, said: “I applied to study at Teesside University for the PhD project, supervised by Dr Hong Gao. It was her project which attracted me to apply, along with the fact I’d be carrying out my research at the National Horizons Centre.”

Steph Bales, Director of Research and Enterprise at Teesside University, said: “We were delighted that Teesside University was selected as a regional partner to host this competition.

“It not only provided an opportunity to showcase the high quality of research taking place across our region and demonstrate the breadth of expertise, we were also overjoyed to see Zoe, who is one of our own researchers, achieve regional success and secure her spot in the final.”

Zoë is also involved in organising and promoting the popular Pint of Science Festival which aims to make research more accessible to the public. Led by academics and partners from Teesside University’s National Horizons Centre, the popular Pint of Science festival will be taking place at The Forum in Darlington on 13 and 15 May.

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