Irish Research Council-funded Scholar Niamh Kavanagh is the new face of science in Ireland

Local scientist, Niamh Kavanagh, has been named the national winner of the FameLab competition and will represent Ireland at the International Finals at the Cheltenham Science Festival in the UK, where Ireland has already a great track record. 

‘Illuminating the Invisible’, Niamh explained how lasers, which reflect pulses of light of anything in their path, are leading the way in aviation safety.  A technology system called LiDAR which uses laser beams to monitor air pollution levels worldwide is now being fitted to airplanes so that pilots can see ash clouds and avoid any potential hazards. LiDAR is a shining light leading the way in airline technology.

Niamh is a PhD student with the Irish Photonic Integration Centre (IPIC), funded by the Irish Research Council. Her current research looks at using new types of fibres that have hollow cores, which offer much higher potential capacity to carry information. Niamh is also a black-belt and a stilt-walker and any efforts to combine all three passions are purely classified.

Organised by the British Council in Ireland and funded by the Science Foundation Ireland Discover programme, FameLab helps emerging scientists acquire valuable skills to communicate their work to a non-scientific audience. By doing so, they not only change the common stereotype of the scientist as “the geek in the white lab coat busy doing strange things”, but also justify public funding for their work.

Second and third place were awarded to Mathematician, Michel Destrade from NUI Galway and Medic, Daragh Finn, INFANT research centre. This year’s finalists had chosen a mind-expanding selection of topics to bring under the microscope – from pig’s surfactant saving premature babies to ageing muscles and immortal jellyfish.

The FameLab winners from all participating countries will compete in June at the International Finals at the Cheltenham Science Festival in the UK. FameLab is an initiative of the Cheltenham Festivals started in 2005 in partnership with NESTA 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 7,000 young scientists and engineers participating in over 30 different countries.