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Leader in Integrated ICT Hardware & Systems

Tyndall student wins FameLab!

Posted on: 11 Apr 2016

Tyndall student wins FameLab!

Niamh Kavanagh

Early career scientist, Niamh Kavanagh from Wexford, 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. Supported by the British Council and Science Foundation Ireland, FameLab is providing this PhD student in Photonics with the skills to share her research with a wider audience.

‘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) at Tyndall National Institute, funded by the Irish Research Council. This came as a surprise to no one, since she always went on and on about how much she loved lasers and fibre-optics.  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.

Communicating science accessibly and attractively is an ever-growing priority for researchers and others working in and studying science worldwide. Organised by the British Council Ireland, funded by the Science Foundation Ireland Discover programme and supported by the #ScienceRising campaign, 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 three-minute presentations were judged by a panel of scientists and communication experts according to FameLab’s golden rule - the 3C’s: Content, Clarity and Charisma. One of the biggest prizes for all finalists is the opportunity to attend a science communication master class lead by the best UK trainers in this area.

Commenting on the Famelab National Final, Niamh Lyons, Interim Director of Communications, Science Foundation Ireland, said “I would like to congratulate Niamh Kavanagh and all of participants in the final.  Science Foundation Ireland through its new campaign #ScienceRising is focused on creating the important connections between researchers and the general public and industry with the aim of encouraging more people to study science and to support further understanding of the impact that scientific research has on both the wider economy and society. Famlab provides an important opportunity for early staged researchers to learn how to communicate their work in an accessible manner”.

Niamh Kavanagh

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. NASA has license to deliver the competition in the USA. For more information about FameLab, please visit:


Notes to the Editor


The British Council creates international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and builds trust between them worldwide. We are a Royal Charter charity, established as the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. Our 7000 staff in over 100 countries work with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year through English, arts, education and society programmes.  A quarter of our funding comes from a UK government grant, and we earn the rest from services which customers pay for, education and development contracts we bid for, and from partnerships. For more information, please visit: You can also keep in touch with the British Council through and

In Ireland, Famelab is managed by the British Council and is funded through the Science Foundation Ireland Discover programme.  It is delivered in partnership with Newstalk 106-108fm, NUI Galway, Science Gallery Dublin, Tyndall National Institute and the University of Limerick and is supported by CPL Resources Plc and Henkel Ireland Ltd. 

Science Foundation Ireland funds oriented basic and applied research in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) which promotes and assists the development and competitiveness of industry, enterprise and employment in Ireland. The Foundation also promotes and supports the study of, education in and engagement with, STEM and promotes an awareness and understanding of the value of STEM to society and in particular to the growth of the economy.  See

#ScienceRising supporting Innovation 2020 – it is a Science Foundation Ireland campaign that creates the connection for industry and individuals with science and innovation in Ireland.


Science Rising -– The Story
Ireland is a nation where curious minds live, learn and discover. Known as the land of famous writers, actors and musicians, Ireland is also home to esteemed inventors, explorers, scientists and leaders. Together we shape the future.  Science is part of our past, a past that is often overlooked, an immense part of our present and it is key to our success. There is endless potential still to be realised. The growing impact of Irish scientific achievement will make a difference in people’s lives, support industry investment, future proof our skill base and involve everyone in the potential of science and innovation. We will continue to question, imagine, collaborate, discover, answer and create. We will make a difference to Irish society and our economy.  More importantly, we will make a difference to humankind.



About Tyndall National Institute

Tyndall National Institute is a European leading research centre in integrated ICT (Information and Communications Technology) hardware and systems. Specialising in both electronics and photonics – materials, devices, circuits and systems – Tyndall works with industry and academia to transform research into products in its core market areas of electronics, communications, energy, health, agri-food & the environment. With a network of over 200 industry partners and customers worldwide, we are focused on delivering real impact from our excellent research. Tyndall at University College Cork, Ireland, employs over 460 researchers, engineers and support staff, with a full-time graduate cohort of 125 students. The institute generates over 230 peer-reviewed publications each year. We are experts at designing, miniaturising and prototyping products that are driving connectivity in the application of the industrial internet. Tyndall is the lead institution for the Science Foundation Ireland funded Irish Photonics Integration Centre (IPIC).