Silal up front in SA heat of international science communication competition

24 Apr 2017 - 10:45

Dr Jabu Nukeri from SAASTA (first left); Dr Sheetal Silall (second from left) Ms Anisa Khan from the British Council (second from right) and Mr Robert Inglis from Jive Media Africa (far right).

Dr Sheetal Silal, senior lecturer and researcher in the Department of Statistical Sciences in the Faculty of Science at UCT was first runner up in the Famelab national heat. The top 10 contestants (selected from 200 participants) from across the country met at the Sci-Bono Science Centre in Johannesburg on Wednesday to battle it out for top place.

The winner of the national Famelab competition was Tshiamo Legoale from Mintek who presented her work on the use of wheat to extract gold from mine dumps. Second runner up was Nanji Sheni, a UCT alumnus, who currently works at Mintek as an engineer-in-training, with a presentation on cleaning up South Africa’s mine dumps.

Silal presented on her work around mathematical modeling of infectious diseases. While her presentation used tuberculosis (TB) as an example of how infectious diseases spread around societies and how scientists use mathematical modeling to understand and track that spread, her primary research is focused on malaria elimination efforts in Southern Africa.

Says Silal: “It was a honour to represent UCT and the province at this competition. Famelab has been a wonderful opportunity to meet South Africa's top young scientists and paints a very positive picture for Science going forward. Competitions like this play an critical role in highlighting the importance of public engagement in Science and I strongly encourage UCT's young researchers to participate in events like these.”

Says Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Internationalisation, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng: “We are very proud of Sheetal for representing both UCT and the Western Cape in the national Famelab heat. I look forward to watching her career grow and hope this is the start of a lifelong commitment to science engagement.

“Every day South African researchers are doing amazing work that will change people’s lives for the better. We need to think more creatively to get that work out into the minds and imaginations of the public. Famelab is a wonderful initiative to set about doing exactly that.”

Famelab is a programme of Cheltenham Festivals UK and implemented globally by the British Council. It is implemented locally in partnership between the British Council, South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA) and JiveMedia Africa. 

Story Natalie Simon.