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Khayriyyah Mohd Hanafiah (Image: Still Moving Media)

My FameLab Story

We asked our 2018 FameLab International winner Khayriyyah Mohd Hanafiah to write about her journey to FameLab and here is what she had to say…

As a child I devoured books, and growing up I wanted to be a screenplay writer and a film director – to capture stories and share them with others. Incidentally, I did quite well at school and my favorite subject was biology. Eventually, I grew into a career in biomedical sciences, but in hindsight this did not feel so far from my original ambitions. Science has always been about the unique stories present in our world and within us. When we feed an inquisitive mind and use the right tools, these stories will make themselves known, and we can share them with others.

Working in research, however, has diminished some of the romantic appeal of scientific discovery. With managing students and projects, chasing publications and grant applications (and the KPIs and rejections attached therein), fulfilling teaching responsibilities, while juggling my young family, I was in need of some couples therapy in my relationship with science.

So when the opportunity to try my luck out in the FameLab competition came (in the form of a pestering colleague), the inner resistant voice that makes excuses was there, but at the same time a quiet voice, reminiscent of older more romantic times, said why not? – and the rest, as they say, is history.

What I have learned in my FameLab experience can be distilled into the following: 1) Tell a (good) story 2) Ask for help and 3) Edit, edit, and edit.

If it were not for specific individuals who went out of their way to help me polish my presentations and just bounce back ideas, I would never have gone as far as I did, and I would not have gained as much. It was humbling to learn I had the support of not only my family and friends (who have always been there, especially when I needed them), but also the support of strangers from Malaysia and other parts of the world, who wanted to give me the chance to represent not only the science that I do, but also my identity as a Muslim Malaysian female.

Through this competition, I met some individuals that have now become not only my good friends but also professional mentors. Needless to say, the experience has rekindled the old science spark I had, and has allowed me to share it with a much broader audience. This competition has also recalibrated my relationship with scientific research, and I believe there is real strength and power in infecting more researchers and the public at large with science communication, to interact on the same level, speaking the same language and celebrating the same stories that make us human.

Feel inspired?

Enter the FameLab UK 2020 competition