Catch MQ PHD student Vanessa Pirotta and Famelab national winner on the AusScience Channel


Macquarie University PhD student Vanessa Pirotta from the Department of Biological Sciences won a spot to compete in the 2018 FameLab national finals in Perth this Thursday (10 May).

FameLab is a live science communication event where PhD students present their research in three minutes.

Vanessa is one of 12 finalists competing for the national title, which includes a $1000 prize and a trip to the UK to present at the international finals.

Vanessa’s research is revolutionising the way scientists collect health information from whales. Her project investigates the use of drones to collect health information from fre- swimming whales. Collection of whale blow/snot is done via a custom-built waterproof drone installed with a petri dish.

Previous methods to collect health information from whales came from those that washed up on a beach, in which case their health was compromised, or from those that were deliberately hunted. Current methods involve close boat approaches using a pole.

Australia’s Science Channel will livestream the event, so to watch Vanessa and the rest of the finalists in action, click for a preview here.

Click on the video here:


News just in (11 May): The British Council has congratulated  Vanessa for winning the national FameLab competition for her engaging presentation on her use of drones to collect whale snot. She will go on to represent Australia in the FameLab International finals in the UK. We contacted her shortly after her win to ask her about it.

FameLab is all about presenting your project in three minutes in a compelling way. What do you think won the judges over with your presentation?

It could have been a number of things but most likely my presentation met the FameLab criteria of the three C’s; content, clarity and charisma. They also judge your responses to questions.

How did you feel when you won?
I still can’t believe that I won! It took a few seconds to sink in. All the other competitors were amazing and I thought maybe one of the others was sure to have won first place.

When will you head to the UK to compete at the International FameLab 2018?
I  head there early June. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to share my research on a international stage. I am really excited.

Will you keep the presentation the same for the international competition?
Competitors in the international final have to have two versions of their talks. I will need to make some final tweaks to both talks in preparation for the final event. Thank you for your support with my FameLabAus experience.

You can keep updated on Vanessa Pirotta’s research by following her on twitter @VanessaPirotta





Back to homepage


Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *

We encourage active and constructive debate through our comments section, but please remain respectful; you are part of a diverse community. You may wish to read Macquarie's Student Code of Conduct and the Public Comment Policy before you post.

Any comments deemed to be obscene, discriminatory or defamatory will be removed and where appropriate, further action may be taken.