12 November 2019

Scicomm adventures in South Africa

Posted by Shane Hanlon

By Thashen Naiboo

Science communication is critical to inspiring future generations, which I only realised at the beginning of this year after attending the Famelab scicomm workshop at Wits. My involvement in Famelab and Science Slam was incredible.

Me competing in Famelab. Credit: Thashen Naiboo


It was a fascinating experience, the start of my science communication journey. I just started my honours, relatively early in my research, but I discovered a hidden talent in me- that of creativity. My research is looking at the variation of the b-value (which is the gradient from a frequency-magnitude relation) in space and time and is supervised by prof Ray Durrheim and Prof Gordon Cooper, from the Wits Geosciences department. The Famelab at Wits was a huge success for me after being the regional winner, which I then proceeded to Durban for a chance to compete at the Cheltenham Science Festival in the United Kingdom.

I can say that I did not win there, but the end result was a young boy (around 10 years old, a potential future seismologist) that came up to me who thoroughly enjoyed my talk on earthquakes and maths. Simplicity and creativity are definitely tools for inspiring future talent.

Me after placing second in the Science Slam. Credit: Thashen Naiboo

Science Slam

This competition involved a slightly different approach to judging because high school learners from various schools had the final say. They judged us on creativity, content and clarity. If we were able to capture their attention for the talk, then we scored very high! I placed second amongst MSc, PhD and postdoctoral researchers. I must say, it was intimidating, but it put me out of my comfort zone and increased my confidence in public speaking. The learners loved it when I was talking about earthquakes, and then suddenly popped a balloon. That sudden ‘aftershock’ (pun intended) left the kids in awe. The Wits geosciences department is incredibly supportive of all my actions and their constant motivation is part of the reason for my successes. I hope more kids are aware of the variety that exists in earth sciences.


Thashen Naiboo is a Geophysics honours student and science communicator at Wits University