SANBI scientists win Young Science Communicators Competition

05 April 2017

The South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement’s (SAASTA) Young Science Communicators competition is an initiative that aims to encourage young scientists between the ages of 18 and 35 to communicate their world to the public, beyond their academic peer community. It is one of a number of initiatives at SAASTA aimed at developing science communication skills in scientists and researchers.

Ms Anisha Dayaram and Dr Tlou Masehela are currently employed at the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) based at Kirstenbosch Research Centre in Cape Town. Ms Dayaram specialises on work for vegetation mapping and classification. Dr Masehela leads the programme on the impacts of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) on biodiversity.

They entered the 2016/2017 Young Science Communicators Competition in late 2016, and recently heard they are first and second place winners in the Open Category respectively. This category incorporated all the other (besides popular articles, videos and audio) effective forms of communication including drama, songs, poetry, cartoons and more.

Ms Anisha Dayaram feels quite strongly about changing the perception of scientists as cold, methodical, logic-driven two dimensional people. According to Anisha “we are warm, often funny, and creative”. Her favourite scientists in history were poets and inventors. It is rarely that one can come across a space where scientists can merge their scientific and creative interests, so for Anisha this competition was a fantastic opportunity to showcase how they go well together. 

AnishaMs Anisha Dayaram

She chose to share her creative work through a poem “A Statistical Analysis of a scientist Haplessly in love” because she thinks that it’s a relatable topic. It also makes her laugh at herself, something that she thinks we all need to remember to do every once in a while. When she first got the email that she has won, she could not believe it – however, between bursts of self-doubt, she is going through happy little moments of joy as the news slowly settles in!

Dr Masehela has been following the global advocacy on science communication, and notes how this is essential in communicating and educating our communities on the various research findings achieved by scientists and researchers.

Masehela

Dr Tlou Masehela

After he joined the New Voices in Science writing competition in 2015, which is an initiative of Stellenbosch University, he was even more motivated.

He chose to enter the SAASTA competition by writing a poem “As tiny as I am”, for which he won second place. His passion for pollination research started in 2008 when he joined SANBI as an intern. In 2011 he embarked on a journey, pursuing his PhD focussing on honey bee resources, pollination demands, hive theft and vandalism. Dr Masehela (for he recently received his PhD) is even more excited that he can now share this work with the greater South African audience. 

For more information on their topics, click here 

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