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Athira Menon, postdoctoral researcher at the UvA Anton Pannekoek Institute for Astronomy, has won a shared second place in the international final of FameLab. FameLab is a pitch competition for young researchers, in which they have to explain their research to the general public in three minutes, without the use of slides.

The winners of FameLab 2019, with Athira Menon in the middle. Photo: Cheltenham Festival

With her vivid story about gravitational waves, Menon left behind the most talented science communicators from dozens of other countries. In total 31 countries from all over the world participate in FameLab. The participants of the international final have already qualified themselves in a regional, national and then the semi-international final.

Tim Gordon from the University of Exeter won first place this year. It was the first time a Briton won the competition since it was founded in 2007 by the Cheltenham Science Festival in collaboration with the British Council. Menon shares her runner-up place with Keneilwe Moropa from the Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa.

Menon previously won the Amsterdam final and the national Dutch final. In the Amsterdam final she spoke about a very special supernova, which turned out to be the result of the merger of two stars. She won the national final with a story about how a long time ago two black holes merged into one very large black hole. We can now measure the gravitational waves that were emitted during this event on earth. Menon explained in a very accessible way what exactly these gravitational waves are, and how by detecting them we can measure the invisible universe. It is this same story with which she now won the shared second place in the international FameLab final in Cheltenham.

You can watch a registration of the entire final in the video below. Menon can be seen from around 45:00.

Watch the FameLab international final 2019