You don’t often hear the words ‘maths’ and ‘sex’ in the same sentence. That’s a line from Sarah Belet, as she described her research in the global science competition, ‘FameLab’.
Her talk titled, “Maths, medicine, and mosquito sex”, won the Victorian state competition for FameLab and propelled her to the national FameLab finals.
“I was surprised I won the Victorian competition. I had met the other researchers at some training workshops we had before everything shut down. They’re strong communicators,” says Sarah.
Sarah is an ACEMS master’s research student in applied mathematics at Monash University. Her research involves the development of mathematical models to combat the spread of dengue fever, a very serious problem. But she was able to bring a twist to her video by talking about how mosquito sex fit into the equation.
“My aim was to take my research and then communicate it in a way that I felt people would then want to go to the pub and talk with their friends about it,” says Sarah.
It worked. The video won her the opportunity to compete in the national finals. While she didn’t win, the experience was invaluable. It included getting a one-on-one training session with BBC television presenter Dallas Campbell. He urged Sarah to be more herself by not scripting her presentation.
“I agreed with him. I’m much better when I’m just myself. He really pushed me to do that and communicate the emotions behind my research,” says Sarah.
Sarah said she entered the competition so she could continue to work on her communication skills.
“I believe that part of being a good researcher is being able to communicate your work properly,” says Sarah.
Already, Sarah has done quite a bit of communicating. She’s done TV and radio interviews, produced and hosted podcasts, and written for both ABC News and The Conversation.
But her aim isn’t to be in communications.
“The reason why I'm doing this is to make me a better researcher. I don't want to be a communications expert with a mathematics background. I want to be a mathematician who is good at communicating their work,” says Sarah.
It’s something Sarah has already proven herself to be, which was recognised by the ACEMS Outreach Participation Award at the Centre’s annual retreat. We look forward to hearing more from her!