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Imperial researcher is TV science star in the making

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Tuesday 25 April 2006
By Abigail Smith

An Imperial College London researcher is aiming to be the next face of TV science after winning a place in the final round of science's answer to Pop Idol.

Chemistry post-doc David Loong impressed judges of the FameLab competition with his fast-paced explanations of everyday science such as why jelly wobbles and how self-tan cream works.

He will now compete against nine other hopefuls in the June final for the opportunity to work with TV producers to pitch programme ideas to Channel 4. If successful, David plans to pursue his idea of deconstructing the science behind objects we use in our day to day lives.

The future face of TV science? David Loong wins FameLab's London heat

"A good example of everyday science is the question of what is in cosmetics," he explains. "The marketing of moisturising cream, for example, is quite funny to scientists. It often uses apparently scientific terms that sound impressive but are actually made up or so generic that they don't really mean anything. I think people are very interested in finding out the truth behind the spin."

David believes his assumption of a public interest in science is one reason for his success, since it meant he did not shy away from tackling complex ideas. He says:

"Some of the other entrants were criticised for not dealing properly with the science, because the judges felt they were patronising the audience. I think science needs to be presented in a way that is not just entertaining but also engages and informs."

David came to Imperial after growing up in New Zealand and studying in London, and attributes his interest in science communication to his experiences of moving from country to country.

"Ive met a lot of new people on my travels and so often get asked the question 'what do you do?'," he says. "I quickly learnt to have an interesting answer since simply saying 'Im a chemist' can scare people away!"

FameLab, now in its second year, is a collaboration between Cheltenham Science Festival and the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA), and is supported by Pfizer, The Daily Telegraph, Research Councils UK, The British Council and Channel 4.

The final will take place at the Cheltenham Science Festival on 10 June 2006. As well as the Channel 4 Development Deal, the winner will receive £2,000.