Research Matters



Fatima Omar – FameLab 2021 Qatar National Winner

This month, we sit down with FameLab Qatar 2021 winner, Fatima Omar, who represented Qatar at the international finals at the Cheltenham Festival in the United Kingdom held virtually last November. Fatima is a Physics & Astrophysics undergraduate student in her final year at the University of Birmingham in the UK. She is a resident of Qatar, where she completed her schooling. After graduating this year, she plans to pursue a master’s degree in astrophysics. Her research will focus on characterizing exoplanet atmospheres to detect signs of life and to help our understanding of Earth’s origins. Outside of research, she enjoys baking, going on long walks, and reading fantasy and science fiction novels! Let’s learn more about her FameLab journey and how she prepared for the international finals.

1. What got you interested in participating in the FameLab competition and how did you prepare for it?

Science communication is an essential aspect of any budding scientist’s career, which is why I sought to develop my skills in this area. I had never heard of FameLab until last year, but my passion for talking about science - especially astronomy - drove me to apply.

To prepare, I attended the initial training offered by QNRF in collaboration with the

British Council before auditions, which introduced me to FameLab. Its engaging nature allowed me to prepare for auditions by introducing me to the competition’s rules and expectations. After auditions, I attended the advanced science communication masterclass. During those two days, I had the opportunity to greatly enhance my presentation skills and learn about public engagement from some of the world's best communicators.

2. Can you please tell us a bit more about your presentation?

My talks had two main themes: exoplanets and habitability, which is where my research interests lie. As their name suggests, exoplanets - or extrasolar planets - are planets located outside our solar system. So far, almost 5,000 exoplanets have been detected. Their characterization is a rapidly developing and trendy field in astronomy. In fact, what inspired my National Final talk is their diversity. Ranging from “hot Jupiters” (big, gassy planets on tight orbits) to rocky “super-Earths” (planets bigger than ours but smaller than Neptune), each planet varies greatly in terms of its properties. I wanted to illustrate the diversity of these planets in an entertaining manner, and hopefully introduce people to a fascinating field.

3. How was the experience of participating in the FameLab competition for you?

It has truly been a rollercoaster from start to finish. Not only did I advance my science communication skills, but I also met so many talented and amazing people. It was a joy to see everyone united by passion and a love for science. I never thought I would make it this far but being a part of this journey has helped me learn from, and collaborate with so many people.

4. How do you feel about qualifying for the international finals and representing Qatar on an international stage?

Representing Qatar at the FameLab International Finals was an amazing opportunity! Being able to represent Qatar on the global map of scientific research has truly been exciting. International collaboration is at the heart of scientific research, and FameLab is the perfect creative bridge between culture and science. I’m currently collaborating with the finalist representing Mexico on a sustainability magazine titled “Tlali Nantli,” which translates to “Mother Earth.” The next edition will feature Qatar’s skyline.

5. Any message for our students who are interested in learning more about science communication and want to participate in future editions of FameLab?

In these times clear and strong science communication is more vital than ever. The world needs more aspiring scientists who seek to share their vast knowledge. FameLab is not just a competition, it encourages us to find a productive path forward by discussing our ideas. To anyone thinking of participating in future editions, do it! FameLab opens up a whole new world of possibilities. In the meantime, keep learning - read books and articles, watch documentaries, listen to science talks. Be a part of the future leaders bringing science communication to the forefront of research.


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