Talk Like a FameLabber
DR. WANANIT JOINED THE COMPETITION LAST YEAR AND MADE IT INTO THE TOP GROUP OF TEN FINALISTS. LET'S HEAR MORE FROM HER!
PLEASE INTRODUCE YOURSELF – ROLES OF WOMEN IN SCIENCE
My name is Wananit Wimuttisuk, but most people know me as May. I obtained my Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Brown University in the U.S. I have been working as a researcher at the National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in Thailand for the past nine years. My research focuses on the reproductive maturation of the black tiger shrimp, which is an important aquaculture export of Thailand. I always loved science as a child, and now, aside from my role as a researcher, I also volunteer at the Children’s Science Camp. I get to interact with children at elementary school and high school and hope to be able to inspire them to love science and pursue a career in it, just like I did.
TELL US ABOUT THE TOPIC YOU PRESENTED IN FAMELAB’S FINAL ROUND. WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO TALK ABOUT IT? TELL US ABOUT HOW YOU PREPARED YOUR STORY AND PROPS.
During the final round of FameLab, I talked about how bacteria can become drug resistant. I chose this topic because antibiotic resistance has become a major problem all over the world. There are patients who have contracted a “superbug” which has multiple drug resistant genes, which means it cannot be killed by any antibiotics available. If we continue to misuse antibiotics and inadvertently create more antibiotic resistant bacteria, we will go back to a ‘dark age’ where there are no treatments available for any bacterial infections. It is frightening to think that 50 million people could be killed by such superbugs within the next ten years if these trends continue.
Unfortunately, people in Thailand have very little awareness about antibiotic resistance, so I wanted to spread the message by talking about it in the final round of FameLab. My strategy to make my talk as memorable as possible involved telling the story from the bacteria’s perspective. I wanted to make it funny to make people remember, so I dressed as a strain of bacteria known as Staphylococcus aureus, which is yellow and round, just like the prop I had on my head. My story was about the journey of an innocent bacterium that is exposed to antibiotics and has to fight for its survival by developing several drug resistant mechanisms. My two other props were a sword, which symbolised an enzyme that cuts up antibiotics and stacks of papers that represent copies of antibiotic resistant genes that could be spread around to other bacteria. But my final message was to tell the audience to use antibiotics only when necessary, and use them correctly so that bacteria cannot develop more antibiotic resistance.
WHY IS SCIENCE COMMUNICATION IMPORTANT?
As a scientist, I’ve always thought that science is this amazing wealth of knowledge that everyone should be fascinated by. But unfortunately, not many people share this opinion. One of the reasons is that science is often presented in a dry and academic way that makes people tune out. So to reach the public, scientists must learn to tell a story in layman’s terms and maybe add humour or a punch-line to make the story memorable. If we can grab the public’s interest in science, so many things could be accomplished with this. We could use science to eliminate superstition or beliefs that may be harmful to people’s lives. Students will finally understand the content in their class and be able to apply the knowledge to other projects, maybe even get inspired to become scientists too. If government officials understand how important science is, more funding and research opportunities will be available, which will result in more scientific discoveries that can further improve the quality of life for all of society, and create jobs for people all over the world.