John Moraes wins Tech on Tap
20 June 2011
John Moraes, a PhD student working with Associate Professor Sébastien Perrier and Professor Thomas Maschmeyer in the School of Chemistry, has won Tech on Tap - a science communication competition giving PhD students and researchers the opportunity to explain their research, and how it will benefit society, in 2.5 minutes.
Taking a comic approach, John likened his PhD research of grafting polymers onto silica nanospheres, to being like growing hair on tiny balls. His 'hairy balls' concept, and all the jokes attached, were a hit in the Sydney pub where Tech on Tap was held and won John the top prize of $5000.
The pub audience of "drinkers, thinkers and business people" heard from 20 PhD students and early career researchers about their research, with contestants using comedy, song, dance, poetry and dressing up as famous movie characters to explain their research.
"Tech on Tap was a challenge in that it asks scientists to give an 'elevator pitch' of their project to a pub full of laymen. I think this is quite a valuable skill for early career researchers to have," said John.
"It was fun, but it was certainly challenging too. The other contestants were great. We had poetry, cross-dressing males and females, a dance number to the tune of 'Walk this Way' and special appearances by both Darth Vader and Dorothy of Oz!"
A panel of academics and business people judged the presentations, looking for enlightenment, laughs and technology on tap.
"My PhD research is about grafting polymers to silica nanospheres. In very crude laymans terms, this could be construed as growing hair on tiny balls. I explored the comedic potential of these descriptions to the desired effect," said John.
"I led people through the modification of silica nanoparticles by grafting polymers onto them - the 'hairy balls'. I explained how this resulted in novel properties and how I hoped to exploit the material. Bringing along a sample of my nanoparticles that I'd grafted a flourescent molecule onto, I showed the audience that my hairy balls glowed, using a black-light torch!"
Tech on Tap is a popular part of the Amplify Festival, run by AMP, which brings together thinkers, business innovators and thought leaders from all over the world to Australia for one week, to explore the edge of business innovation and ideas. The Amplify Festival started in 2005 as a learning experiment for AMP staff, and is now open to the general public.
"My supervisor, Associate Professor Sébastien Perrier, asked me if I was interested in entering Tech on Tap and I thought it sounded like a great opportunity. I'm pretty comfortable with public speaking, as I tutored here at the University of Sydney for two years and have presented at several conferences. The bigger challenge was figuring out how to pitch the jokes just right," said John.
"Winning Tech on Tap shows I can distil down the essence of my PhD research into a series of double entendres! But more importantly, I like to think that the judges felt that I did a good job of explaining my project, which is really gratifying," said John.
"With my $5000 prize, I'll probably buy a new computer when it comes time to write my thesis and treat my mates to a round at the pub!"
Read more about Tech on Tap at: www.amplifyfestival.com.au/tech-on-tap1
Contact: Katynna Gill
Phone: 02 9351 6997