Plenary session: Storytelling in science communication

Irish Famelab-winner Fergus Mc Auliffe will kick-off this years edition of "Let's talk science". A few years ago Fergus - a PhD student himself at the time - signed up for the international Famelab competition, and promptly won it!

He will talk to us about the barriers that researchers face when trying to communicate their work to non-specialists, and how the story can be one of the most effective tools at breaking down these barriers: parcelling the information in an understandable, and memorable, fashion, and the use of emotion in what is traditionally regarded as an objective subject. We 'll hear about the particular challenges of communicating his PhD research on wastewater, and look at examples from the tv show Fergus now writes for and presents in, and from the science communication work he does in iCRAG - the Irish Centre for Research in Applied Geosciences.

Following Fergus, we asked some young researchers with a passion for science communication to testify on their experiences with storytelling: Should you use humour in your stories? What about visual storytelling? And storytelling on blogs? ... Learn from your colleagues and get inspired!



Fergus Mc Auliffe (@FergusMcAuliffe) studied environmental sciences at the University College Cork. While he was doing a PhD at the same university, he discovered his talent for science communication. He entered and won several competitions, like the ‘Making an impact’ award, ‘Science for all’, and Famelab international. Fergus works as science communicator and researcher in the Irish Centre for Research in Applied Geosciences. He presents ‘Weird science’ in ‘10 things to know about’ on the Irish television, and is involved in several science communication and STEM education projects.

Jeroen Baert (@jbaert) is a Phd student in the Computer Graphics Research group at KU Leuven. At least, that's what people think. At night, he transforms Bruce Wayne-like into his unmasked alter ego Jeroen Baert - a deliciously cunning pseudonym, he knows. Humor is his weapon, damsels in distress are his damsels in distress, and more than two units of alcohol his kryptonite.
Since 2010 he launches himself on stages all over the country. A stage, a micro or megaphone and an audience, that's all he needs. Active and infamous at Preparee, The Belgian Improvisation League and the Joker Impro Team, he tries to use his scientific powers for good at several science events, like the science slam of KU Leuven and FameLab Belgium. Jeroen will tell us about humor – what else? – in storytelling.

Koen Van den Eeckhout (@Koen_VdE) is innovation and subsidy consultant at Ernst and Young. Before entering the consultancy world, he conducted research on making LED lighting cheaper, more efficient and more enjoyable, and in 2013 got a PhD at Ghent University. Koen loves books, movie soundtracks and travelling, but his greatest passions are illustrations, data visualizations and infographics. While doing his PhD he started Baryon, his own business for graphic design services aimed at scientists and academics. Koen will introduce you in the world of visual storytelling to deliver your message in the most simple, clear and elegant way possible.

Pieter Blomme (@pieterbl) is staff member Education at REC and teaching assistant radio at Ghent University, where he teaches students the tricks of the trade in digital storytelling. He is also radio curator, producer and host for the radio show “RELAAS" (on, Stoorzender and Quindo). Last month he co-organized the first Belgium podcast festival, Podcastfest, with live on tape versions of How life works, Relaas, Tech 45… As a passionate podcast lover, he’ll talk about… podcasts!

Hetty Helsmoortel (@hHetty) is a postdoctoral cancer researcher at Ghent University, molecular biologist, theatre lover, scientist in residence at De afspraak on Canvas, and a passionate science communicator who regularly pops up on Radio 1 or in De Morgen. After winning both the 'Wetenschapsbattle' and Famelab Belgium in May 2015, her involvement in science communication gained momentum. But maybe, just maybe, the foundations of her success story were laid a few years earlier. Indeed, much against the wishes of many people, Hetty quit her first PhD and spent two years in theatre school. Hetty will tell us about the power of theatrical narratives in science communication. And about following your dreams.


Slides of the talks can be downloaded below.


Plenary session
auditorium Quetelet, building Tweekerken
Date and time: 
Monday, 4 July, 2016 - 10:00 to 12:00
Available places: 
Remaining places: