Why Do We Kiss?

Queen's University student Emer Maguire wins FameLab science communication competition with intriguing talk exploring humans' urge to kiss - watch her hilarious presentation in full

They say it’s all in the kiss, and for Queen’s University student Emer Maguire this certainly rang true as she walked away with the FameLab Northern Ireland title following an entertaining and enlightening battle with eight other scientific hopefuls at a ceremony hosted by celebrity mentalist, David Meade.

Maguire's talk, which was based on the science of kissing and why we smooch, saw her delight and horrify the Black Box, Belfast audience as she talked for three minutes about immune systems, saliva and chemical cocktails. Watch her full presentation in the video below.

FameLab is an initiative of Cheltenham Festivals started in 2005, which has quickly grown into one the world’s leading science communication competitions. A partnership with the British Council since 2007 has seen the competition go global with more than 5,500 young scientists and engineers having participated from over 30 different countries.

In 2015 FameLab is running in 29 countries, with NASA delivering the USA competition, and CERN organising a special CERN-only competition in Switzerland. Cheltenham Festivals and the British Council co-produce the FameLab International Grand Final held at the Cheltenham Science Festival each June. The Belfast heat was part of the inaugural NI Science Festival.

Maguire will now go forward to the prestigious UK final. The Strabane native, who is currently studying for a Masters in Clinical Anatomy, claimed to be 'still in shock' after the competition concluded.

'I can’t believe I’ve actually won,' Maguire added, 'but I’m absolutely delighted and can’t wait to see where FameLab takes me. Tonight has been an unbelievable, but really enjoyable experience. When I walked into the Black Box this evening my initial reaction was to turn and run as I was ridiculously nervous, but once I got onto the stage I was fine and raring to go.'

Maguire, who also works as a speech and language therapist, had never thought about a career in science communication until entering the competition. 'FameLab has definitely made me think about my future. As a speech and language therapist, communication is vital, so I would love to be able to combine this and my Masters to make science more accessible and something everyone can experience. FameLab has given me the confidence to do this.'

Maguire faced stiff competition from her peers, who covered everything from the Fifty Shades of Blue and the power to eat grass to golden jellyfish and bad blood. Hailing from Queen’s University Belfast, Ulster University, the Belfast Health Trust and Belfast Metropolitan College, the eight other finalists made the decision a difficult task for the FameLab judges.

FameLab aims to discover charismatic scientists who inspire people to see the world from a new perspective – in just three minutes. Speaking about the competition, Jonathan Stewart, Deputy Director at British Council Northern Ireland said: 'Competitions such as FameLab help to engage the public in science and challenge perceptions.

'Through FameLab we can encourage a more STEM literate society and engage young people in international science opportunities, while also giving as many scientists and engineers the opportunity to engage with the public and develop their career with thousands of like-minded scientists around the world.

'Tonight’s final at Belfast’s Black Box demonstrates the breadth of talent and expertise available in Northern Ireland, and is something that should be celebrated. Hopefully this won’t be the last time we hear from any of our finalists and we look forward to bringing FameLab back to Northern Ireland next year.'