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Explaining Science Through Spiderman Delivers Contest Victory


London, England, June 19, 2006 – Jonathan Wood, an Elsevier editor, was announced the winner of this year’s FameLab, beating out nearly 150 young scientists in a national competition to find the UK’s best new talent in science communication.

FameLab was created to encourage scientists to bring science to life in a fun and engaging way and to inspire and excite public imagination with a vision of science in the 21st century. A panel of judges at the Cheltenham Science Festival was searching for the new faces of UK Science who will be able to develop their ideas and presentation skills for a TV audience. At the auditions, entrants had only three minutes to impress the judges by giving an entertaining and original talk that was scientifically accurate but also engaging to a non-scientific audience.

Dr. Wood’s presentation in the final began with a web-slinging Spiderman as he discussed the strength and toughness of spider silk, how spiders produce it and how ultimately humans might be able to replicate its properties. He described how a company in Canada had transferred genes for spider silk proteins into goats, who then secreted the silk proteins in their milk. Nexia Biotechnologies were able to take these proteins and spin them into strong fibers. In earlier heats, he examined hi-tech swimsuits and the use of nanotechnology in face creams. The 30 year-old Dr. Wood works for Elsevier as the Deputy Editor of Materials Today magazine, which covers the newest, most exciting advances in materials science for senior level researchers in the field. He received his PhD from the School of Biology at the University of Leeds after obtaining his Physics degree at Cambridge.

Dr. Wood won £2,000, the opportunity to work with a television producer to pitch ideas to Channel 4 and an invitation to give presentations at British Council offices around the world. Commenting on his victory, Dr. Wood said, "I’m thrilled to have won such a prestigious contest with so many worthy entrants. For all of us, it is an opportunity to engage the public in what excites us about science – the insights and breakthroughs that give us a new glimpse of reality.”

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About Elsevier
Elsevier is a world-leading publisher of scientific, technical and medical information products and services. Working in partnership with the global science and health communities, Elsevier’s 7,000 employees in over 70 offices worldwide publish more than 2,000 journals and 1,900 new books per year, in addition to offering a suite of innovative electronic products, such as ScienceDirect (, MD Consult (, Scopus (, bibliographic databases, and online reference works.

Elsevier is a global business headquartered in Amsterdam, The Netherlands and has offices worldwide. Elsevier is part of Reed Elsevier Group plc, a world-leading publisher and information provider. Operating in the science and medical, legal, education and business-to-business sectors, Reed Elsevier provides high-quality and flexible information solutions to users, with increasing emphasis on the Internet as a means of delivery. Reed Elsevier’s ticker symbols are REN (Euronext Amsterdam), REL (London Stock Exchange), RUK and ENL (New York Stock Exchange).

About FameLab

FameLab is the brainchild of the Cheltenham Science Festival and NESTA (the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) and supported by Pfizer, Channel 4, The Daily Telegraph, Research Councils UK and The British Council.


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