Myrtani Pieri of the University of Cyprus emerged victorious from the melee of pop sci exposition, marking the first time that a woman has won and also the first year that there were equal numbers of men and women in the final. Myrtani holds a PhD in molecular biology from Oxford University and is currently investigating why only some Cypriot families with a specific mutation go on to develop kidney failure.
Inspired by a spate of pregnancies among her friends, she delivered a polished presentation on the pregnancy paradox: how the maternal immune system tolerates the unborn child when half of the genes in the developing child came from “just some random guy”. My fellow judge and codirector of the festival, Kathy Sykes, hailed Myrtani’s blend of content clarity and charisma. “Myrtani was funny and made us care. She covered something familiar, pregnancy, but looked at side of it that people did not know about. I got goosebumps because it felt so personal, so relevant”.
If the stories of previous winners is anything to go by Myrtani will receive widespread recognition back home in Cyprus. Croatia’s Marko Kosicek, the 2008 winner was profiled in Croatian Cosmopolitan, invited on to various TV chat-shows and even discovered that his name became a crossword answer. 2009 winner Mirko Djordjevic has just started his own “Species Investigation Unit” TV show in Serbia.