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Justin Bieber parody wins Scifest ‘science idol’ grand prize

Media release – Friday 6 July 2012

Justin Bieber parody wins Scifest ‘science idol’ grand prize

Image attached by
Chris Sullivan – James Mustapic and Tom McFadden in
University of Otago’s Albany Street Music
Image by Chris Sullivan – James Mustapic and Tom McFadden in University of Otago’s Albany Street Music Studio

New Zealand International Science Festival, Dunedin, 30 June to 8 July 2012

He’s 16 years old, was born in Canada but now lives in Dunedin and loves making videos for YouTube. James Mustapic has created a scientific musical parody from Justin Bieber’s latest release, scooping the grand prize in the 2012 Scifest ‘science idol’ competition with his clip ‘Covalent Love’.

James, a student from Dunedin’s John McGlashan College, entered the competition never thinking that he would win it. “I knew a Justin Bieber parody would be great. I wanted a popular song that was new; the song is about a boy wanting a girl and the atoms fitted into that well.”

“I don’t think I’m a very good singer, so I wasn’t confident about the song, but I really enjoyed writing the lyrics and knew a fair bit about the science I was trying to sing about,” says James.

Tom McFadden performed live at the Scifest celebration of “whose science is it anyway?”, held in Dunedin on Friday 6 July from 7pm at the University of Otago’s College of Education Auditorium.

Tom said James had created a song that met all of the judging criteria including critiquing scientific content, lyrical ingenuity and suitability for performance.

“What makes his song so cool is that it takes a traditional formula of a pop song and maintains that magic while exploring a critical chemical concept with depth, accuracy and pizzazz. We’ve checked his submission for scientific accuracy and the final audio will be an expanded version of his original submission,” says Tom.

The evening event celebrated the science festival with a night spent looking at ‘the wisdom of age vs. the enthusiasm of youth’. Guests included Mayor Dave Cull as MC alongside popular clinical psychologist Nigel Latta, University of Otago’s Prof Richie Poulton and Prof Lloyd Davis, coupled with loads of audience participation and laughs.

The judging panel for the ‘science idol’ competition consisted of Tom McFadden and festival associate director Laura Madden. Twenty-seven submissions were made from across New Zealand, and 11 finalists were selected; their clips can be viewed on

As part of the grand prize, James recorded his audio professionally in the world-class recording console at the University of Otago’s Albany Street studio and will shoot a music video with Tom McFadden in a Dunedin location.

James was one of three winners in their age group category in the 2012 Scifest ‘science idol’ competition. The categories were 8 -14 yrs, 15-21 yrs and 22 plus; each winner won a brand new iPad thanks to KlabLab.

Thirteen-year-old Ella Cameron, a student at Tahuna Normal Intermediate in Dunedin, won the 8-14 category with her fun-filled and factual rhyming clip ‘The Heart Goes Boom’. Ella also won the ‘science idol’ competition for her age group during the 2010 New Zealand International Science Festival. The other age group category winner was Justin Lee Tripp, a science teacher originally from the US, now teaching in Nelson; Justin won the 22-plus category, using innovative visual techniques and lyrics in his clip ‘Auditory System’.

The festival launched the competition following a New Zealand-wide ‘science idol’ tour courtesy of the US Embassy. The tour included visits to primary and intermediate schools by US science rapper, Fulbright graduate fellow and University of Otago Masters student Tom McFadden, aka The Rhymebosome.

The 2012 New Zealand International Science Festival is sponsored by two major funding partners, the University of Otago and the Dunedin City Council.

New Zealand’s only International Science Festival has developed, managed and run seven festivals in Dunedin every two years since 1998.

In 2012, the theme of the eighth biennial festival will be “what makes us tick?”, setting the scene for nine days of inspiring and fun-filled events.

Highlights of the festival include appearances by leading international scientists as well as a variety of stimulating workshops, stunts, street science events, expos and entertainment.

The 2012 festival is generously supported by a number of sponsors, funding partners and volunteers; without their support the festival would not be possible.

Up to 40 individual volunteers help run festival events, and thousands of visitors from all over New Zealand and abroad are expected to participate.


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