This year the RI Christmas lectures are titled ‘Life Fantastic’ and, much to my excitement, are focussing on ideas embedded in development. The three lectures will be broadcast on BBC4 at 8pm on 28, 29 and 30 December. They’ll be presented by Dr Alison Woollard from Oxford University who is a lecturer there as well as being involved in C. elegans (these things) development research. Her research and interests focus on fate determination of cells in development - a fancy way of saying how one cell of an embryo becomes part of your eye while the other becomes part of your gut etc. Needless to say I’m sure her enthusiasm for the subject, knowledge and lecturing experience will result in an interesting Christmas Lecture series.
So what are the Christmas Lectures? For anyone that hasn’t been shown them as a child or found them as they run out of Christmas labelled TV shows to watch the idea of watching a lecture in the festive season may seem odd. Well they’re aimed at ‘young people’ although that’s a bit general as the whole family can sit down and watch it. Parents will learn something just as their children will, although grown ups are also more likely to talk over sections to try and reassure everyone in the room that they know other stuff too. However with a target of ‘young people’ it does mean they try and make the lectures super fun and exciting (see last year’s focus on blowing things ups, making big bangs and large flames…). They lectures have been put on since 1825 (only skipping the second world war years) and some of the past videos can be found online here.
The lectures have 3 titles: Where do I come from? Am I a mutant? Could I live forever? More information on the three (and everything to do with the Christmas Lectures) can be found here. Now I like to talk for England and no doubt I’ll make my family watch the lectures then hope they’ll ask me questions as the ‘in-house expert’ but if there’s anything you might question as a result of the lectures and you don’t have an uber keen PhD student sat with you there is salvation! “I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here” is an outreach type website and organisation who are running an ‘ask a scientist’ online question and answer session throughout January which you can sign up individually or teachers can set up classroom sessions to engage a whole class. Find out everything you want to know and how to take part here.
Watch the lectures, learn something new, get excited about science and development (I am slightly biased in saying this is the best part of science…) and then ask questions! What more do you want for a public engagement activity?!