Putting science centre stage in your Christmas TV viewing | University of Oxford

Putting science centre stage in your Christmas TV viewing

If you're planning your Christmas TV viewing, these photos should make you put a big red ring around BBC Four at 8pm on 28, 29 and 30 December for the Christmas Lectures, filmed at the Royal Institution (Ri).These stills from the filming show how Dr Alison Woollard, a lecturer in genetics at the University of Oxford, will use developmental biology to explore the secret of life.

Alison's 2013 Christmas Lectures, titled 'Life Fantastic', will explore the questions: 'Where do I come from?', 'Am I a mutant?' and 'Could I live forever?'

The Christmas Lectures at the Royal Institution have been held for an audience of young people since 1825, when they were started by Michael Faraday. They have been broadcast on UK television every Christmas since 1966 and are part of the festive tradition for many, young and old alike.

Alison's three talks include a whole series of startling science demonstrations. The audience in the Royal Institution's lecture theatre are also introduced to a whole range of unusual creatures, from microscopic worms and Chihuahuas to the naked mole rat and lobsters. Alison highlights their unique genetic properties and explains what we can learn about ourselves.

Alison said: 'I am incredibly excited and proud to be presenting this year's Christmas Lectures. Through "Life Fantastic", I want to get people thinking about how one tiny cell is the building block for an entire organism and to understand the incredible potential this concept holds for future medical discoveries that could completely change how we recognise, treat and prevent hundreds of different diseases.'

She added: 'Everyone has an inner scientist; the world of science is not an exclusive club that most people can't join, and everyone can feel the excitement of discovery when things are explained carefully enough.'

The lectures will be available for seven days after broadcast on BBC iPlayer and then on the Ri channel.

And anyone who has questions about the 'Life Fantastic' lectures can submit them online to be answered by a panel of developmental biologists – including Alison – as part of the Ri's 'I'm a Scientist, Get Me out of Here' engagement project.

But if you can't wait until the 28 December for all of this, there's a new video available every day on the Royal Institution's Advent Calendar. Each day's video looks at an aspect of genetics linked to Alison's lectures – one video for each human chromosome (the packages of DNA present in the cell) and the DNA in the energy powerhouses of the cell, the mitochondria.

Oxford scientists, including many of those in Alison's lab, have been involved in a number of the videos. Check out chromosomes 4, 5, 6 and 10.

What better way to get your brain back into gear after the indulgence of Christmas Day?