Behind the scenes at the CHRISTMAS LECTURES

Nel Taylor, a BBSRC PhD student from the University of Nottingham, shares her experience of being one of the 2016 CHRISTMAS LECTURES assistants.

  • Credit: Paul Wilkinson

So it's my last day here at the Ri, and it feels very strange to be leaving. For the past three months I've had the privilege of being involved in the creation of the 2016 CHRISTMAS LECTURES. Presented by the very lovely and punny Saiful Islam, this year the topic was all about energy and the future of energy, topics I know very little about! But that was all part of the challenge and made it more interesting. Having been a fan of the Lectures pretty much all of my life, this was a dream come true for me.

My role was as the Media Assistant for the Lectures, which consisted of helping to write some press releases, keeping track of all of the media contacts and coverage and generally being an extra pair of hands for anyone who had too much to do. I got to work with the Ri Channel team on their fantastic advent calendar (including going shopping for eggs, milk, cream and 4 apples, and running around the stage pretending to be a molecule in the beautiful energy music video), help the programmes team with spreading the word about the electrifying How to hack your home tour and very occasionally get my hands dirty helping with a demo build.

One of my favourite things about having been here at the Ri is the history in the very walls of the building and in the archives down in the basement. Being allowed to stand inside of the lab where the great Michael Faraday made his name, being able to hold a piece of meteorite that formed before humans even existed and finally standing in the Lecture Theatre that I watched so many times on TV over the years. It really felt quite special to be here.

  • Credit: Paul Wilkinson

  • Credit: Nel Taylor

  • Credit: Paul Wilkinson

  • Credit: Ant Lewis

The best thing I got to be involved with was the CHRISTMAS LECTURES bursaries. Each year thanks to some generous donations, children from Gloucestershire and the North West get the chance to come to the Lectures when they otherwise would never be able to. After helping to organise and arrange their arrivals and stays here in London, I was lucky enough to be the one to meet them all and look after them on the days of their visits. Both sets of winners were wonderful people with a real passion for science, and the sheer joy on their faces at being able to attend was just amazing to see.

I also got to help make the world record breaking lemon battery, which was a lot of fun. It really gave you a feel for the buzz and the energy that surrounded the Lectures and filled the production and demo teams all the way through. The moment when we realised we had done it (especially as a few moments before we thought we were going to fail) was one of elation.

Watching the Lectures live was great. Afterwards, our job was to chat with the volunteers who went up on stage so we could send press releases out to the local papers to tell them about the young TV star from their area! It was great to hear them talk about how exciting it all was and how much they had loved the Lectures. One girl even told me it was her dream come true!

I've learned loads about science communications during my time at the Ri. Communicating science to the rest of the world is such an important thing to do and getting people interested and keen on science means that we will keep pushing forwards with new and incredible scientific discoveries. It would be great to think that, somewhere in those audience, we have a future Christmas Lecturer. For the future placement people, I'd say enjoy every moment of it. Get involved with everything that you can and learn as much as you can whilst you're here. You get to be a part of science history being here, so make the most of it.


Find out more about our three month placements offered as part of the BBSRC Professional Internships for PhD Students (PIPS) scheme here

Follow Nel on Twitter

Find out more about the PhD placements here

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