We are not convincing any of our viewers that science is cool; we are just reminding them, and hopefully entertaining them in the process.
As a TV Presenter, Liz Bonnin's credits include Autumn Watch
, Top of the Pops
and Bang Goes the Theory
, and with a degree in biochemistry and a Master's in wild animal biology and conservation, she has helped to foster a wider interest in the sciences.
Here, Bonnin explains how she has drawn inspiration from her environment and colleagues, the importance of a stimulating education, and the power of factual television programmes...Where did your passion for science and conservation come from?
I have always wanted to know how living things worked. From a very early age I would sit and stare at all sorts of animals and imagine the blood coursing through their veins, or wonder how their eyes moved in their sockets, which I suspect concerned my parents at times. It therefore made sense to study biochemistry, so that I could understand all the processes of living systems down to their chemical equations. I have also always been obsessed with big cats, in particular tigers. Aside from their obvious charismatic beauty, they are truly incredible creatures that to me represent both the power and serenity of nature, and they inspired me to study for my Master's.
We are not convincing any of our viewers that science is cool; we are just reminding them, and hopefully entertaining them in the process.Who or what inspires you?
Nature inspires me. It reminds me that, aside from our daily lives, spectacular things are going on every day on this planet; it puts everything in perspective and teaches me to try to be a little more humble. I have also met some stupendous people while working for Bang Goes the Theory
– scientists who are passionate, dedicated and excited about the world and making breakthroughs that are truly awe-inspiring. They represent what humanity can do when it's at its best. Do we need to do more to promote the involvement of women in science?
We need to promote the love of science in all young people, and many theories abound as to why there may not be enough women in science. It's a complex issue and I certainly don't have all the answers, but I do believe that education plays an enormous role in the encouragement and preservation of the inherent curiosity children have about the world, which essentially is what being a scientist is all about. The way children are taught is so important in determining whether they might lose that curiosity at a certain age. It's definitely important to direct resources and attention towards understanding how boys and girls differ in their absorption of certain scientific subjects. What can be done to encourage the next generation of British scientists?
I think we are enjoying a revival in popular science; from some great turnouts at the Big Bang Fairs over the past few years, it's clear that children are interested in and enjoy science, if given the chance to get hands-on and have some fun with it. STEMNET is also going a very long way towards encouraging our scientists of the future. Like everything else, promoting science needs to come from as many organisations and sources as possible. I've had the pleasure of being part of Bang Goes the Theory
at an event with countless other science societies, all under one roof, and it really does feel like the next generation will do us proud. Why do you think science related TV programmes are important?
The world is an amazing place, and the medium of television is a powerful tool to be able to explain how it works. I am really proud to be part of the BBC's science team because I think their science output is second to none. From Beautiful Minds
to Wonders of the Solar System
, there is something for everyone, from diehard science 'nerds' to people with an innate passion for the world around them who want to know more. We are not convincing any of our viewers that science is cool; we are just reminding them, and hopefully entertaining them in the process.
I do believe that education plays an enormous role in the encouragement and preservation of the inherent curiosity children have about the world, which essentially is what being a scientist is all about.What has been your biggest challenge to date?
During my Master's I stubbornly designed and set up a research project in Nepal from scratch, sourcing and sending all the materials I would need to set up a lab in a disused kitchen in a National Park – all of which is not so straightforward in a country like Nepal – and dealing with people who wouldn't return my emails for weeks. Everyone, including my lecturers, told me that I would never have enough time to complete it and that it clearly wasn't going to work out if, at such a late stage, I was still getting no confirmation from the country that they would accept me and that everything was set up. I remember crying in my hotel room on arrival in Kathmandu because, as predicted, everything that could go wrong had. But I stuck with it and, surrounded by the beauty of Bardia National Park, I completed the research and can be thankful for a character building experience.Which of your achievements are you most proud of?
The completion of my Master's and in particular my research project. It was and still is the most rewarding thing I have ever done, probably because it was such a challenge, but also because I fulfilled a dream to study tigers and do my bit to help in their conservation. I also met some incredible people and learnt so much during that time. It is an experience that will stay with me forever. Are there any ambitions that you have yet to fulfil?
I have just completed a series for the NHU on animal intelligence that will be aired in the spring, and I'd love to present more programmes that combine science with natural history. That's where I see myself working best as a broadcaster and hopefully I can have a long career doing what I love. I'd also like to do a PhD on tiger conservation, become a yoga teacher and buy my dream farmhouse in Provence.This article first appeared on publicservice.co.uk: Getting to know...Liz Bonnin.