Professor Aoife McLysaght asks ‘Who am I?’ in 2018 CHRISTMAS LECTURES

Posted on: 20 December 2018

Professor in Genetics at Trinity College Dublin, Aoife McLysaght, will next week join Professor Alice Roberts in asking ‘Who am I?’ as the pair deliver the 2018 CHRISTMAS LECTURES from the Royal Institution.

Professor McLysaght, the first Guest Lecturer in the iconic Christmas Lectures’ 194-year history, will co-deliver the three one-hour lectures that will air between 8 and 9 pm on December 26, 27 and 28 on BBC Four.

Professor McLysaght will add her expertise in the field of genetics to Professor Roberts’ in biological anthropology. The 2018 CHRISTMAS LECTURES will therefore use biology as a powerful way of answering the most fundamental of questions: ‘Who am I?’

In essence, the 2018 CHRISTMAS LECTURES will bring our evolutionary story to life and take viewers on an immersive voyage through our shared evolutionary past before asking challenging ethical questions about what the future holds.  This is the story of us–in all its deep-rooted, diverse, and surprising glory.

Speaking about her involvement, Professor in Genetics at Trinity, Aoife McLysaght, said:

The CHRISTMAS LECTURES are a special opportunity to make serious science fun and accessible to a wide audience. I am honoured and excited to join Alice and look forward to using my research in the field of molecular evolution to help bring our evolutionary story to life.

Lecture 1 (December 26) will ask ‘Where do I come from?’ and take us on an exploration of our animal family where we will meet our distant cousins–from fish to fruit flies–and unearth clues to our evolutionary past by revealing surprising similarities as we discover our true place in the tree of life.

Lecture 2 (December 27) will ask ‘What makes me Human?’ and focus on the story of our recent evolution from early two-legged hominins to modern humans–revealing how a humble African ape became a successful global species. Aoife and Alice will uncover the story of our journey out of Africa as we spread across the globe.

Lecture 3 (December 28) will ask ‘What makes me, me?’ and foster an understanding of how the interplay between genetic variation and the environment makes us all different–even identical twins. Aoife and Alice will interrogate emerging genetic technologies–from fixing gene errors to personalised medicine–and ask how far we should go with genetic testing.

Professor Gail Cardew, Director of Science and Education at the Royal Institution, said: “This year we wanted to pick a topic that felt accessible and relevant to everyone’s lives, and at the same time is tricky and complicated.

“’Who am I?’ is a question that might simply be answered by giving your name and date of birth, but scratch a little deeper and you unravel the full complexity of what it means to be human and to be different from your friends and family.

“I’m delighted to see two outstanding female scientists coming together to unravel many secrets at the biological level, and spark a conversation about what identity means in today’s world.”

The Royal Institution receives support for the CHRISTMAS LECTURES, in 2018, from major supporter The Lloyd’s Register Foundation, and from the Genetics Society, Schlumberger and UK Research and Innovation.

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