Trinity Geneticist Featured in Royal Institution’s Advent Calendar

Posted on: 10 December 2013

A geneticist from Trinity College Dublin is helping families learn about genetics in the run-up to Christmas after she contributed to the Royal Institution’s online advent calendar that showcases how DNA is organised in the human genome and how information is passed between generations.

Associate Professor in Genetics at Trinity, Aoife McLysaght, made four videos for inclusion in the advent calendar. The aim is to inspire the public about genetics, which is the scientific focus of this year’s annual Royal Institution (RI) Christmas Lectures. The RI was one of the first organisations set up for the public communication of science.

Each video focuses on one pair of human chromosomes or on the DNA found in mitochondria, which are known as the ‘powerhouses’ of our cells as they are able to convert energy for use in the body. Because humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes and mitochondrial DNA, which is only inherited from the female side of the family, each video was placed behind one of 24 ‘calendar doors’. Professor McLysaght made videos 1, 2 14 and 17 to correspond to those specific pairs of chromosomes. Video 1 appears below:

Professor McLysaght said: “Science is not only a source of knowledge but it is a unique aspect of human culture. For both of these reasons I feel it is very important that those of us who are lucky enough to work in science share it with the general public, in much the same way that art and music are enjoyed by the general public, even if they aren’t working in those areas.

“The Royal Institution is a leader in public engagement with science and it was a huge honour to be asked to make some short genetics videos for their website. We had loads of fun deciding what to include (while keeping it simple) and how to do it. We went to Dublin Zoo, the Natural History Museum, and also tramped around the Trinity campus to make the videos. I hope people enjoy them.”