Trinity geneticist to feature in 2018 CHRISTMAS LECTURES

Posted on: 02 November 2018

Professor in Genetics at Trinity, Aoife McLysaght, will join Professor Alice Roberts in delivering the 2018 CHRISTMAS LECTURES, the Royal Institution (Ri) has announced today. It is the first time a special Guest Lecturer has been appointed in the Christmas Lectures’ 194-year history.

Professor McLysaght will feature heavily in each of the three Lectures as the Genetics Society Guest Lecturer, adding her expertise in the field of genetics to that of Professor Roberts in biological anthropology. The 2018 CHRISTMAS LECTURES will use biology as a powerful way of answering the most fundamental of questions: Who am I?

Professor Gail Cardew, Director of Science and Education at the Ri, 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.”

Professor McLysaght, Trinity, 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, using my research in the field of molecular evolution, to help in bringing our evolutionary story to life.”

The 2018 CHRISTMAS LECTURES will be filmed in the Royal Institution’s iconic theatre on 11, 13 and 15 December 2018. The 2018 CHRISTMAS LECTURES are produced by Windfall Films for BBC Four. The Commissioning Editor for the BBC is Tom Coveney. Series Producer is Laura Voak and Executive Producer is David Dugan.

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.

The lectures will be broadcast on BBC Four in between Christmas and New Year.


You share 99.4% of your genes with your neighbour, 98.7% with a chimp, and even 44% with a fruit fly – yet you are also entirely unique – there is nobody else quite like you.

In this year’s Christmas Lectures, Professor Alice Roberts will be joined by Professor Aoife McLysaght, to take us on a journey to answer this most fundamental question: Who Am I?  From how our limbs evolved from fins, to the colour of our eyes, Alice and Aoife investigate our fascinating evolutionary story to reveal how we became who we are today.

The lectures will ultimately bring our evolutionary story to life, taking viewers on an immersive voyage through our shared evolutionary past and asking challenging ethical questions about what the future holds.

Lecture breakdown

Lecture 1: Where do I come from?

An exploration of our animal family, meeting our distant cousins – from fish to fruit flies – unearthing clues to our evolutionary past and revealing surprising similarities as we discover our true place in the tree of life.

Lecture 2: What makes me Human?

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. Alice and Aoife will uncover the story of our journey out of Africa as we spread across the globe.

Lecture 3: What makes me, me?

An understanding of how the interplay between genetic variation and the environment makes us all different – even identical twins. We’ll interrogate emerging genetic technologies – from fixing gene errors to personalised medicine – and ask how far we should go with genetic testing.

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