Technicians Make the RI Christmas Lecture Happen - Part 2

The Royal Institution’s Annual Christmas Lecture is the highlight of the science calendar. We spoke to the second of three technicians lucky enough to join the demonstration production team for the creation of 2020’s lecture, Planet Earth: A user’s guide. Read on to hear about Lin Marvin's experience, XRF & SEM Technician from the University of Leicester.

Hi Lin! What led you to apply to support the creation of this year’s Royal Institution (RI) Christmas Lecture?

I work in the School of Geography, Geology and Environment so the 2020 lectures were on subjects that I research and teach. I also work backstage at an amateur theatre in Leicester so working on the Christmas lectures would combine all my skills. I had also watched the RI lectures since I was a child.

What was your role on the show?

I helped to make demos as part of the Ri team and I also worked on the filming of one of the lectures, placing demos in the lecture theatre ready for the presenter.

What skills/ attributes do you normally need to do your job? Did you apply them differently in this context?

My day-to day role as an XRF & SEM Technician involves the use instruments that can tell us what elements are present in rocks and how much of the element is present, to help geologists to work out how the rock was formed. As such you need attention to detail; to be very practical and have buckets full of common sense so you can problem solve. I think the latter 2 were useful as a part of the Ri demonstration team.  

What couldn’t have happened without you and your fellow technicians on the show?

We worked as a team with complementary skills so that no task would be left undone.

Technicians really do make it happen!


What was the best bit about taking part?

I loved working as part of the Ri demo team and it was so exciting to see the demos that I helped to make being used and working well.

Have you learnt anything from the experience?

How to make a demo that can show a complex scientific idea in a simple way

You feel a valued part of the group from day one


What was different in comparison to what you would normally do as a technician?

I don’t usually get to make equipment or demonstrations to teach. The experience has given me ideas though of how to show the complex theory behind the instruments I manage in a more accessible way.

What would you say to technicians thinking about applying next year?

Go for it! The Ri demo team are amazing. You feel a valued part of the group from day one and you will learn so much from them that you can bring back to use in your job.

Do you have any tips or advice to say to a young person about being a technician?

I love being a technician. Every day is so interesting. There are the main tasks of your job that you have to do but every day also brings something different whether it is a problem that you have to solve or some new research that needs your support. In a University high quality teaching and research would not be possible without the technicians that manage the labs and instruments; help to teach in practical’s and on fieldwork and are the constant presence in the department or school. Technicians really do make it happen!

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