An NRI plant chemist beat 1500 other hopefuls to make it to the finals of BBC Talent's 'Science on Screen' initiative, designed to find a new presenter for BBC science programmes.
"A friend of mine showed me the advertisement," explained Dr Phil Stevenson, Reader in Plant Chemistry at NRI, "and as I already have some experience of science-presenting on the satellite science channel Einstein TV, it seemed like an opportunity too good to miss." The field of applicants was narrowed down to 140 for the first auditions. In these, Phil presented a mock TV report about the use of viruses to control insect populations and, after further short-listing in a one-day workshop on broadcasting techniques, he was delighted to be one of the six selected for the final competitions 'on air.'
There were three televised heats with two candidates per show. Phil presented a report about a device to enable dentists to detect how heavily people smoke by analysing their saliva, which could be useful in encouraging people to cut down. The device didn't actually work, so he had to improvise! Phil won his heat and made it to the last three for the final programme, where he interviewed a man who had invented an iron that doesn't need an ironing board. Although Phil wasn't the overall winner, he has been invited back to discuss programme ideas with the specialist factual department at the BBC, with the possibility of taking some of his ideas to pilot programmes and possibly to national television in the future.