Technicians shine at the 2022 Christmas Lectures

17 January 2023

Tesoro Monaghan, one of the technicians selected for the Royal Institution’s Christmas Lectures speaks to the NTDC.

Professor Dame Sue Black. Source: The Royal Institution Christmas Lecutres
Tes behind the scenes at the 2022 Christmas Lectures

Two technicians, Tesoro (Tes) Monaghan and Matthew Richardson, played a pivotal role in showcasing scientific findings at the Royal Institution’s 2022 Christmas Lectures.

Tes, an Assistant Engineering Technician within the Materials Science and Engineering department at the University of Sheffield, and Matthew, a Specialist Teaching Technician at the University of Bristol, were appointed to support the delivery of the prestigious science event at the end of last year.

The Christmas Lectures were first started by world renowned physicist and chemist, Michael Faraday in 1825. Every year since, two technicians from across the UK are selected to assist a leading scientific mind in delivering the lectures. The annual lectures focus on bringing a different facet of science to life each year through practical demonstrations that teach and inform viewers.

The 2022 Christmas Lectures were delivered by Professor Dame Sue Black who revealed insights into forensic science with the technical assistance of both Tes and Matthew.

Tes began her technical career after finishing an undergraduate degree in Materials where she was inspired to develop in her chosen field after working closely alongside a lab technician – who is now her current line manager.

Tes believes that the roles of technicians should be outlined to children from a young age. She told the NTDC: “I definitely see the role of the technician as being something that needs to be advertised more as being desirable for kids.

“Until I went to university, I viewed the technician as the lovely person who ‘put all of the equipment out’ – I couldn’t connect that with being a job, the way that I could do with the things that a teacher does. 

“Being a technician is such incredibly valuable work but you can tend to fade into the background because you’re maintaining things; and if you’re maintaining things and everything is going well, people don’t often think about you.”

The Christmas Lectures have been inspiring children and adults since 1825 and are the world’s leading science lectures. They were first aired on television in 1936 and have been broadcast every year since 1966, making it the oldest scientific TV series. 

The lectures help to engage younger audiences with an array of scientific topics, drawing attention to a vast amount of technical careers. 

Tes said: “I remember watching the Christmas Lectures as a child and thinking that it must be one of the coolest things in the world to be a kid in that audience who is selected to come up and do something – that was the goal.

“I never thought it would be possible to be a part of something that was such an influential part of growing up for me.”

Tes with one of the more unusual pieces of equipment needed for a demo at the Christmas Lectures!

Coming from a family of scientists, Tes remembers how the Christmas Lectures made formative impressions upon her in her youth, playing a big role in her career path towards becoming a materials engineer.

Tes said: “You get to see the technicians making things come together. Sometimes people don’t necessarily see all the work that goes into that.”

She describes the Christmas Lectures as being an “incredible experience”, before adding that the opportunity left her feeling enthusiastic for the future, particularly when focussing on increasing the visibility of technicians and science during youth outreach.

Tes explains: “The lectures do a really good job of including the technical support visually. The technicians are a part of it; we help build the demos [and much more]. The lectures showcase the technicians doing their jobs, and they are there front and centre. They are not cut out, and they are not ignored. 

“Science doesn’t just happen. Technicians are a fundamental cog in the machine and things can’t continue without them.”

Find out more about the Royal Institution’s Christmas Lectures.