Royal Society scientists take part in University Challenge

14 April 2003

A group of scientists funded by the Royal Society are among the teams taking part in a new BBC TV series University Challenge - The Professionals. The new spin-off series pits representatives from various professions against each other. Teams from the House of Commons, the TUC and the Cabinet Office are amongst others taking part.
The Royal Society’s University Challenge team includes Dr Mike Towler (a theoretical physicist from the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge); Dr Harriet McWatters (a plant scientist from the University of Oxford); Dr Martin Castell (a materials scientist from the University of Oxford), all of whom are Royal Society University Research Fellows. The team captain is the bio-scientist Professor Bob Michell FRS, a Royal Society Research Professor at the University of Birmingham.

Professor Bob Michell explained why the team took part in the programme: "Being grilled by Jeremy Paxman is never going to be relaxing, but we all enjoyed the experience! I took part mainly because I have always enjoyed University Challenge. We could also show viewers that scientists are relatively ordinary people - and make them aware of the Royal Society and the support it gives to many UK scientists. If we win that will be a bonus."

To select Bob, Harriet, Martin and Mike for the team, the Royal Society invited all 300 or so of the scientists it funds to take part in a University Challenge style quiz. The highest scorers became the team, but the selection process was still not over. The Society’s team was one of over 200 teams considered for the show, and they had to endure another round of questioning, this time from the programme makers. They were successful, answering enough questions correctly to get one of the 22 places on the programme.

For further information contact:
Liz Brodie
Head of Press and Public Relations
The Royal Society, London
Tel: 020 7451 2568