Liz Bonnin – scientist and TV star

Published 3 May 2011

Liz Bonnin is very well known as one of the co-presenters on the BBC’s popular science show “Bang Goes the Theory”, and has had a very busy career so far, from pop star to biologist and conservationist.

French born and Dublin bred, Liz studied science at Trinity College Dublin, graduating with a degree in biochemistry.

BBC science presenter Liz Bonnin

Liz Bonnin, science graduate and broadcaster

After college she was lead singer with the shortlived Irish girl group Chill. They toured the UK with the Smash Hits Roadshow but broke up before recording.

“I had an absolute ball,” she says of it now. “We got to tour the country and I love to sing, but the fact it didn’t quite work out is a blessing because I am now lucky enough to be doing my dream job. This is really where I belong, everything happens for a reason.”

Her first TV presenting roles were on “The Den” and “Off the Rails” for RTÉ. After that she also worked on a very wide range of shows, including:

  • “RI:SE”, Channel 4′s breakfast show
  • “Top of the Pops” on BBC 1
  • “Brat Camp Unseen” on E4
  • “Derek Acorah’s Ghost Towns” on Living TV
  • A “Da Vinci Code” special for ITV

Most of all, though, she is now an old hand at science shows and wildlife documentaries. For RTÉ these have included  ”Wild Trails” and “Science Friction”, the station’s four-part series covering topics such as nuclear power and stem cell research.

For the BBC she has presented specials on the winter weather, as well as “Springwatch” and “Autumnwatch”, and she also featured in Professor Brian Cox’s “Stargazing Live” astronomy series, as well as “Museum of Life”, about the Natural History Museum in London.

Bang Goes the Theory

Since July 2009 Liz has been part of the team on “Bang Goes the Theory”, which is co-produced by the BBC and the Open University. The show has around four million viewers per episode, and is just finishing its fourth series this week.

“I’m now combining presenting, which is what I love, with my passion which happens to be science, so I still have to pinch myself,” she says.

Masters Degree

Despite the busy TV career, Liz also managed to take a postgraduate science degree, during which she tracked tigers in Nepal.

In 2008 she graduated with distinction with a Masters in Wild Animal Biology from the Zoological Society of London and the Royal Veterinary College. The same year she was also the MC for some of our Science Week lectures in Dublin.

“I swore blind after I did my undergrad that I’d never go back to academia, and then I went back and did my Masters which was really hard but really rewarding. After that one I swore blind, ‘that’s it, that’s that me done’ – and would you believe it I’m actually thinking about a PhD now.”

She continues to work on big cat conservation programmes at the Zoological Society of London, spending a lot of time helping snow leopards and tigers.

Studying science

“I think the fact that there are people who shy away from science is a shame,” Liz says. “Some people have more of a liking to it than others, but the thing about is we all underestimate how big a role science has to play in the world around us.

“But I think that is our job on the show – to communicate that.”

And what would she do if she wasn’t a TV presenter?

“I’d be in India working on tiger conservation,” she says. “I just think that it’s really important to make a difference while we are here, and the fact that tigers are in so much trouble because of us is unacceptable to me.”

Learn more

Follow Liz and the rest of the “Bang Goes the Theory” team on Twitter @bbcbang

Read about careers in biochemistry and careers in biology on MyScienceCareer.ie

Visit the BBC’s “Bang Goes the Theory” website

The final episode of the current series is on BBC 1 Northern Ireland on Friday, 6 May at 8.30pm

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