1st December 2000
DNA expert Ron Dixon aims to use his high profile in the media to put Lincoln on the map as a place to study science.
Dr Dixon, who has been appointed principal lecturer in Molecular Biology at the University of Lincolnshire & Humberside, is a veteran of TV and radio from his days at Bradford University.
Earlier this year he starred in a Channel 4 programme – part of the ‘Secrets of the Dead’ series – examining skeletal remains from an ancient Phoenician site in Sicily. And he’s hoping that the growing public interest in science, history and forensic archaeology will have a beneficial spin-off for the university in Lincoln.
“As a molecular biologist I help teach Food Microbiology, where we’ve got a very good background, and I can extend my work to cutting-edge DNA technology in Forensic Science,” said Dr Dixon.
“Apart from crimework, DNA can also be used to determine paternity, and I’m very interested in resolving issues of the past using ancient DNA. These chemicals stay around for 10,000 years, so we can go a long way back into the past and find answers to questions that have remained unsolved for so long.
“Sometimes it’s not wonderful science – for me it’s fairly routine - but it catches the public imagination and it gets them interested in both science and history.”
Dr Dixon was given a £10,000 research commission last year by 20/20 TV to help make a documentary programme for Channel 4 and the Discovery Channel.
“Making the programme involved us going out to Sicily to collect the bones,” he explained. “The idea was that the archaeological findings suggested that this Phoenician site might have been a tophet, or a place of child sacrifice. There were lots of clues for and against this theory but no-one had done any decent research into it.
secrets of the dead 2…
“We extracted DNA from the cremated bones that had been preserved and carried out a gender test on them to find out if the skeletons were of boys or girls. The theory was that only boys would have been sacrificed.
“The results were inconclusive but it made a nice film and Channel 4 are keen that we should do another one.”
Dr Dixon, who has also appeared on BBC TV’s ‘Tomorrow’s World’ and on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Woman’s Hour’, says he has moved from Bradford to Lincoln to become better known in the field of Forensic Science.
“In Lincoln we now run a custom-built course dealing with the biological side of Forensic Science, while other universities tend to deal with the chemistry,” he explained. “But our course must be popular because we’ve got 100 students enrolled in the first year, which is absolutely fantastic.
“Being based at Lincoln will also give me the chance to make some use of the superb media facilities that we’ve got here.
“It’s all about communicating science to the public. I can hook students with a nice bit of science and reel them in with how nice a place Lincoln is to live in.”
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For more information contact:
Press and Media Relations Manager
University of Lincolnshire & Humberside
Tel: 01522 886042