AN OXFORD scientist will use worms and chihuahuas to help explain life’s mysteries after being asked to deliver the prestigious Royal Institution Christmas Lectures.

Oxford University genetics lecturer Dr Alison Woollard’s three lectures called Life Fantastic are being filmed next week to be broadcast by the BBC over the Christmas period.

The science lectures have been running since 1825 and aim to educate and entertain young people and adults.

Dr Woollard, from Botley, said: “It is a very big thing and I am only the fifth woman to do it.

“The university is pleased and proud to have someone from Oxford doing it – particularly a woman.”

The mother-of-two, of Westminster Way, works at the university’s biochemistry department.

The 45-year-old said her lectures – entitled Where do I come from? Am I a mutant? and Could I live forever? – would be about how biology develops.

She said: “We all start from a single cell and we all end up as highly complicated organisms with 40 trillion cells.

“Everyone has an inner scientist. The world of science is not an exclusive club that most people can’t join, and everyone can feel the excitement of discovery when things are explained carefully enough.”

The first lecture will be filmed on Saturday and they will be shown on BBC Four from December 28 to 30 at 8pm.

Oxford University evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins gave the lectures in 1991.

But Dr Woollard, who is also a Fellow and Tutor in Biochemistry at Hertford College, said it was never something she aimed to do until she was asked by the Royal Institution.

She said: “It was a huge surprise and a huge honour to be able to do it.”

Yet she said she had enjoyed preparing the lectures and thinking about how to make her science easily understandable and entertaining.

She said: “I have enjoyed thinking about ways to get the public to enjoy science.

“It has been rewarding for me to think about how to explain complex science in an appealing way that is both entertaining and meaningful.”

Last year Cambridge University chemist Dr Peter Wothers gave talks on alchemists.