BBC Radio Science
Tell us about yourself – just a few sentences to introduce yourself.
Hello, I’m Sasha (officially Alexandra) Feachem. I was an Apsely girl from 1989–1991 and I’ve worked as a science producer for more than 20 years, most of which I’ve spent at the BBC. I’m also the producer and co-creator of BBC Radio 4’s multi-awarding winning science/comedy show and podcast “The Infinite Monkey Cage”, presented by Professor Brian Cox and comedian Robin Ince.
What inspired you to work in science?
I did A-Levels in science and a degree in Zoology, but I can’t say either of those were the inspiration for the career that followed. I secretly wanted to work on TV programmes like Big Brother, and bafflingly decided that my background in science might help me. So I sneaked into broadcasting as a science specialist, left after a few years to work on a reality show, HATED IT, and came straight back to the Radio Science Unit at the BBC where I’ve been ever since. The reason that I’ve been there ever since is that not only does The Infinite Monkey Cage combine my love for science and my love of comedy, but also that working with scientists and comedians means that I cannot think of a day that I have been bored doing what I do. I learn new things every day, I get to work and interact with people who are doing amazing things, are passionate about what they do, and who, for the most part, in the crazy world we inhabit at the moment, are the sanest, most rational people you could hope to have in your life – and that includes the comedians!
What is your speciality and how (if it is) is the present Covid-19 pandemic affecting your normal working routine ?
Well last week we recorded our first Monkey Cage in Lockdown. I sat at my kitchen table and recorded Steve Martin and Eric Idle talking to Brian and Robin about the End of the Universe. Covid-19 has basically meant that some really amazing guests have not had suitable excuses to turn us down! As part of the Radio Science Unit though, we’ve been covering Covid-19 in detail, since early January and the team I’m part of have produced and reported on every aspect of the science and health implications of the Virus. I’ve been very proud to be part of the effort to keep the public informed throughout this scary time.
How did you get to where you are today?
My background is in Zoology but whilst at University I did some work experience at the local radio station on a really cheesy breakfast show. I then moved to the US and was lucky enough to get an internship on the Science Desk at National Public Radio, which was the best training in science journalism I could have hoped for. I then moved back to the UK and got a job in the Radio Science Unit at the BBC, and have pretty much been there ever since making programmes on every aspect of science and health you can imagine. Saying that, I’ve worked with Brian Cox for nearly 15 years now, so we’ve done a lot of physics and cosmology together, which has been a challenge and a joy, as physics was the first science I gave up at school. I have to take a lot of codeine when talking to Brian.
What are your career highlights?
The Infinite Monkey Cage. We are just recording our 22nd series and I hope we get to the 100th.
What advice would you give to students/young OWs who would like to join the world of science?
DO IT! The world is your oyster if you choose a career in science and you have the opportunity to really make a difference and to have a career that you feel genuinely passionate about. You can’t ask for more than that.
Do you have a fond memory from your time at Wellington that you would like to share or perhaps a particular teacher that really stood out?
I loved my time at Wellington, but I did have the world’s most terrifying biology teacher. He basically shouted at us from the moment we sat down in class to the moment we left the classroom. It must have worked though, as I voluntarily chose to study biological sciences at Uni. I’m not sure it’s a recommended teaching method these days though!