Rebooting tomorrow's world - future food

Posted by Dr Shini Somara on 23 November 2015

Throughout my life I have enjoyed diverse and sometimes contrasting interests. I’ve always been inquisitive about science and technology, yet adore the arts and creativity. So it wasn’t wildly out of character to have studied mechanical engineering and classical ballet simultaneously. Contradictions such as these have been a recurring pattern throughout my life – and help to explain why my career path took an unusual twist from engineering researcher to television presenter.

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) for all

Engineering is often seen as a ‘male’ subject, but nothing could be further from the truth. It’s mainly about logic, reasoning, analysis and problem-solving – things women are equally as good at as men. I am a passionate champion of STEM as subjects that women can build their careers on and am also a member of Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) whose mission is to get one million more women in the UK STEM workforce.

My doctoral research into Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) at Brunel University, which was funded by The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), was highly mathematical and heavily analytical. CFD is a simulation tool that allows engineers to visualise the invisible. Often we don’t see how air moves, but CFD creates computer-generated on-screen models that reveal airflow patterns that help engineers to design and understand things better – from more efficient airplanes and Formula 1 cars to predicting the movement of weather systems. It was a thrill to contribute a droplet to the vast ocean of scientific knowledge.

A gift for presenting

In addition to honing my problem-solving and analytical skills, what was ultimately best about my doctoral research was explaining my discoveries, particularly to an audience. Watching their initial confusion for what I was describing gradually transform into intrigue gave me a real buzz – and ultimately led to me making an unusual U-turn away from engineering and into television.

My involvement in factual entertainment, both in front of and behind the camera, has enabled me to meet some of the most inspiring and incredible minds of our time. Scientists and engineers whose research and discoveries have changed the course of our lives.

Through my work in broadcasting I have mapped glaciers over Greenland with NASA, witnessed a pioneering five-hour human lung transplant, experienced 150mph winds in the world’s largest tornado lab and helped rescue sea lions on the Pacific Coast Highway.

Making Tomorrow’s Food

My latest contribution on BBC1’s Tomorrow’s Food has allowed me to take a deep dive into the latest technology around growing, buying and eating food. Together with comedian Dara O’Briain (who has a degree in mathematical physics), Michelin-starred chef Angela Hartnett and greengrocer-turned TV presenter Chris Bavin, we covered technologies that will revolutionise the way people eat.

The range of subjects we cover is vast – from robotic sheepdogs to farms which can flourish in the desert. We also ask questions, such as whether the future of our burgers is more likely to be in a lab or on an insect farm than in a field. Angela also goes on manoeuvres with the US Army to discover if they hold the secret to the end of sell-by dates.

It’s been a fantastic, fascinating journey, taking me from Tokyo to Milan, Shanghai to Colorado. Along the way, as the show’s technology expert, I explore what the future holds for our kitchens, supermarkets and restaurants and also learn about exciting new developments in food health such as chocolate that’s good for you and technology that can persuade us to feel full faster.

We’re very excited about the new programme, which has been described as an updated version of the much-loved Tomorrow’s World. I hope you will enjoy watching it.

Episode One of Tomorrow’s Food is broadcast on BBC1 at 9pm this Monday, 23 November.

About Dr Shini Somara

By the age of 24, Shini Somara had completed her doctoral thesis at Brunel University while working full-time as a mechanical engineer. During this period she also found the time to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, and dabble in the world of fashion as a model. She later received a degree in classical ballet from the Royal Academy of Dance.

Passionate about science communication, particularly to inspire young people, she has covered major science stories on a diverse range of networks including the BBC, BBC World News, BBC America, Discovery International and Sky.

Author

In the following table, contact information relevant to the page. The first column is for visual reference only. Data is in the right column.

Dr Shini Somara
Name: Dr Shini Somara
Job title: TV Presenter and Technology Expert
Department: Engineering

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