You need to be upbeat and positive'

Dr Jack Lewis is a neuroscientist and co-presenter of the new BBC2 series People Watchers. He is also the face of Faraday 2008, the lecture programme for secondary schools run by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (

What did you want to be as a child?

A science TV presenter! As a kid I saw Johnny Ball on TV demonstrating something I'd done at primary school the previous week which had been as dull as ditchwater. It was to do with using bicarbonate of soda to propel an engine. When I saw him demonstrating it I thought, hang on, this is fascinating, I could do that.

What did you realistically think you'd end up doing?

I didn't think my idea was realistic at all; I thought I would just get a job that paid a wage like something in banking, God forbid.

Why did you decide on neuroscience?

I chose my GCSEs based on what I enjoyed, which was the sciences, but it was human biology that I thought was really brilliant. As a bit of a sportsman I knew the brain controlled the body and that's what I wanted to study. After graduating from Nottingham University I sold advertising for a pharmaceutical publication and hated it. So I went into head-hunting, but although there were great commissions to be made, I wasn't motivated by money. So I decided on a PhD, a good idea if you're not motivated by money.

Was the PhD worth it?

It was the best thing I've ever done, and the first time I'd really been stretched and challenged. I got to operate University College London's multi-million pound brain scanner!

How did you get into TV?

After my PhD I spent six months writing a TV series about the brain because I wanted to make neuroscience relevant to everyday people. At the same time, I got a job as a behind- the-scenes scientist on Inside the Living Body, a programme for National Geographic and Channel 4. Now that I had a job it was possible to get an agent by showing a taster tape I'd done of myself in the park trying to persuade people to get their brains scanned.

I also subscribed to the website For the first month I didn't see a single decent job, but when I checked the site one last time, there was the perfect job ad; a presenter for People Watchers.

Do you consider yourself successful?

No, not at all, because this is only the beginning.

What are your interview tips?

You've got to show you have communication skills. Are you convincing? Reliable? You need to be upbeat, positive – and don't bullshit.

What motives you?

It sounds cheesy, but I want to get people excited about their brains.

Who are your heroes?

Daley Thompson, he inspired me to do a decathlon, and Linford Christie because he only peaked in his mid-thirties. Also Johnny Ball for his enthusiasm and David Attenborough for his longevity.

What's the next rung on the ladder for you?

It's all been an uphill struggle until now, but I've got TV shows and appearances lined up, so things should be a bit more freewheeling. It's not been easy, being skint my whole life to date.