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OU on the BBC: Lab Rats - Mike Leahy - Profile of Lab Rat

Updated Friday, 16th April 2004

Profile of a Lab Rat - meet Mike Leahy

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Mike Leahy in van Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: Production team

My education started badly. I was kicked out of school early for being a habitual truant. Even when I did turn up, I was often disruptive - although this was largely because I was the victim of a lot of bullying.

I did sit a few 'O' levels before my departure and that was enough to get me into the motor trade, where I worked as a mechanic for ten years, before returning to education at the age of twenty-six. I think that I surprised everyone when I finally achieved a Biology DPhil (doctorate) from the University of Oxford.

I have had loads of full-time and part-time jobs since leaving school. In particular, I needed to work part-time to get through university, because I had no money. At least the grant hadn't been totally abolished and there were no tuition fees then - God knows how I would have coped today, because I still amassed huge debts.

Over the years I've done many things, but here's a random selection: forecourt assistant, labourer, dumper driver, holiday pamphlet packer, mineral water bottle dent remover, skip straightener, burger van chef, black crisp picker, telesales, electrician's mate, motorcycle instructor, debt collector, nightclub doorman, security officer, shop assistant, litter picker, steam cleaner, furniture delivery driver, motorcycle courier, fruit picker and just about anything that gave me enough cash to pay the bills and buy a beer. Once I got through my degree and doctorate, I spent four years researching the replication of the Influenza virus.

My first job in national TV was as a co-presenter on the 'Famous Five' style Open University / BBC TWO hands-on science series, Rough Science. I worked on the first three series of the programme; in the process, generating electricity, working out latitude and longitude (using homemade clocks and the stars), and even searched for gold.

To date, the most shocking and successful TV project I have been involved with has been the first programme in the BBC One series Bodysnatchers (November 2003). In order to fully appreciate the true horror of a parasite infection, I swallowed a tapeworm cyst and allowed it to grow in my guts for the eleven weeks preceding my wedding.

I subsequently 'passed' it on national television. The programme was later featured in the Channel Four Top One Hundred TV Moments of 2003, but I couldn't bask in the glory because I was travelling in Sri Lanka.

In addition to the Rough Science and Bodysnatchers, I've also featured throughout (and contributed to the script of) a BBC ONE Horizon programme that looked at the virus that causes SARS, as well as a variety of other local television programmes.

I've also contributed to BBC World Service scientific programmes, and because of my interest in motor sport and adventure, I have penned a number of articles for motoring and travel magazines.

In my spare time I race mountain bikes and dirt bikes, take part in archery and shooting competitions and enjoy hill walking. I have a black belt in Taekwondo and try to remain fit by competing in road races.

Nowadays, I spend most of my time tramping around the more beautiful parts of the world with my new wife, Lizanne. My favourite places are New Zealand (where we now own a house), Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka and South East Asia.





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