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Professor Jim Al-Khalili

Jim Al-Khalili, Ph.D. Hon Dsc, OBE, FRS, FInstP is a theoretical physicist, author, and broadcaster. He is Professor of Theoretical Physics, Public Engagement in Science, and a Distinguished Chair at University of Surrey, where he has also held a personal chair in physics since 2005 alongside a university chair in Public Engagement in Science.

Since the mid-90s, Jim has established himself as one of the UK’s best known science communicators. He is also a broadcaster and a science presenter on BBC radio, television, and other British media for which he has received the Royal Society Michael Faraday medal (2007), the Institute of Physics Kelvin Medal (2011), and the inaugural Stephen Hawking Medal (2016). He was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2008.

Jim is probably best known among the British public as the presenter of the long-running weekly BBC Radio 4 programme, The Life Scientific.

He is the author of twelve books, translated into over twenty languages – including his first novel, the science fiction thriller, Sunfall.

Jim earned his Ph.D. in nuclear physics in 1989 from the University of Surrey. He spent two years as an SERC Postdoctoral Fellow at the University College London before returning to Surrey in 1991, first as a research assistant, then as a lecturer in 1992.

In 1994, Jim was awarded an EPSRC Advanced Research Fellowship for five years, during which time he established himself as a leading expert on mathematical models of exotic atomic nuclei.

He has been a trustee (2006–2012) and vice president (2008–2011) of the British Science Association. He also held an EPSRC Senior Media Fellowship and was named as a RISE (Recognising Inspirational Scientists and Engineers) leader by the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) in 2014.

Jim was awarded the Royal Society Michael Faraday Prize for science communication in 2007 and was elected an Honorary Fellow of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. He was President of the British Humanist Association between January 2013 and January 2016.

He has been a Fellow of the Institute of Physics since 2000, when he also received the Institute’s Public Awareness of Physics Award. He has lectured widely both in the UK and around the world, particularly for the British Council.

Jim is a member of the British Council Science and Engineering Advisory Group, a member of the Royal Society Equality and Diversity Panel, an external examiner for the Open University Department of Physics and Astronomy, a member of the Editorial Board for the open access Journal PMC Physics A, and is Associate Editor of Advanced Science Letters. He is also a member of the Advisory Committee for the Cheltenham Science Festival.

In 2007, he was a judge on the BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction and has been a celebrity judge at the National Science & Engineering Competition Finals at The Big Bang Fair. He was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2008 Queen’s Birthday Honours. In 2013, he was awarded an Honorary Degree (DSc) from the University of London. Jim was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2018.

As a broadcaster, Jim is frequently on television and radio and also writes articles for the British press. In 2004, he copresented the Channel 4 documentary The Riddle of Einstein’s Brain. His big break as a presenter came in 2007 with Atom, a three-part series on BBC Four about the history of our understanding of the atom and atomic physics. This was followed by a special archive edition of Lost Horizons: The Big Bang.

In early 2009, he presented the BBC Four three-part series Science and Islam about the leap in scientific knowledge that took place in the Islamic world between the 8th and 14th centuries. He has contributed to programmes ranging from Tomorrow’s World, BBC Four’s Mind Games, The South Bank Show, to BBC One’s Bang Goes the Theory. In October 2011, he began a programme on famous contemporary scientists on Radio Four, called The Life Scientific. The first of this series featured his interview with Sir Paul Nurse. He has since interviewed a series of notable scientists, including Prof. Richard Dawkins, James Lovelock, Steven Pinker, Martin Rees, Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Mark Walport, and Tim Hunt.

In 2004, Jim was chosen as one of twenty-one “Faces of UK Science” for an exhibition in London’s National Portrait Gallery.

He presented a three-part BBC Four series on the history of chemistry called Chemistry: A Volatile History, which was nominated for a BAFTA award, as well as a documentary on chaos theory called The Secret Life of Chaos. He is also one of several presenters on Genius of Britain, a five-part series for Channel 4 shown in 2010, along with Prof. Stephen Hawking, Prof. Richard Dawkins, Sir James Dyson, and Sir David Attenborough.

Jim is a regular guest on BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time, presented by Melvyn Bragg. In April, 2009, he presented a three-part series called The Secret Scientists for the BBC World Service.

Jim also hosts a regular “Jim meets…” interview series at the University of Surrey. Guests have included Sir David Attenborough, Lord (Robert) Winston, Professor Brian Cox and Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury. In 2011, Jim hosted a three-part documentary series on BBC Four entitled Shock and Awe: The Story of Electricity.

In January 2012, Jim presented a Horizon special on BBC 2, which examined the latest scientific developments in the quest to discover the Higgs Boson, with preliminary results from the Large Hadron Collider experiment at CERN suggesting that the elusive particle does indeed exist.

Among mentioned, Jim has also presented the following TV programmes:

Among others, he has published the following books:

Watch Jim’s TED talk on How quantum biology might explain life’s biggest questions. Watch WIRED UK’s Quantum Mechanics Could Help Us Understand the Question of Life. Watch Jim’s The Story Of Energy and The Story of Information at Spark.

Read Exploring Artificial Intelligence with Jim Al-Khalili on ScienceFocus. Follow his contributions at NewScientist.

Visit his University profile, Royal Society profile, Personal page, Google Scholar page, Scopus page, and Wikipedia page. Follow him at The Guardian, IMDb, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.;