Jim Al-Khalili OBE (born 20 September 1962) is an Iraqi-born British theoretical physicist, author and science communicator. He is Professor of Theoretical Physics and Chair in the Public Engagement in Science at the University of Surrey. He has hosted several BBC productions about science and is a frequent commentator about science in other British media venues.
Early life and education
Born in Baghdad in 1962 to an Iraqi father and English mother, Al-Khalili studied physics at the University of Surrey. He graduated with a B.Sc. degree in 1986 and stayed on to pursue a Ph.D. degree in nuclear reaction theory, which he obtained in 1989. In 1989, he was awarded a Science and Engineering Research Council (SERC) postdoctoral fellowship at University College London.
Career in physics
Al-Khalili returned to Surrey in 1991, first as a research assistant then lecturer. In 1994, Al-Khalili was awarded an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (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 published widely in his field.
Al-Khalili is now a professor of physics at the University of Surrey where he also holds a chair in the Public Engagement in Science. He is a Trustee and Vice President of the British Science Association. He currently holds an EPSRC Senior Media Fellowship.
Al-Khalili was awarded the Royal Society Michael Faraday Prize for science communication for 2007 and elected an Honorary Fellow of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. 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. He is currently 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 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. He was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2008 Birthday Honours.