Jim Al-Khalili is head of the theoretical nuclear physics group in the Department of Physics at the University of Surrey. He is a professor of physics and holds a chair in public engagement in science.
|Professor Jim Al-Khalili|
Jim’s research interests lie mainly in nuclear reaction theory and in using quantum few-body methods to study the structure of light atomic nuclei. For the past few years he has been studying the structure and reactions of exotic nuclei with neutron halos.
He has research collaborations with physicists in Europe, the US and Canada and has published work on a range of topics within nuclear theory, from hadron physics to nuclear astrophysics.
Jim has written several popular science books, including ‘Quantum: A Guide for the Perplexed’, ‘Nucleus’, and ‘Black Holes, Wormholes and Time Machines’. He appears frequently on television and radio, and is a regular guest on ‘In Our Time’ on Radio 4. His television projects include presenting Channel 4’s ‘Riddle of Einstein’s Brain’ in 2005, and a three-part documentary series for the BBC called ‘Atom’.
Jim regularly gives public lectures in the UK and abroad, speaking to schools, scientific societies, science festivals, book festivals and branches of learned societies. His lecture tours in 2005 included theatres, cafes and bars in Greece, Czech Republic, Oman and Thailand.
He is a member of the council of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BA) and is the current recorder of the BA’s physics and astronomy section. His photo is on permanent display in the National Portrait Gallery in an exhibition of ‘21 Faces of British Science’.
Jim applied for a senior media fellowship after receiving a newly-created chair in public engagement in science because he was keen to do more than just have the title. The fellowship will allow him to explore a range of ventures in television and radio as well as to start some interesting projects.
For instance, he has started a series of public debates at the University of Surrey that run twice a year and cover topics of interest and concern to the public. He invites high-profile panellists to discuss matters ranging from genetics to space exploration. The first one, in May 2006, covered nuclear power versus renewable energy and was a great success. Future debates may be webcast to stimulate similar events in other countries.
Finally, Jim points out that he only does physics in his spare time. His full-time occupation is following Leeds United, ‘the greatest football team on earth’!