Jameel Sadik Al-Khalili
20 September 1962
|Education||Priory School, Portsmouth|
|Alma mater||University of Surrey (BSc, PhD)|
|Known for||The Life Scientific|
|Thesis||Intermediate Energy Deuteron Elastic Scattering from Nuclei in a Three-Body Model (1989)|
|Doctoral advisor||Jeff Tostevin|
Jameel Sadik "Jim" Al-Khalili جيم الخليلي; born 20 September 1962) is an Iraqi-British theoretical physicist, author and broadcaster. He is professor of theoretical physics and chair in the public engagement in science at the University of Surrey. He is a regular broadcaster and presenter of science programmes on BBC radio and television, and a frequent commentator about science in other British media.(Arabic:
In 2014, Al-Khalili was named as a RISE (Recognising Inspirational Scientists and Engineers) leader by the UK's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). He was President of Humanists UK between January 2013 and January 2016.
Al-Khalili was born in Baghdad in 1962. His father was an Iraqi Air Force engineer, and his English mother was a librarian. Al-Khalili settled permanently in the UK in 1979. After completing (and retaking) his A-levels over three years until 1982, he studied physics at the University of Surrey and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1986. He stayed on at Surrey to pursue a Doctor of Philosophy degree in nuclear reaction theory, which he obtained in 1989, rather than accepting a job offer from the National Physical Laboratory.
In 1989, Al-Khalili was awarded a Science and Engineering Research Council (SERC) postdoctoral fellowship at University College London, after which he returned to Surrey in 1991, first as a research assistant, then as a 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 a professor of physics at the University of Surrey, where he also holds a chair in the Public Engagement in Science. 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.
Al-Khalili was awarded the Royal Society of London 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 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 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 Birthday Honours. In 2013 he was awarded an Honorary Degree (DSc) from the University of London. Al-Khalili was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2018.
He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2021 Birthday Honours for services to science and public engagement in STEM.
As a broadcaster, Al-Khalili is frequently on television and radio and also writes articles for the British press. In 2004, he co-presented the Channel 4 documentary The Riddle of Einstein's Brain, produced by Icon Films. 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 Horizon, "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 Richard Dawkins, Alice Roberts, James Lovelock, Steven Pinker, Martin Rees, Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Mark Walport and Tim Hunt, and he has himself been interviewed on the show by Adam Rutherford.
He hosts a regular "Jim meets..." interview series at the University of Surrey, which is published on the university's YouTube channel. Guests have included Sir David Attenborough, Lord (Robert) Winston, Professor Brian Cox and Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury. In 2011, Al-Khalili hosted a three-part documentary series on BBC Four entitled Shock and Awe: The Story of Electricity. In 2012, Al-Khalili 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.
Al-Khalili lives in Southsea, Portsmouth with his wife Julie. They have a son and daughter. Al-Khalili describes himself as an atheist and a humanist, remarking, "as the son of a Protestant Christian mother and a Shia Muslim father, I have nevertheless ended up without a religious bone in my body". Al-Khalili became Vice President of Humanists UK in 2016 after stepping down as its President.
A list of Jim Al-Khalili's peer reviewed research papers can be found on Google Scholar and Scopus. His published books include:
His essays, chapters and other contributions include:
Jim Al-Khalili has written one science fiction novel:
I find it more comfortable to say I'm an atheist, and for that I probably have someone like Dawkins to thank.