Professor Jim Al-Khalili OBE

Research Interests

Al-Khalili's research interests lie mainly in the field of theoretical nuclear physics. This has mostly been in the development of few-body quantum scattering methods to study nuclear reaction mechanisms and nuclear structure, particularly as applied to the study of exotic nuclei produced by radioactive beam facilities around the world. He has pioneered the application of few-body Glauber methods in nuclear scattering and reactions at intermediate and high energies. His interests have spanned a wide range of reaction energies from the study of the light nuclei using electromagnetic probes such as electron scattering and photo-induced pion production reactions, to reactions of astrophysical interest. Over the past few years, he has become interested studying quantum mechanisms in biology and has published several papers on quantum tunneling in DNA.

Research Collaborations

Al-Khalili collaborates with colleagues, and jointly supervises postdocs and research students, within the nuclear theory group at Surrey on a range of topics of current interest. Active collaboration with theorists and experimentalists in Europe, the US and Canada, in particular where relating to research on exotic nuclear beams at the major labs. He is the theory coordinator for the R3B collaboration at GSI. Collaborates with PDRA DR Qiang Zhao at Surrey and Professor Frank Close (Oxford) on problems in hadron physics. Collaborates with both theorists and experimentalists at TRIUMF Lab, Vancouver, and Jyvaskyla Lab in Finland on decay studies of exotic nuclei, particularly relating to nuclear astrophysics Collaborates with both physicists and Microbiologists on topics relating to quantum effects in biological systems.


  • Level: Masters – Topics in Theoretical Physics (PHYM039).

Departmental Duties

Undergraduate Admissions Tutor


1. Life on the Edge: the coming of age of quantum biology (Transworld/Random House 2014), with Johnjoe McFadden. Already being translated into 16 languages; shortlisted for the Royal Society Winton Prize.
2. Paradox: The Nine Great Engimas in Physics (Bantam, 2012) – translated into 8 languages
3. Litmus: Short Stories from Modern Science, Comma Press, June 2011 – contributing author
4. Pathfinders: The Golden Age of Arabic Science (Penguin Press, 2010) – translated into 12 languages
5. 30 Second Theories, (Fall River Press, 2009) – contributing author
6. Quantum Aspects of Life, (Imperial College Press, 2008) – contributing author
7. The Euroschool Lectures on Physics with Exotic Beams – Editor (with E. Roeckl). Vols I-III, Springer, 2007-2009  
8. Quantum: A Guide for the Perplexed, (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2004) – translated into 8 languages
9. Nucleus: A Trip into the Heart of Matter, (Canopus Press, 2001) – translated into 6 languages
10. Collins Encyclopaedia of the Universe, (Harper-Collins, 2001) – contributing author
11. Black Holes, Wormholes and Time Machines, (Taylor and Francis, 1999) – translated into 13 languages


Television (Presenter):

• Britain’s Nuclear Secrets: Inside Sellafield, BBC4, August 2015
• Hawking’s Universe, five-part TV series for National Geographic/Discovery (IWC), 2014
• Light and Dark, two-part series for BBC4 (BBC Science Unit), 2013
• Order and Disorder, two-part series for BBC4 (Furnace TV), 2012
• Horizon: The Search for the Higgs, BBC2 (BBC Science Unit), 2012
• Brave New World, five-part TV series for Channel 4 (IWC), 2011
• Shock and Awe: The Story of Electricity, three-part series for BBC4 (BBC Science Unit), 2011
• Horizon: Fukushima: Can We Trust Nuclear Power? BBC2 (BBC Science Unit), 2011
• Everything and Nothing, two-part series for BBC4 (Furnace TV), 2011
• Genius of Britain, five-part TV series for Channel 4 (IWC), 2010
• Chemistry: A Volatile History, three-part TV series for BBC4 (BBC Science Unit), 2010
• The Secret Life of Chaos, one hour TV documentary for BBC4 (Furnace TV), 2010
• Science and Islam, three-part series TV for BBC (Oxford Scientific Films), 2009
• Lost Horizons: The Big Bang, BBC4 (BBC Science Unit), 2008
• Atom, three-part TV series for BBC (Oxford Scientific Films), 2007
• The Riddle of Einstein’s Brain, Channel 4 (Icon Films) in 2004

• The Life Scientific, BBC Radio 4, (2011 – ), runs for 24 weeks a year (reached its 100th episode in summer 2015)
• Archive on Four: Julian Huxley, BBC Radio 4, 2011
• Secret Scientists, three-part radio series for BBC World Service on Islamic science (Whistledown), 2009
• Guest on a number of BBC Radio 4 programmes: In Our Time (6 occasions), Start the Week (twice), Excess Baggage, Desert Island Discs, Saturday Live, BH, Great Lives, Quote-Unquote.

Contact Me

Phone: 01483 68 6808

Find me on campus
Room: 08 BB 03




Matter radii of light halo nuclei, J.S. Al-Khalili and J.A. Tostevin, Phys. Rev. Lett. 76 (1996) 3903-3906. [258 citations]. DOI:

Radii of halo nuclei from cross section measurements, J.S. Al-Khalili, J.A. Tostevin and I.J. Thompson, Phys. Rev. C 54 (1996) 1843-1852. [257 citations]. DOI:

Modelling proton tunnelling in the adenine–thymine base pair, AD. Godbeer, J.S. Al-Khalili and P.D. Stevenson, Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys. 17 (2015) 13034-13044. DOI: 10.1039/C5CP00472A

Advances in Optics in the Medieval Islamic World, J.S. Al-Khalili, Contemporary Physics, 56 (2015) 109-122, DOI: 10.1080/00107514.2015.1028753.

Michael Faraday’s ‘Experimental Researches in Electricity. On the Induction of Electric Currents. On the Evolution of Electricity from Magnetism. On a new Electrical Condition of Matter. On Arago’'s Magnetic Phenomena’, Philosophical Transactions, 1832, J.S. Al-Khalili, Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 373: 20140208.

Journal articles

  1. Godbeer AD, Al-Khalili JS, Stevenson PD. (2015) 'Modelling proton tunnelling in the adenine-thymine base pair.'. Phys Chem Chem Phys, England: 17 (19), pp. 13034-13044.doi: 10.1039/c5cp00472a
  2. Godbeer AD, Al-Khalili JS, Stevenson PD. (2014) 'Environment-induced dephasing versus von Neumann measurements in proton tunneling'. Physical Review A - Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics, 90 (1)doi: 10.1103/PhysRevA.90.012102Full text is available at:
  3. Cunningham ES, Al-Khalili JS, Johnson RC. (2013) 'Effect of spin-spin interactions on nucleon-nucleus scattering'. PHYSICAL REVIEW C, 87 (5) Article number ARTN 054601 doi: 10.1103/PhysRevC.87.054601
  4. Cunningham ES, Al-Khalili JS, Johnson RC. (2011) 'Role of the tensor exchange potential in nucleon-nucleus scattering'. PHYSICAL REVIEW C, 84 Article number ARTN 041601 doi: 10.1103/PhysRevC.84.041601Full text is available at:
  5. Yakhelef A, Timofeyuk NK, Al-Khalili JS, Thompson IJ. (2010) 'Three-Body Spectrum of C-18 and its Relevance to r-Process Nucleosynthesis'. FEW-BODY SYSTEMS, 47 (4), pp. 213-224.doi: 10.1007/s00601-010-0086-8

Conference papers

  1. Page RD, Bianco L, Darby IG, Joss DT, Simpson J, Al-Khalili JS, Cannon AJ, Cooper RJ, Eeckhaudt S, Erturk S, Gall B, Grahn T, Greenlees PT, Hadinia B, Jones PM, Judson DS, Julin R, Juutinen S, Ketelhut S, Labiche M, Leino M, Leppanen A-P, Nyman M, O'Donnell D, Rahkila P, Sapple PJ, Saren J, Scholey C, Steer AN, Stevenson PD, Suckling EB, Thomson J, Uusitalo J, Venhart M, Boztosun I, Balantekin AB. (2008) 'Decays of New Nuclides and Isomers Beyond the Proton Drip Line - The Influence of Neutron Configurations'. AMER INST PHYSICS NUCLEAR PHYSICS AND ASTROPHYSICS, Cappadocia, TURKEY: Conference on Nuclear Physic and Astrophysics - From Stable Beams to Exotic Nucle 1072, pp. 172-178.
  2. Page RD, Bianco L, Darby IG, Joss DT, Grahn T, Herzberg R-D, Pakarinen J, Thomson J, Uusitalo J, Eeckhaud S, Greenlees PT, Jones PM, Julin R, Juutinen S, Ketelhut S, Leino M, Leppanen A-P, Nyman M, Rahkila P, Saren J, Scholey C, Steer A, Venhart M, Simpson J, Al-Khalili JS, Cannon AJ, Stevenson PD, Erturk S, Gall B, Hadinia B, Ferreira LS, Arumugam P. (2007) 'Probing single-particle structures beyond the proton drip line'. AMER INST PHYSICS PROTON EMITTING NUCLEI AND RELATED TOPICS, Lisbon, PORTUGAL: International Conference on Proton Emitting Nuclei and Related Topics 961, pp. 137-142.
  3. AI-Khaffli JS, Cannon AJ, Stevenson PD, Ferreira LS, Arumugam P. (2007) 'The two-potential approach to one-proton emission'. AMER INST PHYSICS PROTON EMITTING NUCLEI AND RELATED TOPICS, Lisbon, PORTUGAL: International Conference on Proton Emitting Nuclei and Related Topics 961, pp. 66-71.

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