press release
Published: 16 June 2016

University of Surrey Professor and BBC presenter receives Stephen Hawking Medal for Science Communication

Professor Jim Al-Khalili OBE, renowned Surrey physicist, author and BBC broadcaster, has been announced as the winner of the inaugural Stephen Hawking Medal for Science Communication.


Jim Al Khalili stood next to Surrey University globe sculpture
  • Renowned physicist, author and broadcaster, Professor Jim Al-Khalili OBE, has been awarded the inaugural Stephen Hawking Medal for Science Communication.
  • Professor Jim Al-Khalili is the first person to be honoured for his contribution to science with this, first medal of its kind, at STARMUS International Science and Arts Festival in Tenerife on 29 June 2016.
  • Stephen Hawking Medal recognises the work of those helping to promote the public awareness of science through different disciplines such as science communication, music, arts and cinema.

The medal is the first of its kind and recognises the work of those helping to promote public awareness of science through different disciplines such as music, the arts and cinema.  Professor Al-Khalili, will be presented with the prestigious Medal at a special ceremony during STARMUS on 29 June.  Presenting the award will be world-famous astrophysicist, Stephen Hawking; STARMUS founder, Professor Garik Israelian;  Alexei Leonov, the first human to conduct extra-vehicular activity (EVA) and exiting the capsule during the Voskhod 2 mission for a 12-minute spacewalk; and musician and astrophysicist, Brian May. 

Professor Jim Al-Khalili from the University of Surrey said: “It is a huge honour to have received the very first Stephen Hawking Science Communication Medal. Bringing cutting-edge research findings to life has always drawn me to science communication. To me, doing the research is only half the job – you also need to tell people about it. That’s what I try to do as both a lecturer and a broadcaster.” 

Professor Al-Khalili obtained his PhD in theoretical nuclear physics from Surrey in 1989, following which he became lecturer and then professor of physics. He continues to teach undergraduate physics and carry out research, having published a hundred papers in nuclear physics, quantum mechanics and quantum biology.

During his time at the University of Surrey, Professor Al-Khalili has been elected fellow of the Institute of Physics, Honorary Fellow of the British Science Association and has received the Royal Society Michael Faraday Medal and the Institute of Physics Kelvin Medal as well as numerous honorary degrees from UK universities. He received an OBE in 2007 for ‘services to science’. 

Alongside his academic career, Professor Al-Khalili is a well-known science communicator, author and broadcaster, best known as a presenter of the weekly BBC Radio 4 programme, The Life Scientific. 

President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Surrey, Professor Max Lu, commented: “For more than 25 years Jim has been a true inspiration to our staff and students, first as an ambitious PhD student, then as a lecturer and as a professor. His outstanding ability to communicate complicated science in an understandable and entertaining manner is what makes him a distinguished professor, author and broadcaster. We are thrilled he has won such a prestigious award – my personal, and on behalf of the University, congratulations to Jim for this fantastic and well-deserved accolade.” 

Professor Stephen Hawking said:  “In collaboration with the STARMUS festival in Tenerife, I am delighted to announce the first recipient of the Stephen Hawking Medal, for Science Communication. In this special inaugural year of the awards, I have been invited to personally select the awardees that have made outstanding contributions in the articulation and portrayal of science to the public, within the three categories of science, art, and film. 

Professor Jim Al-Khalili is the very worthy recipient in the science category. This has been for his treatment of complex physics concepts through science documentaries, most recently, The Secrets of Quantum Physics.”

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