The British Science Association (BSA) has announced that physicist and broadcaster Professor Jim Al-Khalili is to be its next President, taking up the role in September.  

The award-winning BBC broadcaster and author will begin his year-long term at the British Science Festival 2018, hosted by the University of Hull. He will succeed current BSA President Professor Dame Uta Frith. Jim is Professor of Physics at the University of Surrey, where he's also Chair of the Public Engagement in Science group. 

Jim has been involved with the BSA for over 20 years, having been an active member of the Physics & Astronomy section, as well as the group’s recorder and president. He's previously sat on the BSA’s Council as a trustee and then later as the Vice-President of the Sections. Not only has he played a pivotal role in the BSA’s Engagement programmes, but he has also supported the BSA’s Education and Cultural Development work, having been a judge at the National Science + Engineering Competition, as well as a speaker at the Science Communication Conference. 

Announced today: the BSA's incoming President, Professor Jim Al-Khalili

Speaking ahead of the announcement today, Professor Jim Al-Khalili said: “I am delighted to be taking up Presidency of the British Science Association in September. I have been actively involved with the charity for nearly 20 years – starting out as a member of the Physics and Astronomy section, and then later becoming a trustee and Vice-President for sections –  therefore I feel honoured to be taking on this important role. Being so involved over the last two decades has offered me a real insight into how the BSA has developed and changed, particularly in the last couple of years. I am very much looking forward to contributing to the BSA’s newly-launched strategy over the coming months.   

“I am also incredibly excited to be taking part in this year’s British Science Festival in Hull. As a city that is bursting with culture and heritage, particularly in science and innovation, it is surely set up to be an exceptional event and it is a privilege to be involved.” 

He will mark the start of his Presidency at the British Science Festival by delivering the annual Presidential Address and hosting the Festival Dinner. 

Katherine Mathieson, Chief Executive of the British Science Association, said: “Jim has been a long-time supporter of the BSA and has championed science through public engagement throughout his career. He is a distinguished scientist, holding prestigious posts in academia, whilst also gathering vast amounts of expertise in broadcasting, writing, and communicating. He has a unique talent for telling compelling, important stories from the frontline of scientific research.  

Having known Jim for many years, I am delighted to have him on board as our new President and I’m honoured he’s accepted this prestigious role. I look forward to hearing his Address at the Festival this September, and to working with him throughout the forthcoming year.

Today’s news coincides with the announcement of four other star speakers from this year’s British Science Festival.  

Four-times UK beatbox champion, Grace Savage, will be taking part in an event that delves into the mysteries behind the human voice box, and how beatboxers are able to manipulate their own to produce the unique sounds and tones they’re known for. 

Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, who famously was the first to discover radio pulsars in astronomy, will be in conversation with critically-acclaimed poet, LemnSissay at the Festival to discuss their shared love of poetry. Jocelyn uses poetry to help articulate her work in physics, and she’ll discuss with Lemn why she believes poetry is the perfect medium to frame some of the biggest questions in science and should act as an inspiration for creative writers and poets everywhere.   

Lord John Prescott, a proud ambassador for Hull and the Humber,will also be involved in the event taking place this September. 

 British Science Festival 2018 is taking place in Hull & the Humber

The Festival will focus on an audience of non-specialist adults with a broad interest in science, delivering 100 events specially curated by the British Science Association. World-leading academics from University of Hull and other institutions and organisations across the UK will present, discuss and debate cutting-edge science (across the scientific spectrum including technology, engineering and social sciences) at a range of different events, from talks to performances. 

The British Science Festival has only visited Hull twice beforefirstly in 1853 and most recently in 1922.  

The Festival has been the stage for many iconic moments in history – such as the famous debate on Darwin’s controversial theory of evolution between Thomas Huxley and the Bishop of Oxford in 1860. It also saw the first use of the word ‘scientist’ in 1834 and ‘dinosaur’ 1841 

The origins of the Festival, previously known as the annual meeting, can be traced back to York, in 1831. Since then it has travelled the globe, including visits to Montreal and Australia.