Professor Jim Al-Khalili visiting the National Buried Infrastructure Facility

Last week, Professor Jim Al-Khalili CBE FRS, Professor of Theoretical Physics and Chair in Public Engagement in Science at the University of Surrey, visited the UK Quantum Technology Hub Sensors and Timing and the National Buried Infrastructure Facility before delivering a lecture as part of a campaign celebrating 10 years of interdisciplinary research at the University of Birmingham.

Accompanied by Professor Hisham Mehanna, Director of the Institute for Global Innovation and Institute for Advanced Studies, as well as Professor Michael Holynski, Principal Investigator at the Quantum Technology Hub, Professor Al-Khalili visited the Hub's quantum clocks labs to find out more about the development of compact optical clock systems and applications in precision radar from researchers and a representative from NPL. Professor Al-Khalili was also introduced to the Hub’s geophysics research, starting with a visit to the gravity gradiometer instrument featured in a Nature paper in February 2022, which detailed the detection of an underground tunnel – a world first. Professor Al-Khalili was also introduced to the recently awarded EPSRC/NERC funded projects, which aim to better understand how quantum sensor technology can be used in environmental applications.

Quantum Technology Hub researchers from spin-out Cerca also attended, discussing their aims of bringing wearable quantum-enabled brain scanners to both a research and clinical commercial market. The tour ended with a tour of the National Buried Infrastructure Facility, led by Director Professor Nicole Metje, which uniquely enables industry and academics to carry out underground geophysics research at nearly full scale.

Students were delighted to meet Professor Al-Khalili, and were also given the opportunity to join a special lunch before the tour. In the evening, Professor Al-Khalili hosted a sold-out public lecture in the Elgar Concert Hall with over 400 attendees, speaking on the importance of research that crosses traditional boundaries, and its role in science.

The visit was organised as part of the ongoing ‘Decade Inspiring Interdisciplinarity’ campaign led by the Institute for Advanced Studies and Institute for Global Innovation, the University’s mechanism for supporting interdisciplinary research. The Institute offers support for workshops and visiting fellowships which can be accessed by academics across the University.

Workshop topics should be interdisciplinary and include substantial input from at least two Colleges. Funding can be used to support venue hire, catering and logistical support for organising and delivering your workshop.

The fellowships programme aims to attract outstanding researchers from outside of the University, at any career stage, operating at the cutting edge of their discipline. Support is available for collaborations on topics that are timely, relevant, and cross disciplinary boundaries. Fellows are normally expected to spend a period of between 4 and 8 weeks on campus.

The next deadline for applications is 20th May 2023 - more details can be found on this webpage.