Episodes
In recent decades, we've taken huge steps forward in treating formerly fatal viruses: with pharmacological breakthroughs revolutionising treatment for conditions such as HIV, hepatitis and herpes. Raymond Schinazi has played a big role in that revolution. Ray was born in Egypt, where his mother’s brush with a potentially deadly illness during his childhood inspired a fascination with medicine. His childhood was scattered: after his family were forced to leave their homeland and travelled to...
Published 07/16/24
Published 07/16/24
From anorexia nervosa to binge-eating, eating disorders are potentially fatal conditions that are traditionally very difficult to diagnose and treat - not least because those affected often don’t recognise that there’s anything wrong. But also because of the diverse factors that can influence and encourage them. Janet Treasure is a Professor of Psychiatry at King’s College, London - where she's focused on understanding the drivers behind these disorders, to help develop more effective...
Published 07/09/24
Marfan syndrome is a genetic disorder that makes renders the body’s connective tissues incredibly fragile; this can weaken the heart, leading to potentially fatal aneurysms. What’s more, anyone with the condition has a 50/50 chance of passing it on to their children. Dr Anne Child is a clinical geneticist who’s dedicated her professional life to finding answers and solutions for people affected by Marfan’s. Born in Canada, she met her British future-husband while working in Montreal in a...
Published 07/02/24
Many of us have heard of seismology, the study of earthquakes; but what about asteroseismology, focusing on vibrations in stars? Conny Aerts is a Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Leuven in Belgium - and a champion of this information-rich field of celestial research. Her work has broken new ground in helping to improve our understanding of stars and their structures. It hasn’t been an easy path: Conny describes herself as always being “something of an outlier” and she had to...
Published 06/25/24
What is the universe made of? Where does space dust come from? And how exactly might one go about putting on a one-man-show about Sir Isaac Newton? These are all questions that Mike Edmunds, Emeritus Professor of Astrophysics at Cardiff University and President of the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS), has tackled during his distinguished career. And although physics is his first love, Mike is fascinated by an array of scientific disciplines - with achievements ranging from interpreting the...
Published 04/23/24
With 86 billion nerve cells joined together in a network of 100 trillion connections, the human brain is the most complex system in the known universe. Dr. Hannah Critchlow is an internationally acclaimed neuroscientist who has spent her career demystifying and explaining the brain to audiences around the world. Through her writing, broadcasting and lectures to audiences – whether in schools, festivals or online – she has become one of the public faces of neuroscience. She tells Professor...
Published 04/16/24
The reputation of the nuclear industry has had highs and lows during the career of Dr Fiona Rayment, the President of the Nuclear Institute. But nowadays the role of nuclear science and engineering has become more widely accepted in the quest for carbon net zero. Growing up in Hamilton, Scotland during a time of energy insecurity, Fiona was determined to understand more about why her school lacked the energy to heat up all of the classrooms or why there were power cuts causing her to have to...
Published 04/09/24
We are fascinated by dinosaurs. From blockbuster hits to bestselling video games, skeleton exhibitions to cuddly plushies, the creatures that once roamed the planet have fully captured our imagination, giving us a portal to a completely alternative Earth. And it’s likely new species are still out there, waiting to be found... Dr Nick Longrich is a palaeontologist and senior lecturer at the University of Bath, and he studies the dinosaur bones that many have overlooked. By rummaging through...
Published 04/02/24
Dr Sheila Willis is a forensic scientist who was Director General of Forensic Science Ireland for many years. She has spent her life using science to help solve cases, working on crime scenes and then analysing material in the lab, and presenting scientific evidence in court. It’s a complicated business. Forensic science relies on powerful technology, such as DNA analysis, but it cannot be that alone - it’s also about human judgement, logical reasoning and asking the right questions. It is...
Published 03/27/24
Professor Charles Godfray, Director of the the Oxford Martin School tells Jim Al-Kahlili about the intricate world of population dynamics, and how a healthy obsession with parasitic wasps might help us solve some of humanity's biggest problems, from the fight against Malaria to sustainably feeding a global community of 9 billion people.
Published 03/19/24
Sir Jonathan Van-Tam, or ‘JVT’ as he's arguably better known, first came to widespread public attention in his role as Deputy Chief Medical Officer during the Covid-19 pandemic. But even before that, Jonathan had built an impressive career based on a long-held fascination with respiratory illness and infectious diseases. He’s worked across the public and private sectors, contributing significantly to improving our understanding of influenza and treatments to address such viruses. It’s hard...
Published 03/12/24
Humans have a long-held fascination with the idea of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a dystopian threat: from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, through to the Terminator movies. But somehow, we still often think of this technology as 'futuristic': whereas in fact, it's already woven into the fabric of our daily lives, from facial recognition software to translator apps. And if we get too caught up in the entertaining sci-fi narrative around AI and the potential threat from machines, there's a more...
Published 12/19/23
How do you solve a problem like CO2? As the curtain closes on the world’s most important climate summit, we talk to a scientist who was at COP 28 and is working to solve our carbon dioxide problem. Professor Mercedes Maroto-Valer thinks saving the planet is still Mission Possible - but key to success is turning the climate-busting gas, CO2, into something useful. And as Director of the Research Centre for Carbon Solutions at Heriot-Watt University and the UK’s Decarbonisation Champion, she...
Published 12/12/23
The Life Scientific zooms in to explore the intricate atomic make-up of metal alloys, with complex crystalline arrangements that can literally make or break structures integral to our everyday lives. Professor Sir Harry Bhadeshia is Professor of Metallurgy at Queen Mary University of London and Emeritus Tata Steel Professor of Metallurgy at the University of Cambridge. He’s been described as a ‘steel innovator’ – developing multiple new alloys with a host of real-world applications, from rail...
Published 12/05/23
“Big data” and “data science” are terms we hear more and more these days. The idea that we can use these vast amounts of information to understand and analyse phenomena, and find solutions to problems, is gaining prominence, both in business and academia. Cathie Sudlow, Professor of Neurology and Clinical Epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, has been at the forefront of enabling health-related research using ever-increasing datasets. She tells presenter Jim Al-Khalili why this type...
Published 11/28/23
Professor Jim Al-Khalili meets one of Britain's greatest physicists, Sir Michael Berry. His work uncovers 'the arcane in the mundane', revealing the science that underpins phenomena in the world around us such as rainbows, and through his popular science lectures he joyfully explains the role of quantum mechanics in phones, computers and the technology that shapes the modern world. He is famed for the 'Berry phase' which is a key concept in quantum mechanics and one Sir Michael likes to...
Published 11/21/23
People around the world are living longer and, on the whole, having fewer children. What does this mean for future populations? Sarah Harper CBE, Professor in Gerontology at the University of Oxford, tells presenter Jim Al-Khalili how it could affect pensions, why it might mean we work for longer, and discusses the ways modern life is changing global attitudes to when we have children, and whether we have them at all. Fertility and ageing have been Sarah's life's work and she tells her story...
Published 11/14/23
Our primate cousins fascinate us, with their uncanny similarities to us. And studying other apes and monkeys also helps us figure out the evolutionary puzzle of what makes us uniquely human. Sarah Blaffer Hrdy’s work brings a female perspective to this puzzle, correcting sexist stereotypes like the aggressive, philandering male and the coy, passive female. Sarah is Professor Emerita of Anthropology at the University of California, Davis, and studies female primate behaviour to create a richer...
Published 11/07/23
The Life Scientific returns with a special episode from the USA; Princeton, New Jersey, to be precise. Here, the Institute for Advanced Study has hosted some of the greatest scientific minds of our time - Einstein was one of its first Professors, J. Robert Oppenheimer its longest-serving director - and today's guest counts among them. Edward Witten is Professor Emeritus at the Institute and the physicist behind M-Theory, a leading contender for what is commonly referred to as ‘the theory of...
Published 10/31/23
Behind every line on a graph, there lies an extraordinary human story. Mathematician Hannah Fry is here to tell us ten of them.
Published 10/02/23
With the world's biodiversity being lost at an alarming rate, Alexandre Antonelli, Director of Science at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, has made it his life's mission to protect it. He is a bio-geographer revealing how changes to the Earth's landscape, such as the formation of mountain ranges and rainforests, leads to the evolution of new species and causes plants, fungi and animals to move around the world. His work is a masterclass in joined-up thinking, bringing together different...
Published 09/19/23
Astronomer Paul Murdin believes a good imagination is vital for scientists, since they're so often dealing with subjects outside the visible realm. Indeed, over a long and successful career his imagination has taken him on a journey through space, discovering various new and unusual celestial occurrences - notably the first successful identification of a black hole, Cygnus X-1. Paul tells Jim Al-Khalili how he spent much of his career at the Royal Greenwich Observatory, working with...
Published 09/12/23
Some of the most complex medicines available today are made from living cells or organisms - these treatments are called biopharmaceuticals and in this episode of The Life Scientific Dr Bahija Jallal, CEO of Immunocore, shares her story of leaving her home in Casablanca, Morocco to become a world leader in developing biopharmaceutical cancer treatments. She tells Professor Jim Al-Khalili that she has always found herself ahead of the curve. When she began in oncology, the study of cancer,...
Published 09/05/23
How much more of our world could we understand, if we could take stock of it, one atom at a time? If we could see the structure of individual molecules, understand the complex ways they interact with one another, and witness first-hand how they move? These are questions for electron microscopy, and more broadly, for Materials Science. Materials scientists peer into the atomic structure of the stuff that makes up our world, to figure out the relationships between the structure of a...
Published 08/29/23