Dr. Neil Turok earned his PhD at Imperial College. After a postdoc in Santa Barbara, he was appointed Associate Scientist at Fermilab before moving to Princeton, where he became Professor of Physics in 1994. In 1997 he was appointed to the Chair of Mathematical Physics in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (DAMTP) at Cambridge. In October 2008, he moved to the Perimeter Institute as its new Director. Among his many honours, he was awarded Sloan and Packard Fellowships and the 1992 James Clerk Maxwell medal of the UK Institute of Physics.
Dr. Turok has worked in a number of areas of theoretical physics and cosmology, focusing on developing fundamental theories and new observational tests. With Stephen Hawking, he developed the Hawking-Turok instanton solutions, describing the birth of an inflationary universe — positing that, big bang or no, the universe came from something, not from utter nothingness. In the early 1990s, his group showed how the polarization and temperature anisotropies of the cosmic background radiation would be correlated, a prediction confirmed in detail by recent precision measurements. The team also developed a key test for the presence of the cosmological constant, also recently confirmed. With Stephen Hawking, he later developed the Hawking-Turok instanton solutions describing the birth of inflationary universes.
Most recently, with Paul Steinhardt at Princeton, he has developed a cyclic model for cosmology, according to which the Big Bang is explained as a collision between two “brane-worlds” in M-theory. In 2006, Steinhardt and Turok showed how the model naturally allowed the cosmological constant to relax to very small values, consistent with current observations. Steinhardt and Turok co-authored the popular science book Endless Universe: Beyond the Big Bang. A full online multimedia talk may be viewed online by clicking on Perimeter Institute Public Lectures and selecting Dr. Turok’s presentation “What Banged?”.
Born in South Africa, Dr. Turok founded the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS), which opened in 2003. Based in Cape Town, this postgraduate educational centre supports the development of mathematics and science across the African continent (see www.aims.ac.za and www.nexteinstein.org). For this work and his contributions to theoretical physics, Dr. Turok was recently awarded a prestigious TED Prize (www.ted.com) and a “Most Innovative People” award at the 2008 World Summit on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (WSIE). He is a Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) Fellow in Cosmology and Gravity and was selected to deliver the 2012 CBC Massey Lectures.