James Kakalios is the Taylor Distinguished Professor in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Minnesota, where he has taught since 1988. His scientific research in experimental condensed matter physics concerns the properties of complex and disordered systems. His class “Everything I Needed to Know About Physics I learned from Reading Comic Books” is a popular freshman seminar.
Extensive media coverage of this class in May 2002, in connection with the release of the first Sony Spider-Man film, resulted in hundreds of e-mails from students, teachers and those long out of college, all supporting the concept of using superheroes to teach physics and enquiring about a book based on the class. His popular science book THE PHYSICS OF SUPERHEROES was published in 2005, and has been translated into six languages. He is also the author of THE AMAZING STORY OF QUANTUM MECHANICS (2010) and the recently published THE PHYSICS OF EVERYDAY THINGS (Crown, 2017).
In 2007, he served as the science consultant for the Warner Bros. superhero film Watchmen. He appears on the DVD version of the film in a special feature that discusses some of the science behind one of Watchmen’s central characters — Dr. Manhattan. In 2009, Kakalios made a video with the University News Service on “The Science of Watchmen,” which has been viewed over 1.6 million times and in 2009 won a regional Emmy Award in the “Advanced Media: Arts/Entertainment” category. In 2012, James served as one of the science consultants for the Marvel Entertainment American superhero film The Amazing Spider-Man.
His research interests include nanocrystalline and amorphous semiconductors and fluctuation phenomena in neurological systems. His efforts at science outreach have been recognized with awards from the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Institute of Physics.
He received his Ph.D. in 1985 from the University of Chicago, and has been reading comic books for much longer. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife Therese and his three children.
Honorary Doctorate, University of Lincoln (U.K.), 2017
Andrew Gemant Award, American Institute of Physics, 2016
Fellow, American Physical Society, 2015
AAAS Award for Public Engagement with Science, 2014
Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2013
Taylor Distinguished Professor, University of Minnesota, 2008-present
Charles E. Bowers Faculty Teaching Award, University of Minnesota, 2003
Institute of Technology Student Board – Professor of the Year, University of Minnesota, 2003