UCL News


UCL alumni knighted as leaders in film and AI

5 April 2024

Congratulations to UCL alumni Sir Christopher Nolan, Dame Emma Thomas and Sir Demis Hassabis who have been recognised in the latest King’s Honours.

Birthday honours

Film director Christopher Nolan and film producer Emma Thomas have been awarded a Knighthood and Damehood respectively in this year’s honours for their services to film.  

The husband –and wife duo, who met while studying at UCL where they were active members of the UCL Film Society, have produced and directed countless blockbuster films including The Dark Knight trilogy, Inception and Dunkirk with their film production company Syncopy.  

Most recently, Sir Christopher and Dame Emma’s 2023 thriller Oppenheimer won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. 

The 1993 graduates have maintained their connection with UCL, often using the Bloomsbury campus as filming locations for their films. Both Sir Christopher (UCL BA English Literature 1993) and Dame Emma (UCL BA History 1993) have been awarded honorary fellowships at the university, while Sir Christopher was also awarded an honorary doctorate in 2017.   

Neuroscientist, computer game designer and entrepreneur Demis Hassabis has been awarded a Knighthood for his service to Artificial Intelligence.  

Sir Demis, who completed a PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience at UCL in 2009, went on to co-found a London-based machine learning AI startup, Google DeepMind. 

The company, which was acquired by Google in 2014, aims to meld insights from neuroscience and machine learning with new developments in computing hardware to unlock increasingly powerful general-purpose learning algorithms that will work towards the creation of an artificial general intelligence. It has consistently been at the forefront of AI development, producing landmark research breakthroughs such as AlphaGo (the first program to beat the world champion at the complex game of Go) and AlphaFold, heralded as a solution to the 50-year grand challenge of protein folding. 

Sir Demis maintains a strong connection with UCL where he has taught about cutting edge industry technology on the MSc Machine Learning course and in late 2023 he delivered the UCL Prize Lecture in Life and Medical Sciences. Google DeepMind has also sponsored PhD scholarships at UCL.  



Media contact

Sophie Hunter

Email: sophie.hunter[at]ucl.ac.uk