Julian Jones studied physics at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, where he gained his BSc and in 1980 a PhD on the plasma chemistry of excimer lasers. After a brief period as a research associate in Aberystwyth he moved to the University of Kent at Canterbury as a Lecturer, where he developed his interests in optical instrumentation. In 1988 he moved to Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh where he established a research group specialising in the physics and technology of optical fibres, with over 500 publications in the field. In 1992 he became Professor of Engineering Optics, in 1998 Head of the Department of Physics and in 2002 Head of the School of Engineering and Physical Sciences. Since 2006 has been an Honorary Professor at the University of Edinburgh. In 2007, he was appointed to the new position of Deputy Principal of Strategy and Resources at Heriot-Watt University.
Amongst his external appointments he is a Director of OptoSci Ltd, President of the UK Consortium for Photonics and Optics, a member of the DTI Photonics Leadership Group, a former member of the Council of the Institute of Physics and was Chairman of the Atomic Weapons Establishment Corporate Advisory Panel, 2002 2006. He has made many contributions to the work of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. Julian Jones was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2000 and a Fellow of the Optical Society of America in 2004 with the citation - "recognised for your world-leading track record in optical fibre sensors, optical instrumentation and laser-material interactions, and for your outstanding contributions to UK research strategy and planning". He was appointed as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the New Year's Honours of 2002, "for services to science and engineering".