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Personal profile

Personal Statement

David Birch has been Professor of Photophysics since 1993 in the Photophysics Group which he co-founded in 1978. His research focuses on fluorescence probes and their application to interdisciplinary molecular grand challenges at the biomedical interface. The Group has raised many millions of pounds in research funding and successfully trained over 70 research students and post-doctoral fellows, 7 later becoming full professors and others leaders of industry.

Following his BSc and PhD in Physics from the University of Manchester David lectured there for one year before moving into industry to work in organic mass spectrometry with VG Micromass Ltd. While at VG he recognised the commercial potential of his PhD for which he had designed and built a novel time-correlated single-photon counting (TCSPC) fluorescence lifetime spectrometer. On arrival at Strathclyde he started to convert his PhD into what were to become world-leading products though IBH, the company he co-founded in 1977 as one of the first Scottish University spin-out companies.  He is one of the pioneers of modern-day fluorescence lifetime spectroscopy and a driving force that has helped make Scotland their global manufacturing hub by having successfully bridged the Industry-University divide for over 40 years as a Company Director and Academic. Together HORIBA and IBH are now the market leader in fluorescence spectroscopy. 

David's innovations in measurement are contributing to a wide range of applications, many of critical importance in understanding the molecular science which underpins healthcare. He applies his present research to biomolecular structure and dynamics down to the single molecule level; melanin structure, photophysics and melanoma; fluorescence guided surgery, glucose sensing for diabetes; aggregation leading to fibrils e.g. beta-amyloid and Alzheimer’s disease; gold nanoparticle photophysics and its application to sensing, imaging and fluid biopsy; and 1-10 nm nanoparticle metrology. A list of David's publications is available.

His contributions have been recognised internationally through numerous awards and appointments. In 2019 IBH was awarded the Institute of Physics Business Innovation Award for the development of the FLIMera multiplexed TCSPC molecular movie camera.  In 2017 he received the HORIBA Lifetime Achievement Award for 40 years of innovation in TCSPC.

David is a Fellow of Scotland's National Academy, the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Visiting Professor of Applied Physics at the Czech Technical University in Prague. He held the Sir C V Raman Endowment Chair at the University of Madras in 1998-99 and previously research fellowships from the Royal Society, the Nuffield Foundation and the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science. In 2014 he was appointed to the Green Honors Chair in Physics at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. 

He was Editor-in-Chief of Measurement Science and Technology from 2012-2016 and led the journal to its highest impact factor since it was launched in 1923 as the world's first measurement journal and the first research journal produced by the Institute of Physics. Presently he is co-founding Editor-in-Chief of Methods and Applications in Fluorescence, one of the Institute's newest journals. He was a member of the Editorial Board of SPIE's Journal of Biomedical Optics from its launch in 1996 until 2019. David served as Head of Department from 2004-10, a period building up to and including 2.5 years of the Government-led REF 2014 assessment from which the Times Higher Education ranked Strathclyde as the number one in the UK for Physics Research.

David convened the session on Photochemistry, Photophysics and Electrochemistry at the 7th EuCheMS Congress in Liverpool in August 2018. He launched the FluoroFest Series of International Workshops in Prague in 2009 and Chaired the 12th FluoroFest held in Glasgow in 2017. The latest in the series was held in Fort Worth in May 2019.


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Research Output

Open Access
  • Thesis

    Accessing ultrafast protein dynamics through 2DIR spectroscopy of intrinsic ligand vibrations

    Author: Simpson, N., 13 Nov 2015

    Supervisor: Hunt, N. (Supervisor) & Birch, D. (Supervisor)

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

    Applications of surface plasmon resonance effect based on gold nanoparticles

    Author: gu, P., 4 Dec 2018

    Supervisor: Chen, Y. (Supervisor) & Birch, D. (Supervisor)

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    PhD External Examiner

    David Birch (Examiner)
    22 Jan 2020

    Activity: Examination typesExamination


    David Birch (Chair)
    24 Apr 201726 Apr 2017

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesOrganiser of major conference