Professor David Birch

Emeritus Professor



Personal statement

David Birch has been Professor of Photophysics since 1993 having cofounded the Photophysics Group 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 of research funding and collaborates with an extensive network of national and international partners across industry and universities. It has successfully trained over 70 research students and post-doctoral fellows, 7 later becoming full professors and others leaders of industry.

David grew up in the Lancashire village of Burscough and then went on to study for his BSc and PhD in the Physics Department at the University of Manchester. He 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 with Bob Imhof and Tony Hallam in 1977. IBH was Strathclyde's first spin-out and one of earliest in Scotland.  He is a pioneer 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. As Chairman David led IBH in its merger with HORIBA in 2003 and together they 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. In recent years  his research has focused on 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 2017 David was awarded the HORIBA Lifetime Achievement Award for 40 years innovation in TCSPC with the Institute of Physics Dennis Gabor Medal and Prize  for pioneering the UK fluorescence lifetime industry following in 2020. In 2019 IBH was awarded the Institute of Physics Business Innovation Award for the development of the FLIMera multiplexed TCSPC molecular movie camera.  Previously IBH won SMART, SPUR, John Logie Baird and Millennium awards for innovation and has sponsored UK university research over two decades. 

David is a Fellow of Scotland's National Academy, the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Institute of Physics and the Royal Society of Chemistry. Since 2002 he has been the Visiting Professor of Applied Physics at the Czech Technical University in Prague. In 1998-99 he held the Sir C V Raman Endowment Chair at the University of Madras and in 2000 Visiting Professor at Kyoto Institute of Technology. In 2014 he was appointed to the Green Honors Chair in Physics at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. He has held research fellowships from the Royal Society, the Nuffield Foundation and the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science. 

He was Editor-in-Chief of Measurement Science and Technology from 2012-2016. The journal 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 founding co-Editor-in-Chief of Methods and Applications in Fluorescence. He was a member of the Editorial Board of Plenum's Journal of Fluorescence from its launch in 1990 until 2002 and SPIE's Journal of Biomedical Optics from its launch in 1996 until 2019. David served as Head of Department from 2004-10 building up to the Government-led REF 2014 assessment from which the Times Higher Education ranked Strathclyde 1st in the UK for the quality of its physics research, the impact case studies arising from David's research in REF 2014 and REF 2021 contributing to the Department's successes. As HoD David helped launch the very successful Scottish Universities Physics Alliance (SUPA) in 2004 and represented Strathclyde in helping to win £48m second round SFC funding for SUPA. In 2005 he cofounded Strathclyde's Centre for Molecular Nanometrology with Professor Duncan Graham and subsequently led a £4.9m EPSRC/SFC Science and Innovation Award to support its growth. 

David convened the session on Photochemistry, Photophysics and Electrochemistry at the 7th EuCheMS Congress in Liverpool in August 2018 and has served on the Permanent Standing Committee of the Methods and Applications in Fluorescence Conference series since 1993. He initiated 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. Recent conference invited talks include those at ISSW 2022 and MNBS LX.

profile of David's career has recently been written and published by Wiley Analytical Science. 

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Quantity with quality
Birch David J S, Levitus Marcia, Mély Yves
Methods and Applications in Fluorescence Vol 11 (2023)
Keratin intrinsic fluorescence as a mechanism for non-invasive monitoring of its glycation
Muir Rhona, Forbes Shareen, Birch David J S, Vyshemirsky Vladislav, Rolinski Olaf J
Methods and Applications in Fluorescence Vol 11 (2023)
Photothermal effects of gold nanorods in aqueous solution and gel media : influence of particle size and excitation wavelength
Mbalaha Zendesha S, Birch David J S, Chen Yu
IET Nanobiotechnology Vol 17, pp. 103-111 (2022)
Impact of the flavonoid quercetin on beta-amyloid aggregation revealed by intrinsic fluorescence
Alghamdi Abeer, Birch David JS, Vyshemirsky Vladislav, Rolinski Olaf J
Journal of Physical Chemistry B Vol 126, pp. 7229-7237 (2022)
Emerging clinical applications of fluorescence using SPADs
Birch David
International SPAD Sensor Workshop 2022 (2022)
An organophotocatalytic late-stage N–CH3 oxidation of trialkylamines to N-formamides with O2 in continuous flow
Mandigma Mark John P, Žurauskas Jonas, MacGregor Callum I, Edwards Lee J, Shahin Ahmed, d'Heureuse Ludwig, Yip Philip, Birch David J S, Gruber Thomas, Heilmann Jörg, John Matthew P, Barham Joshua P
Chemical Science Vol 13, pp. 1912-1924 (2022)

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Professional Activities

MSc External Examiner
PhD External Examiner
Science Foundation Ireland (External organisation)
Methods and Applications in Fluorescence (Journal)
Measurement Science and Technology (Journal)

More professional activities


Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP 2016-2017 University of Strathclyde) | Adelt, Milan
Chen, Yu (Principal Investigator) Birch, David (Co-investigator) Adelt, Milan (Research Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2017 - 20-Jan-2023
(Horiba Contribution) Initialising multiplexed time-correlated single-photon timing fluorescence systems
Birch, David (Principal Investigator)
01-Jan-2016 - 31-Jan-2016
Elucidating biomolecular self-assembly pathways
Birch, David (Principal Investigator)
01-Jan-2015 - 30-Jan-2019
Time-correlated single-photon counting (SUPA INSPIRE)
Birch, David (Principal Investigator)
01-Jan-2015 - 30-Jan-2015
Nanometrology for Molecular Science, Medicine & Manufacture
Birch, David (Principal Investigator)
01-Jan-2014 - 30-Jan-2015
Nanoprobes for melanin and melanoma (support for CDT in Medical Imaging)
Birch, David (Principal Investigator) Chen, Yu (Co-investigator) Sutter, Jens (Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2014 - 30-Jan-2018

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Professor David Birch
Emeritus Professor

Tel: 548 3377