The Photophysics Group led by David Birch works with fluorescence to address interdisciplinary molecular grand challenges at the biomedical interface that are relevant to metabolism and disease. The Group is among the pioneers of modern-day fluorescence lifetime spectrometers and the initiators and driving force that has made Scotland their global manufacturing hub. David co-founded IBH, one of the first Scottish University spin-out companies and now, as part of the Horiba Group, the market-leader in fluorescence spectroscopy. Many of the techniques and instrumentation first published by the Photophysics Group are widely used across the globe. The combination of both excitation and emission monochromators in fluorescence lifetime measurement (J. Phy. E. 1977) has become standard practice. Over two decades the coaxial nanosecond flashlamp (Rev. Sci. Instrum. 1981) was the most widely used source for these measurments, eventually being superseded by semiconductor sources. Subsequently UV LED excitation of protein fluorescence lifetime (Meas. Sci. Technol. 2004) and multiplexed time-correlated single-photon counting (Rev. Sci. Instrum. 1996) for simultaneous measurements across key fluorescence parameters in such as fluorescence lifetime imaging have become widely adopted.
Current research includes biomolecular structure and dynamics down to the single molecule level; melanin structure, photophysics and melanoma; glucose sensing for diabetes; aggregation leading to fibrils e.g. beta-amyloid and Alzheimer’s disease; gold nanoparticle photophysics and its application to sensing and imaging; and 1-10 nm nanoparticle metrology. A list of David's publications is available.
David was Editor-in-Chief of Measurement Science and Technology from 2012-2016 and led the journal to its highest impact factor since its launch 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 has been a member of the Editorial board of SPIE's Journal of Biomedical Optics since its launch in 1996. He is a Fellow of Scotland's National Academy, the Royal Society of Edinburgh, a Director of Horiba Jobin Yvon IBH Ltd and the Visiting Professor of Applied Physics at the Czech Technical University in Prague. Previously he held the Raman Visiting Chair at the University of Madras and 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. David was Head of Department from 2004-10, a period building up to and including 2.5 years of the Government-led REF 2014 assessment period in which the Department was ranked 1st in the league table of research quality across all UK university physics departments.
David was Chair of the 12th FluoroFest International Workshop held in Glasgow on April 24-26, 2017.