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 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.
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.
David convened the session on Photochemistry, Photophysics and Electrochemistry at the 7th EuCheMS Congress in Liverpool in August 2018. 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.
A profile of David's career has recently been written and published by Wiley Analytical Science.