David Birch is Professor of Photophysics at the University of Strathclyde.

He has published over 200 research papers, mainly on fluorescence lifetime spectroscopy.

His present research focuses on fluorescence at the biomedical interface in the study of nanoparticles, melanin structure and photophysics, fibril formation in neurology, biomarkers for cancer detection and continuous glucose monitoring.

David studied physics at the University of Manchester where his PhD on diphenylpolyene fluorescence was supervised by John B Birks. After lecturing at Manchester he moved into industry to work on high-resolution organic mass spectrometry with VG Micromass Ltd.

His interests subsequently returned to fluorescence when he moved to Strathclyde University where he was appointed Professor of Photophysics in 1993. David was Head of Department from 2004 -10, a period leading up to the Government-led REF 2014 research assessment in which the Department was ranked 1st for research quality across all UK university physics departments.

External appointments include: in 1999 the Sir C V Raman Endowment Visiting Chair at the University of Madras, in 2000 a Visiting Professorship at Kyoto Institute of Technology, from 2002 the Visiting Chair of Applied Physics at the Czech Technical University and in 2014 the Green Honors Chair at Texas Christian University.

He is a Fellow of Scotland’s National Academy and a member of the Permanent Steering Committee of the Methods and Applications in Fluorescence conference series.

He is Editor-in-Chief of the Institute of Physics journal Measurement Science and Technology and joint founding Editor-in-Chief of one of the Institute’s newest journals, Methods and Applications in Fluorescence. He has served on the Editorial Board of SPIE’s Journal of Biomedical Optics since its launch in 1996.
David is a Director and co-founder of IBH, one of the earliest Scottish University spin-out companies. The Company manufactures fluorescence lifetime instruments and joined Horiba Scientific in 2003.


Fluorescence tools for life science research

Within the wide range of spectroscopic techniques fluorescence sits alongside the likes of spectrophotometry, Raman, FTIR, circular dichroism and ultrafast in providing complementary and unique information. Although fluorescence can hardly be called a new phenomenon there can be little doubt it continues to facilitate many important new observations and techniques across a whole range of disciplines. Just as photonics has become an enabling technology so too fluorescence has become an enabling phenomenon that continues to lead to new research tools.

Most importantly, the distances and timescales associated with fluorescence can reflect changes in human physiology and for this reason fluorescence has become one of the leading analytical techniques for improving healthcare, spanning both fundamental understanding into biomolecular interactions and turnkey diagnostics. Sequencing the human genome and detecting biomarkers are but two recent examples of the impact of fluorescence on healthcare.

In this presentation I will describe the fundamentals of fluorescence and illustrate some of the wide range of molecular tools fluorescence offers that can underpin improved healthcare in the future. This includes continuous glucose sensing for improved management of diabetes, the structure of melanin and melanoma, aggregation leading to Alzheimer’s disease and intra-cellular biomarker detection.


  • Fluorescence. D  J S Birch, Y Chen and O J Rolinski in “Biological and Medical Photonics, Spectroscopy and Microscopy.” Ed. D Andrews. Vol 4“Photonics.” Wiley. Ch.1, 1-58, 2015.
  • Fluorescence intensity- and lifetime-based glucose sensing using glucose/galactose-binding protein. J C Pickup, F Khan, Z-L Zhi, J Coulter, D J S Birch. J. Diab. Sci. and Technol., 7, 62–71, 2013.
  • Metal ion influence on eumelanin fluorescence and structure.J-U Sutter and D J S Birch. Methods Appl. Fluoresc. 2, 024005, 2014.
  • Beta-Amyloid oligomerisation monitored by intrinsic fluorescence.M Amaro, D J S Birch and O J Rolinski. Phys.Chem.Chem. Phys. 13, 6434-41, 2011.
  • Revealing the photophysics of gold-nanobeacons via time-resolved fluorescence spectroscopy G Wei, D Simionesie, J Sefcik, J U Sutter, Q Xue, J Yu, J Wang, D J S Birch and Yu Chen,Optics Letts. 40, 5738-5741, 2015.