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Professor in the Department of PhysicsOCW031+44 (0) 191 33 43589
Member of the Centre for Advanced Instrumentation  
Professor in the Centre for Materials Physics +44 (0) 191 33 43589
Member of the Centre for Visual Arts and Culture  
Fellow of the Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing +44 (0) 191 33 43589


Following my undergraduate degree in Oxford and PhD at Southampton I worked for Photon Control an Opto-Mechanical company based in Cambridge designing the world’s first commercial diode pumped Nd:YAG laser. I then spent seven years at Keeler Ltd researching and designing ophthalmic instrumentation including a diode laser for retinal photocoagulation. In 1996 I moved to the newly founded Institute of Photonics at Strathclyde University to form, and lead, the applications team. While there I was one of the founders of the Centre for Biophotonics and the theme leader for the Physics and Life Sciences theme within SUPA (the Scottish Physics Alliance). I moved to Durham in January 2009 as part of the Biophysical Sciences initiative and from August 2011 I became Director of the BSI. I am a Fellow of the Institute of Physics and was elected a Fellow of the Optical Society of America in 2017.

New Book Publication

I have recently written a book, A Practical Guide to Optical Microscopy, which looks at all the current methods available to microscopists. It outlines the basic physics principles, provides guidelines on the practical use of microscopes and which method is best suited to a specific task. The book can be understood without a detailed knowledge of optics and is aimed at the general user of optical microscopy.

Research Interests

My research centres on the application and development of advanced photonics and optical technology to challenges within the life sciences. A strong focus of this has been in the application of adaptive optics, originally developed for astronomy, to deep optical sectioning microscopy, both confocal and multiphoton. The optical methods developed have been applied in a wide range of samples from brain through to novel methods of optically detecting early dental decay. Details can be found under the CFAI web pages. All of my research work is strongly multi-disciplinary and collaborative and is thus closely linked with the Biophysical Sciences Institute .

We have developed novel methods of imaging beating Zebrafish hearts using Single Plane Illumination microscopy supported by the British Heart Foundation (linked to Edinburgh University) and the EPSRC and some of the details can be found in a short podcast (Beating Hearts). More recently we have perfected the use of KillerRed (a genetically encoded fluorescent marker which when illuminated causes local cell death) in Zebrafish in vivo for the first time. This work entailed the use of opto-genetics and adaptive optics to ensure accurate targetting.

In clinical research I am part of the Proteus team led by Edinburgh University. We are devleoping novel technology to image inside the living human lung using flourescent lifetime imaging. My team are looking to apply the technology in new areas including for oral applications. In a separate project with a company NirVisio we are developing novel methods of dental caries detection using near infrared light.

Research groups

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Centre for Advanced Instrumentation
  • Durham Centre for Bioimaging Technology
  • Experimental structure and dynamics of biological soft matter

Awarded Grants

  • 2017: Development of microfluidic technologies to study the behaviour of healthy and diseased red blood cells and their precursors(£13409.35 from )
  • 2015: Telescopic Windows: low vision scope to cloaks(£418041.28 from Epsrc)
  • 2014: Industrial CASE Award: Developing novel non-invasive tools for the diagnosis of menopausal atrophy and at the Point of Care(£22883.00 from Procter & Gamble)

Esteem Indicators

  • 2019: Chair EPSRC Strategic Advisory Team in Healthcare:
  • 2019: Deputy Editor Optics Express:
  • 2019: External Examiner Manchester University:
  • 2018: UKRI Fellowship Panel Member:
  • 2017: Elected Fellow Optical Society of America:
  • 2017: NIH and DFG International Grant Panel Member (2017-):
  • 2016: External Examiner University of Central Lancashire (2016-19):
  • 2016: Jeremiah Horrocks Public Lecture:
  • 2013: Associate Editor Optics Express (2013-2018): Editor for the highest ranked Optics Journal
  • 2013: External Examiner Cardiff University (2013-16): Biophotonics Masters Course
  • 2012: International Conference Organising Committee: I am on the international organising committees for several conferences including Photonics North and Photonics West (SPIE BIOS), Society of Experimental Biology and Photoptics
  • 2010: Editor Biosensors and Bioelectronics (2010-2017): Highest ranked International Journal on Biosensors

Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • Advanced Instrumentation: Optical Instruments for lifescience and medical diagnosis
  • Condensed Matter Physics: Optical Instruments for lifescience and medical diagnosis
  • Science: Education, industry & the community: Optical Instruments for lifescience and medical diagnosis


Chapter in book

Conference Paper

Journal Article

Supervision students