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Durham University

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Staff Profile

Prof John Girkin, FInstP, FOSA

Professor in the Department of Physics

(email at


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.

Research Groups

Centre for Materials Physics

  • Experimental structure and dynamics of biological soft matter

Department of Biosciences

  • Durham Centre for Bioimaging Technology

Department of Physics

Selected Publications

Chapter in book

  • McCarron, J. G., Olson, M. L., Chambers, S. & Girkin, J. M. (2013). Single Cell and Subcellular Measurements of Intracellular Ca2+ Concentration. In Calcium Signaling Protocols. Lambert, David G. & Rainbow, Richard D. Springer. 937 (Methods in Molecular Biology): 239-251.

Journal Article

  • Pedretti, Ettore, Tanner, Michael G., Choudhary, Tushar R., Krstajić, Nikola, Megia-Fernandez, Alicia, Henderson, Robert K., Bradley, Mark, Thomson, Robert R., Girkin, John M., Dhaliwal, Kevin & Dalgarno, Paul A. (2019). High-speed dual color fluorescence lifetime endomicroscopy for highly-multiplexed pulmonary diagnostic applications and detection of labeled bacteria. Biomedical Optics Express 10(1): 181-195.
  • Wilson, Calum, Lee, Matthew D., Heathcote, Helen, Zhang, Xun, Buckley, Charlotte, Girkin, John M., Saunter, Christopher D. & McCarron, John G. (2019). Mitochondrial ATP production provides long-range control of endothelial inositol trisphosphate–evoked calcium signaling. Journal of Biological Chemistry 294(3): 737-758.
  • Chisholm, David, Lamb, Rebecca, Pallett, Tommy, Affleck, Valerie, Holden, Claire, Marrison, Joanne, O'Toole, Peter, Ashton, Peter, Newling, Katherine, Steffen, Andreas, Nelson, Amanda, Mahler, Christoph, Valentine, Roy, Blacker, Thomas, Bain, Angus John, Girkin, John M, Marder, Todd B, Whiting, Andrew & Ambler, Carrie A (2019). Photoactivated cell-killing involving a low molecular weight, donor-acceptor diphenylacetylene. Chemical Science 10(17): 4673-4683.
  • Klein, Andreas K., Basden, Alastair, Hammler, Jonathan, Tyas, Luke, Cooke, Michael, Balocco, Claudio, Zeze, Dagou, Girkin, John M. & Gallant, Andrew (2019). Scattering of spoof surface plasmon polaritons in defect-rich THz waveguides. Scientific Reports 9(1): 6288.
  • Lawton, Penelope F., Lee, Matthew D., Saunter, Christopher D., Girkin, John M., McCarron, John G. & Wilson, Calum (2019). VasoTracker, a Low-Cost and Open Source Pressure Myograph System for Vascular Physiology. Frontiers in Physiology 10: 99.
  • Reissland, N., Froggatt, S., Reames, E. & Girkin, J. (2018). Effects of maternal anxiety and depression on fetal neuro-development. Journal of Affective Disorders 241: 469-474.
  • Young, L.K., Jarrin, M., Saunter, C.D., Quinlan, R.A. & Girkin, J.M. (2018). Non-invasive in vivo quantification of the developing optical properties and graded index of the embryonic eye lens using SPIM. Biomedical Optics Express 9(5): 2176-2188.
  • Gala de Pablo, Julia, Chisholm, David R., Steffen, Andreas, Nelson, Amanda K., Mahler, Christoph, Marder, Todd B., Peyman, Sally A., Girkin, John M., Ambler, Carrie A., Whiting, Andrew & Evans, Stephen D. (2018). Tandem fluorescence and Raman (fluoRaman) characterisation of a novel photosensitiser in colorectal cancer cell line SW480. The Analyst 143(24): 6113-6120.
  • Girkin, John M. & Carvalho, Mariana Torres (2018). The light-sheet microscopy revolution. Journal of Optics 20(5): 053002.
  • Wilson, Calum, Saunter, Christopher D., Girkin, John M. & McCarron, John G. (2017). Advancing Age Decreases Pressure-Sensitive Modulation of Calcium Signaling in the Endothelium of Intact and Pressurized Arteries. Journal of Vascular Research 53(5-6): 358-369.
  • Buckley, C., Carvalho, M. T., Young, L. K., Rider, S. A., McFadden, C., Berlage, C., Verdon, R. F., Taylor, J. M., Girkin, J. M. & Mullins, J. J. (2017). Precise spatio-temporal control of rapid optogenetic cell ablation with mem-KillerRed in Zebrafish. Scientific Reports 7(1): 5096.
  • Lawton, P. F. & Girkin, J. M. (2017). Towards a high-throughput real-time confocal microfluidic system for monitoring absorbance spectra in mixed-phase chemical reactions. Microfluidics and Nanofluidics 21(4): 69.
  • Chalmers, S., Saunter, C. D., Girkin, J. M. & McCarron, J.G. (2016). Age decreases mitochondrial motility and increases mitochondrial size in vascular smooth muscle. The Journal of Physiology 594(15): 4283-4295.
  • Wilson, Calum, Saunter, Christopher D., Girkin, John M. & McCarron, John G. (2016). Clusters of specialized detector cells provide sensitive and high fidelity receptor signaling in the intact endothelium. The FASEB Journal 30(5): 2000-2013.
  • Carter, Katherine A., Girkin, John M. & Fielding, Suzanne M. (2016). Shear banding in large amplitude oscillatory shear (LAOStrain and LAOStress) of polymers and wormlike micelles. Journal of Rheology 60(5): 883.
  • Krstajić, Nikola, Akram, Ahsan R., Choudhary, Tushar R., McDonald, Neil, Tanner, Michael G., Pedretti, Ettore, Dalgarno, Paul A., Scholefield, Emma, Girkin, John M., Moore, Anne, Bradley, Mark & Dhaliwal, Kevin (2016). Two-color widefield fluorescence microendoscopy enables multiplexed molecular imaging in the alveolar space of human lung tissue. Journal of Biomedical Optics 21(4): 046009.
  • Wu, J.J., Wu, W., Tholozan, F.M., Saunter, C.D., Girkin, J.M. & Quinlan, R.A. (2015). A dimensionless ordered pull-through model of the mammalian lens epithelium evidences scaling across species and explains the age-dependent changes in cell density in the human lens. Journal of The Royal Society Interface 12(108): 20150391.
  • Chalmers, Susan, Saunter, Christopher D., Girkin, John M. & McCarron, John G. (2015). Flicker-assisted localization microscopy reveals altered mitochondrial architecture in hypertension. Scientific Reports 5: 16875.
  • Wilson, Calum, Saunter, Christopher D., Girkin, John M. & McCarron, John G. (2015). Pressure-dependent regulation of Ca2+ signalling in the vascular endothelium. The Journal of Physiology 593(24): 5231-5253.
  • Maia, A. M. A., Longbottom, C., Gomes, A. S. L. & Girkin, J. M. (2014). Enamel erosion and prevention efficacy characterized by confocal laser scanning microscope. Microscopy Research and Technique 77(6): 439-445.
  • Watts, Fiona, Tan, Lay Ean, Wilson, Clive G., Girkin, John M., Tassieri, Manlio & Wright, Amanda Jane (2014). Investigating the micro-rheology of the vitreous humor using an optically trapped local probe. Journal of Optics 16(1): 015301.
  • Mitchell, T.J., Saunter, C.D., O'Nions, W., Girkin, J.M. & Love, G.D. (2014). Quantitative High Dynamic Range Beam Pro ling for Fluorescence Microscopy. Review of Scientific Instruments 85(10): 103713.
  • Bourgenot, C., Saunter, C.D., Love, G.D. & Girkin, J.M. (2013). Comparison of closed loop and sensorless adaptive optics in widefield optical microscopy. Journal of the European Optical Society: Rapid Publications 8: 13027.
  • McCarron, John G., Wilson, Calum, Sandison, Mairi E., Olson, Marnie L., Girkin, John M., Saunter, Christopher & Chalmers, Susan (2013). From Structure to Function: Mitochondrial Morphology, Motion and Shaping in Vascular Smooth Muscle. Journal of Vascular Research 50(5): 357-371.
  • Matrone, Gianfranco, Taylor, Jonathan M., Wilson, Kathryn S., Baily, James, Love, Gordon D., Girkin, John M., Mullins, John J., Tucker, Carl S. & Denvir, Martin A. (2013). Laser-targeted ablation of the zebrafish embryonic ventricle: A novel model of cardiac injury and repair. International Journal of Cardiology 168(4): 3913-3919.
  • Bourgenot, Cyril, Saunter, Christopher D., Taylor, Jonathan M., Girkin, John M. & Love, Gordon D. (2012). 3D adaptive optics in a light sheet microscope. Optics Express 20(12): 13252-13261.
  • Saunter, C., Semprini, S., Buckley, C., Mullins, J. & Girkin, J. M. (2012). Micro-endoscope for in vivo widefield high spatial resolution fluorescent imaging. Biomedical Optics Express 3(6): 1274-1278.
  • Chaigneau, Emmanuelle, Wright, Amanda J., Poland, Simon P., Girkin, John M. & Silver, R. Angus (2011). Impact of wavefront distortion and scattering on 2-photon microscopy in mammalian brain tissue. Optics Express 19(23): 22755-22774.
  • Mozharov, Sergey, Nordon, Alison, Littlejohn, David, Wiles, Charlotte, Watts, Paul, Dallin, Paul & Girkin, J M (2011). Improved method for kinetic studies in microreactors using flow manipulation and noninvasive Raman spectrometry. Journal of American Chemical Society 133(10): 3601-3608.
  • Silburn, Scott A., Saunter, Christopher D., Girkin, John M. & Love, Gordon D. (2011). Multidepth, multiparticle tracking for active microrheology using a smart camera. Review Of Scientific Instruments 82(3): 033712.
  • Taylor, J, Saunter, C, Love, G D, Girkin, J M, Henderson, D & Chaudhry, B (2011). Real-time optical gating for three-dimensional beating heart imaging. Journal of Biomedical Optics 16: 116021.
  • Poland, Simon P, Wright, Amanda J, Cobb, Stuart, Vijverberg, Jacob C & Girkin, John M (2010). A demonstration of the effectiveness of a single aberration correction per optical slice in beam scanned optically sectioning microscopes. Micron 38: 200-206.
  • Girkin, John M, Mohammed, Mazher-Iqbal. & Ellis, Elizabeth M (2010). A miniaturised integrated biophotonic point-of care genotyping system. Faraday Discussions 149: 115-123.
  • Buttenschoen,K K, Girkin, J M & Daly, D (2010). Development of a low-cost confocal instrument to measure the axial dimensions of components in the anterior section of the eye. Clinical Optometry 2: 67-72.
  • Moharzov, S, Nordon, A, Girkin, J M & Littlejohn, D (2010). Non-invasive analysis in micro-reactors using Raman spectrometry with a specially designed probe. Lab on a Chip 10(16): 2101-2107.
  • Lubeigt, W, Poland, S P, Valentine, G J, Wright, A J, Girkin, J M & Burns, D (2010). Searched-based active optic systems for aberration correction in time-independent applications. Applied Optics 49: 307-314.
  • Kek, W K, Foulds, W S, McConnell, G, Wright, A J, Girkin, J M & Wilson, C G (2010). Two-photon fluorescence excitation microscopy to assess transscleral diffusional pathways in an isolated perfused bovine eye model. Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science 51: 5182-5189.
  • Rae, Bruce, Muir, Keith R, Gong, Zheng, McKendry, Jonathan, Girkin, John M, Gu, Erdan, Renshaw, David, Dawson, Martin D & Henderson, Robert (2009). A CMOS time-resolved fluorescence lifetime analysis micro-system. Sensors 9(11): 9255-9274.
  • Mohammed, Mazher-Iqbal, Sills, Graeme J., Brodie, Martin J., Ellis, Elizabeth. M. & Girkin, John. M. (2009). A complete miniaturised genotyping system for the detection of single nucleotide polymorphisms in human DNA samples. Sensors and Actuators B Chemical Biochemical Sensors 139: 83-89.
  • Girkin, J. M., Poland S. P. & Wright, A. J. (2009). Adaptive optics for deeper imaging of biological samples. Current Opinion in Biotechnology 20(1): 106-110.
  • Poland, S P, Girkin, J M, Li, Lijie & Uttamchandani, D (2009). External Linearization of a MEMS Electrothermal Scanner with Application in a Confocal Microscope. Micro and Nano Letters 4: 106-111.
  • J. Leach, A.J. Wright, J.B. Gotte, J.M. Girkin, L. Allen, S. Franke-Arnold, S.M. Barnett & M.J. Padgett (2008). ’Aether Drag’ and Moving Images. Physical Review Letters 100(15): 153902.
  • SP Poland, AJ Wright & JM Girkin (2008). Active focus-locking in an optically sectioning microscope utilizing a deformable membrane mirror. Optics Letters 33: 419-421.
  • 4. BR Rae, C Griffin, J McKendry, JM Girkin, HX Zhang, E Gu, D Renshaw, E Charbon, MD Dawson & RK Henderson (2008). CMOS driven micro-pixel LEDs integrated with single photon avalanche diodes for time resolved fluorescence measurements. Journal of Applied Physics D 41: 094011.
  • Liu, J.S., Caley, A.J., Taghizadeh, M.R., Gu, E., Girkin, J.M. & Dawson, M.D. (2008). Design of diffractive optical elements for beam shaping of micro-pixellated LED light to a tightly focused spot. Journal of physics D applied physics 41(9): 094005.
  • Poland, SP, Wright, AJ & Girkin, JM (2008). Evaluation of fitness parameters used in an iterative approach to aberration correction in optical sectioning microscopy. Applied Optics 47(6): 731-735.
  • H.X. Zhang, D. Massoubre, J. McKendry, Z. Gong, B. Guilhabert, C. Griffin, E. Gu, P.E. Jessop, J.M. Girkin & M.D. Dawson (2008). Individually-addressable flip-chip AlInGaN micropixelated light emitting diode arrays with high continuous and nanosecond output power. Optics Express 16: 9918-9926.
  • Untzizu Elejalde, Amanda J Wright & John M Girkin (2008). Intracavity absorption spectrometry; A new technique for process analysis? Chemistry Today 26: 12-13.
  • D.A. Hughes, J.M. Girkin, S. Poland, C. Longbottom, T.W. Button, J. Elgoyhen, H. Hughes, C. Meggs & S. Cochran (2008). Investigation of dental samples using a 35 MHz focussed ultrasound piezocomposite transducer. Ultrasonics 49: 212.
  • McCarron JG, Anderson KI, Wright AJ & Girkin JM (2008). Simultaneous imaging of subplasma membrane & bulk cytoplasmic average Ca2+ concentrations in single smooth muscle cells. Journal of Vascular Research 45: 44.
  • John G. McCarron, Kurt I Anderson, Amanda J Wright & John M. Girkin (2008). Simultaneous imaging of subplasma membrane and bulk cytoplasmic average Ca2+ concentrations in single smooth muscle cells. Biophysical Journal 94: 252.
  • Stokes, Robert J., McBride, Eileen, Wilson, Clive G., Girkin, John M., Smith, W. Ewen & Graham, Duncan (2008). Surface-Enhanced Raman Scattering Spectroscopy as a sensitive and selective technique for the detection of folic acid in water and human serum. Applied Spectroscopy 62(4): 371-376.
  • Amanda J Wright, John M Girkin, Graham M Gibson, Jonathan Leach & Miles J Padgett (2008). Transfer of orbital angular momentum from a super-continuum, white-light beam. Optics Express 16: 9495-9500.
  • A.J. Wright, S.P. Poland, J.M. Girkin, C.W. Freudiger, C.L. Evans & X.S. Xie (2007). Adaptive optics for enhanced signal in CARS microscopy. Optics Express 15: 18209.
  • Denise Maria Zezell, Adriana Costa Ribeiro, Luciano Bachmann, Anderson Stevens Leonidas Gomes, Christel Rousseau & John Girkin (2007). Characterization of natural carious lesions by fluorescence spectroscopy at 405-nm excitation wavelength. Journal of Biomedical Optics 12: 0643013.
  • C. Rousseau, S Poland, A.F. Hall, C.J. Whitters & J.M. Girkin (2007). Development of fibre-optic confocal microscopy for detection and diagnosis of dental caries”. Caries Research 41: 245-251.
  • S Franke-Arnold, J Leach, MJ Padgett, VE Lembessis, D Ellinas, AJ Wright, JM Girkin, P Ä Ohberg & AS Arnold (2007). Optical ferris wheel for ultracold atoms. Optics Express 15: 8619-8625.
  • V. Poher, H.X. Zhang, G.T. Kennedy, C. Griffin, S. Oddos, E. Gu, D.S. Elson, J M. Girkin, P.M.W. French, M.D. Dawson & M.A. Neil (2007). Optical sectioning microscopes with no moving parts using a micro-stripe array light emitting diode. Optics Express 15: 11196-11206.
  • R. Di Leonardo,_ G. Ruocco, J. Leach, M. J. Padgett,A. J. Wright, J. M. Girkin, D. R. Burnham, and D. McGloin (2007). Parametric Resonance of Optically Trapped Aerosols. Physical Review Letters 99: 010601.
  • U. Elejalde & J.M. Girkin (2007). Real time, ultra low concentration detection of analytes in solution by infrared intracavity laser absorption. Applied Optics 46: 3995-3999.
  • G. McConnell, J.M. Girkin, S.M. Ameer-Beg, P.R. Barber, B. Vojnovic Avijit Banerjee, Timothy Watson & Richard Cook (2007). Time-correlated single-photon counting fluorescence lifetime confocal imaging of decayed and sound dental structures with a white-light supercontinuum source. Journal of Micrscopy 225: 126-136.
  • M Padgett, G Whyte, J Girkin, A Wright, L Allen, P Öhberg & S.M. Barnett (2006). Polarisation and image rotation induced by a rotating dielectric rod: a treatment in terms of optical angular momentum. Optics Letters 31: 2205-2207.

Conference Paper

  • Lawton, P. F., Saunter, C. D. & Girkin, J. M. (2014), Combining optical trapping in a microfluidic channel with simultaneous micro-Raman spectroscopy and motion detection, in Gray, Bonnie L. & Becker, Holger eds, 8976: Microfluidics, BioMEMS, and Medical Microsystems XII. San Francisco, California, United States, SPIE, San Francisco CA, 89760V.

Show all publications

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