We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Department of Physics

Staff profile

Prof John Girkin

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

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 recently been 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 .

Recently we have been developing novel methods of imaging beating Zebra fish hearts using Single Plane Illumination microscopy supported by the British Heart Foundation (linked to Edinburgh University) and the EPSRC. The reasons behind the use of fish can be found in a short podcast (Beating Hearts).

Research Groups

Department of Physics

  • Centre for Advanced Instrumentation
  • Centre for Advanced Instrumentation

Centre for Materials Physics

  • Experimental structure and dynamics of biological soft matter

School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences

Indicators of Esteem

  • 2013: Associate Editor Optics Express: Editor for the highest ranked Optics Journal
  • 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: Highest ranked International Journal on Biosensors
  • 2008: : Won three awards at the Medical Futures competition in December for Novel Infrared Imaging of Dental Tissue.
  • 2007: : Keynote Plenary NDT: Novel diagnostics for Teeth,” British Institute of Non-destructive Testing (BiNDT), NDT
  • 2007: : Keynote Plenary Brazilian Physics Society 30th Annual Meeting, May, “Recent Advances in Laser Based Microscopy”
  • 2006: : Keynote Plenary speaker ORCA the World's leading dental caries conference
  • 2005: : Conference Chair and selection committee chair at 4th Int'l conference on photonics and imaging in biology and medicine, Tianjin, China
  • 2004: : Invited presentation at OSA AGM Meeting Rochester New York, “Astronomy Techniques applied to Microscopy”
  • 2004: : NATO Summer School Pisa September
  • 2003: : British Council Invited Lecturer to Brazil (Recife and San Paulo) "Optical Techniques in Dentistry" 2001, 2002, 2003
  • 2001: : Winner of “John Logie Baird Award for Innovation” for novel method of Cataract Quantification in 3rd World Countries
  • 1986: : Photonics Spectra Award for Best New Product for world’s first commercial diode pumped all solid-state laser


Books: sections

Journal papers: academic

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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, S, Saunter C, Girkin, J M & Love, G D (2011). Multi-Depth, Multi-Particle Tracking for Active Microrheology Using a Smart Camera. Review of Scientific Instruments 82: 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.
  • 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.

Journal papers: popular

  • Untzizu Elejalde, Amanda J Wright & John M Girkin (2008). Intracavity absorption spectrometry; A new technique for process analysis? Chemistry Today 26: 12-13.

Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

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