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Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing

Wolfson Fellow

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).

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

Research Groups

Centre for Materials Physics

  • Experimental structure and dynamics of biological soft matter

Department of Physics

  • Centre for Advanced Instrumentation
  • Centre for Advanced Instrumentation

School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences

Selected Publications

Books: sections

Conference papers

Journal papers: academic

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.

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