Professor David Smith BA PhD FIMA

Professor David Smith

School of Mathematics
Professor of Applied Mathematics

Contact details

School of Mathematics
Watson Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Dave Smith is Professor of Applied Mathematics.

He is author or co-author of around 70 research papers in scientific journals, including in the Internationally-leading publications Annual Review of Fluid Mechanics, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Journal of Fluid Mechanics, and Proceedings of the Royal Society of London A. Research software developed by his team can be found here. He is currently supported by an EPSRC Healthcare Technologies Challenge Award and has received funding for his research from EPSRC, BBSRC, MRC, Alan Turing Institute, STFC and Wellcome Trust

Dave’s main research areas are numerical methods, image analysis and experiment relevant to sperm motility bio-fluid dynamics, working alongside Centre for Human Reproductive Science, Birmingham Women’s Hospital (Science Lead Prof. Jackson Kirkman-Brown) with collaborator Dr Meurig Gallagher; wider collaborations include joint work with Professor Gerhard van der Horst and colleagues (University of the Western Cape).

Another central area of interest is the related problem of how cilia shape the development of the growing embryo. Dave collaborates with Dr Susana Lopes (Lisbon, Portugal), Dr Tom Montenegro-Johnson (Birmingham) and Dr Kathy Hentges (Manchester) on imaging cilia motility and fluid mechanics in early embryo development. As a keen multidisciplinary collaborator, Dave is an affiliate to the Institute for Metabolism and Systems Research and Systems Modelling for Quantitative Biomedicine, working with scientists and medics ranging from cancer diagnosis to plastic surgery and endocrinology. Current collaborative work includes adrenal steroid metabolism (with Prof. Wiebke Arlt, Prof. Peter Tino and Dr Kerstin Bunte), improving antithyroid therapy (with Prof. Neil Gittoes, Dr Zaki Hassan-Smith and Dr Meurig Gallagher), non-Newtonian fluid dynamics of blood (with Dr Justin Whitty), DNA imaging analysis (with Dr Rob Neely), and the application of surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy in trauma medicine (with Prof. Pola Goldberg-Oppenheimer). A key feature of all of the above projects is the integration of mathematical modelling with complex experimental data. Industrial collaborations include work with Procter & Gamble (with Dr Sara Jabbari) and Linear Diagnostics Ltd (with Dr Rosemary Dyson, Dr Matt Hicks and Prof. Tim Dafforn).

Dave is an enthusiastic communicator of applied mathematics and biological modelling, and provides talks to young people on this subject, including recent school and college visits, and organises IMA West Midlands Branch talks at the University of Birmingham. He convenes the fortnightly international BioActive Fluids seminar, part of the UK Fluids Network's special interest group in Biologically Active Fluids.

He has lectured a range of undergraduate material, from 1st year Probability and Combinatorics to masters-level Numerical Methods in Linear Algebra, Viscous Flow and Computational Methods.


  • PhD in Applied Mathematics, University of Birmingham, 2006
  • BA (Hons I) in Mathematical Sciences, University of Oxford, 2000


Dave qualified with a BA (Hons) from the University of Oxford in 2000. In 2001 he began studying for a PhD at the University of Birmingham, inspired by emerging links between Applied Mathematics and the School of Medicine. Dave completed his PhD in 2005 (graduating the following year), leading to several publications on the mechanics of airway defence, and the role of fluid mechanics in early embryo development.

Following his PhD, Dave received funding from the Wellcome Trust Value in People Fellowship scheme, enabling him to begin working with colleagues at Birmingham Women’s Hospital and Medical School on studying how human sperm swim, from a combined mathematical and experimental perspective. This led to an MRC Training Fellowship, and subsequently a Birmingham Science City Fellowship.

In December 2009, Dave was appointed lecturer in the School of Mathematics, and combines collaborative research both within the department, cross-college and with other universities, with teaching and management responsibilities, including Master’s programme development.

In 2015 Dave was promoted to Senior Lecturer and became Head of the Applied Mathematics research group, and in 2017 Dave was promoted to Professor of Applied Mathematics. He is currently School Director of Research and Knowledge Exchange.


Semester 1

LH/LM Advanced Mathematical Modelling

Postgraduate supervision

Dave has supervised or co-supervised 7 successful PhD candidates in topics working on fluid mechanics in biomedicine and biotechnology, in addition to supporting the development of many others.

Highly-qualified candidates interested in biological fluid dynamics and/or modelling in endocrinology are warmly encouraged to get in touch about PhD supervision.


Research Themes

  • Cell motility, particularly sperm swimming
  • Modelling embryonic development
  • Biological viscous fluid mechanics
  • Biomedical modelling

Research Activity

Mathematical and computational modelling of biological systems, with a focus on microscale mechanical processes.

Other activities


Recent publications


Chu, M, Buchan, E, Smith, D & Goldberg Oppenheimer, P 2024, 'Development and application of an optimised Bayesian shrinkage prior for spectroscopic biomedical diagnostics', Computer Methods and Programs in Biomedicine, vol. 245, 108014.

Gallagher, MT, Kirkman-Brown, J & Smith, D 2023, 'Axonemal regulation by curvature explains sperm flagellar waveform modulation', PNAS nexus, vol. 2, no. 3, pgad072.

Sampaio, P, Pestana, S, Bota, C, Guerrero, A, Telley, I, Smith, D & Lopes, SS 2023, 'Fluid extraction from the left-right organizer uncovers mechanical properties needed for symmetry breaking', eLife, vol. 12, e83861. <http://10.7554/eLife.83861>

Ishimoto, K, Gaffney, EA & Smith, D 2023, 'Squirmer hydrodynamics near a periodic surface topography', Frontiers in cell and developmental biology, vol. 11, 1123446.

Newton, SL, Franke, A, Zahl, A, Molinaro, G, Kenwright, A, Smith, DJ, Ivanovic-Burmazovic, I, Britton, MM & Peacock, AFA 2023, 'Understanding the mechanism by which Gd(iii) coiled coils achieve magnetic resonance relaxivity: – a study into the water coordination chemistry', Dalton Transactions, vol. 52, no. 43, pp. 15665-15668.

Prete, A, Taylor, AE, Bancos, I, Smith, DJ, Foster, MA, Kohler, S, Fazal-Sanderson, V, Komninos, J, O'Neil, DM, Vassiliadi, DA, Mowatt, CJ, Mihai, R, Fallowfield, JL, Annane, D, Lord, JM, Keevil, BG, Wass, JAH, Karavitaki, N & Arlt, W 2021, 'Response to Letter to the Editor from Chee et al: "Prevention of Adrenal Crisis: Cortisol Response to Major Stress Compared to Stress Dose Hydrocortisone Delivery"', The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism, vol. 106, no. 1, pp. e407-e408.

Prete, A, Taylor, AE, Bancos, I, Smith, DJ, Foster, MA, Kohler, S, Fazal-Sanderson, V, Komninos, J, O'Neil, DM, Vassiliadi, DA, Mowatt, CJ, Mihai, R, Fallowfield, JL, Annane, D, Lord, JM, Keevil, BG, Wass, JAH, Karavitaki, N & Arlt, W 2021, 'Response to Letter to the Editor: "Prevention of Adrenal Crisis: Cortisol Response to Major Stress Compared to Stress Dose Hydrocortisone Delivery"', The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism, vol. 106, no. 1, pp. e404-e406.

Gallagher, MT & Smith, D 2021, 'The art of coarse Stokes: Richardson extrapolation improves the accuracy and efficiency of the method of regularized stokeslets', Royal Society Open Science, vol. 8, no. 5, 210108.

Smith, D, Gallagher, MT, Schuech, R & Montenegro-Johnson, T 2021, 'The role of the double-layer potential in regularised stokeslet models of self-propulsion', Fluids, vol. 6, no. 11, 411.

Neal, C, Hall-McNair, A, Kirkman-Brown, J, Smith, D & Gallagher, MT 2020, 'Doing more with less: the flagellar end piece enhances the propulsive effectiveness of spermatozoa', Physical Review Fluids, vol. 5, no. 7, 073101 .

Gallagher, MT & Smith, D 2020, 'Passively parallel regularized stokeslets', Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, vol. 378, no. 2179, 20190528.

Conference contribution

Cupples, G, Gallagher, MT, Smith, D & Kirkman-Brown, J 2021, Heads and tails: requirements for informative and robust computational measures of sperm motility. in L Björndahl, J Flanagan, R Holmberg & U Kvist (eds), XIIIth International Symposium on Spermatology. Springer, Cham, pp. 135-150.


Smith, D 2024, 'Mathematics in medical and life sciences: a multidisciplinary journal championing accessible, complete and transparent communication of mathematics applied to medical, biological and ecological systems', Mathematics in Medical and Life Sciences, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 1-3.

Other contribution

Banks, MG & Smith, D 2022, The Secret Science of Baby: The Surprising Physics of Creating a Human, from Conception to Birth--And Beyond. BenBella Books. <>

Smith, DJ, Prete, A, Taylor, AE, Karavitaki, N & Arlt, W 2020, Modelling oral adrenal cortisol support..

View all publications in research portal


Dave Smith is Professor of Applied Mathematics; his research focuses on how mathematics can be used to improve healthcare, through the development of new diagnoses and improved treatments, and also through helping biomedical researchers build quantitative understanding of complex systems that underlie disease. Particular areas of involvement include male fertility via collaboration with Centre for Human Reproductive Science, Birmingham Women’s Hospital, and endocrine disorder, via collaboration with Institute for Metabolism and Systems Research, University of Birmingham. He works as a college member and review panellist for the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, mainly contributing in the area of Healthcare Technologies Research.