Professor David Smith PhD, FIMA

Professor David Smith

School of Mathematics
Professor in Applied Mathematics

Contact details

+44 (0) 121 414 7374
+44 (0) 121 414 3389
School of Mathematics
Watson Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Dave Smith is a Professor of Applied Mathematics and Head of the Applied Mathematics Research Group.

Dave’s main research areas are sperm motility biofluiddynamics, working alongside Centre for Human Reproductive Science, Birmingham Women’s Hospital (Science Lead Dr Jackson Kirkman-Brown), and modelling the synthetic biology nanofiber M13 bacteriophage, working with Dr Rosemary Dyson, Dr Kenton Arkill (Nottingham), Prof Tim Dafforn and Dr Matt Hicks (Linear Diagnostics Ltd). Wider collaboration related to these projects includes Prof Alison Rodger (Warwick), Dr Hermes Gadelha (York), Dr Petr Denissenko (Warwick) and Prof  Eamonn Gaffney (Oxford).

Dave is co-author of 37 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. He has received funding for his research from BBSRC, EPSRC, MRC, STFC, Wellcome Trust.

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 (Cambridge) and Dr Kathy Hentges (Manchester) on imaging cilia motility and fluid mechanics in early embryo development.

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.

As a keen multidisciplinary collaborator, Dave is a member of the University’s Systems Science for Health Initiative and affiliate to the Institute for Metabolism and Systems Research, and works with scientists and medics ranging from cancer diagnosis to plastic surgery and endocrinology. Collaborative work includes modelling T cell reconstitution following stem cell transplant (with Prof Paul Moss’s group), modelling antibiotic resistance (with Dr Sara Jabbari), and adrenal steroid metabolism (with Prof Wiebke Arlt’s group, Prof Peter Tino and Dr Kerstin Bunte).

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. 

School web page:


  • PhD Applied Mathematics, University of Birmingham, June 2006
  • BA (Hons I), Mathematical Sciences, University of Oxford, July 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.


  • Single Honours Mathematics (G100, G103, G141)
  • Mathematics Majors: Mathematics with Business Management (G1N2); Mathematics with Engineering (J920); Mathematics with Philosophy (G1V5)
  • Joint Honours Mathematics: Mathematics & Computer Science (GG14); Pure Mathematics & Computer Science (GGC4); Mathematics & Sport Science (GC17); Mathematics & Music (GW13); Mathematics & Philosophy (GV15)
  • Theoretical Physics and Applied Mathematics (FG31)
  • Mathematics Minors: French Studies and Mathematics (GR11); German Studies and Mathematics (GR12)
  • Natural Sciences (CFG0, FCG0)
  • MSc Mathematical Modelling

Postgraduate supervision

  • Lead supervisor of one PhD student
  • Co-supervisor of four PhD students

I am very happy to discuss PhD project supervision in Mathematical Biology and Viscous Fluid Dynamics with highly-qualified candidates.



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


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


D. P. Lobo, A. M. Wemyss, D. J. Smith, A. Straube, K. B. Betteridge, A. H. J. Salmon, R. R. Foster, H. E. Elhegni, S. C. Satchell, H. A. Little, R. Pacheco-Gómez, M. J. Simmons, M. R. Hicks, D. O. Bates, A. Rodger, T. R. Dafforn and K. P. Arkill (2015) Direct detection and measurement of wall shear stress using a filamentous bio-nanoparticle    Nano Res. Available online,    doi: 10.1007/s12274-015-0831-x

J. Carr-Smith, R. Pacheco-Gomez, H. A. Little, M. R. Hicks, S. Sandhu, N. Steinke, D. J. Smith, A. Rodger, S. A. Goodchild, R. A. Lukaszewski, J. H. R. Tucker and T. R. Dafforn  (2015) Polymerase chain reaction on a viral nanoparticle. ACS Synth. Bio. Available online, doi: 10.1021/acssynbio.5b00034

C. R. Holloway, R. J. Dyson and D. J. Smith (2015) Linear Taylor-Couette stability of a transversely isotropic fluid Proc. R. Soc. Lond. A 471:20150141 doi: 10.1098/rspa.2015.0141

T. D. Montenegro-Johnson, H. Gadêlha and D. J. Smith (2015) Spermatozoa scattering by a microchannel feature: an elastohydrodynamic model  R. Soc. Open Sci 2:140475    doi: 10.1098/rsos.140475

N. J. Sinden, M. J. Baker, D. J. Smith, J.-U. Kreft, T. R. Dafforn and R. A. Stockley  (2015) Alpha-1-Antitrypsin Variants and the Proteinase/Anti-Proteinase Imbalance in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Am. J. Physiol. Lung Cell Mol. Physiol. 308:L179-L190 doi: 10.1152/ajplung.00179.2014

D. J. Smith, T. D. Montenegro-Johnson and S. S. Lopes (2014) Organized chaos in Kupffer's vesicle: how a heterogeneous structure achieves consistent left-right patterning. Bioarchitecture, 4:119-125 doi: 10.4161/19490992.2014.956593

E. H. Ooi, D. J. Smith, H. Gadêlha, E. A. Gaffney and J. Kirkman-Brown (2014) The mechanics of hyperactivation in adhered human sperm. R. Soc. Open Sci. 1:140230 doi: 10.1098/rsos.140230

P. Sampaio, R. R. Ferreira, A. Guerrero, P. Pintado, B. Tavares, J. Amaro, A. Smith, T. Montenegro-Johnson, D. Smith and S. Lopes (2014) Left-Right Organizer Flow Dynamics: How Much Cilia Activity Reliably Yields Laterality? Dev. Cell 29, 716-728, 2014 doi: 10.1016/j.devcel.2014.04.030

Duffy, J. Thiyagalingam, S. Walton, D. J. Smith, A. Trefethen, J. Kirkman-Brown, E. Gaffney and M. Chen (2013) Glyph-based video visualization for semen analysis. IEEE Trans. Vis. Comput. Graphics to appear

T. D. Montenegro-Johnson*, D. J. Smith and D. Loghin  (2013) Physics of rheologically-enhanced propulsion: different strokes in generalized Stokes. Phys. Fluids. 25, 081903 doi: 10.1063/1.4818640

J. R. A. McLachlan, D. J. Smith, N. P. Chmel and A. Rodger  Calculations of flow-induced orientation distributions for analysis of linear dichroism spectroscopy. Soft Matt. 9, 4977-4984, 2013

T. D. Montenegro-Johnson, A. A. Smith, D. J. Smith, D. Loghin and J. R. Blake (2012) Modelling the Fluid Mechanics of Cilia and Flagella in Reproduction and Development. Eur. Phys. J. E. 35:111. doi: 10.1140/epje/i2012-12111-1

P. Denissenko, V. Kantsler, D. J. Smith and J. Kirkman-Brown (2012) Human spermatozoa migration in micro-channels reveals boundary-following navigation. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 109, 8007-8010. 2012  doi: 10.1073/pnas.1202934109

A. A. Smith, T. D. Johnson, D. J. Smith and J. R. Blake (2012) Symmetry-breaking cilia-driven flow in the zebrafish embryo.  J. Fluid Mech. 705, 26-45. 2012 doi: 10.1073/pnas.1202934109

W. Arlt, M. Biehl, A. E. Taylor, S. Hahner, R.  Libé, B. A. Hughes, P. Schneider, D. J. Smith, H. Stiekema, N. Krone, E. Porfiri, G. Opocher, J. Bertherat, F. Mantero, B. Alliolio, M. Terzolo, P. Nightingale, C. H. L. Shackleton, X. Bertagna, M. Fassnacht, P. M. Stewart (2011) Urine steroidobolomics – combining mass spectrometry-based steroid profiling and machine learning for detecting adrenal malignancy. J. Clin. Endocrinol. Metab. 96, 3775-3784.  

(The Endocrine Society’s International Award for Publishing Excellence in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM) in 2011)

E. L. Gilroy, M. R. Hicks, D. J. Smith and A. Rodger (2011) Viscosity of aqueous DNA solutions determined using dynamic light scattering. Analyst. 136, 4159-4163 

J. Kirkman-Brown and D. J. Smith (2011) Sperm motility: is viscosity fundamental to progress? Mol. Hum. Reprod. 17, 539-544.

D. J. Smith, E. A. Gaffney, H. Shum, H. Gadelha  and J. Kirkman-Brown (2011) Comment on the article Hydrodynamics of sperm cells near surfaces. Biophys. J. 100, 2318-2320.

E. A. Gaffney, H. Gadelha, D. J. Smith,  J. R. Blake and J. C. Kirkman-Brown (2011) Mammalian sperm motility: observation and theory. Annu. Rev. Fluid Mech. 43, 501–528.

D. J. Smith, A. A. Smith and J. R. Blake (2011) Mathematical embryology: the fluid mechanics of nodal cilia. J. Eng. Math 70, 255-279.

H. Gadelha, E. A. Gaffney, D. J. Smith and J. C. Kirkman-Brown (2010) Non-linear instability in flagellar dynamics: A novel modulation mechanism in sperm migration? J. R. Soc. Interface 7, 1689–1697.

H. Shum, E. A. Gaffney and D. J. Smith (2010) Modelling bacterial behaviour close to a no-slip plane boundary: the influence of bacterial geometry. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. A, 466, 1725-1748.

D. J. Smith (2009) A boundary element regularised Stokeslet method applied to cilia and flagella-driven flow. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. A, 465, 3605-3626

D. J. Smith, E. A. Gaffney and J. R. Blake (2009) Mathematical modeling of cilia-driven transport of biological fluids. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. A, 465, 2417-2429.

D. J. Smith and J. R. Blake (2009) Surface accumulation of spermatozoa: a fluid dynamic phenomenon. Math. Sci. 34(2), 74-87.

D. J. Smith, E. A. Gaffney, H. Gadelha, N. Kapur and J. Kirkman-Brown (2009) Bend propagation in the flagella of migrating human sperm, and its modulation by viscosity. Cell Motil. Cytoskel. 66, 220-236.

D. J. Smith, E. A. Gaffney, J. R. Blake and J. C. Kirkman-Brown (2009) Human sperm accumulation near to surfaces: a simulation study. J. Fluid Mech. 621, 289-320. doi:10.1017/S0022112008004953  

D. J. Smith, E. A. Gaffney and J. R. Blake (2008) Modelling muco-ciliary clearance. Respir. Physiol. Neurobiol. 163, 178-188.

D. J. Smith, J. R. Blake and E. A. Gaffney (2008) Fluid mechanics of symmetry-breaking flow due to embryonic nodal cilia. J. Roy. Soc. Interface 5, 567-573.

D. J. Smith, E. A. Gaffney and J. R. Blake (2007) Discrete cilia modelling with singularity distributions – application to the embryonic node and the airway surface liquid. B. Math. Biol. 69, 1477-1510.