Professor David Smith 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 and School Director of Research.

He is author or co-author of over 60 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 Dr Jackson Kirkman-Brown) with collaborator Dr Meurig Gallagher and Research Fellow Dr Anna Zincenko; 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 barcode analysis (with Dr Rob Neely), and the application of surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy in trauma medicine (with Dr 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 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, and in 2017 Dave was promoted to Professor of Applied Mathematics. He is currently School Director of Research and Knowledge Exchange.


  • 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 Applied Mathematics

Postgraduate supervision

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

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



  • 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.

Other activities


Recent publications


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.

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.

Prete, A, Taylor, A, Bancos, I, Smith, D, Foster, M, Kohler, S, Fazal-Sanderson, V, Komninos, J, O'Neil, D, Vas, D, Mowatt, C, Mihai, R, Fallowfield, J, Annane, D, Lord, J, Keevil, B, Wass, J, Karavitaki, N & Arlt, W 2020, 'Prevention of adrenal crisis: cortisol responses to major stress compared to stress dose hydrocortisone delivery', Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, vol. 105, no. 7, pp. 2262–2274.

Rickard, J, Di Pietro, V, Smith, D, Davies, D, Belli, T & Goldberg Oppenheimer, P 2020, 'Rapid optofluidic detection of biomarkers for traumatic brain injury via surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy', Nature Biomedical Engineering, vol. 4, no. 6, pp. 610-623.

Gallagher, MT, Montenegro-Johnson, T & Smith, D 2020, 'Simulations of particle tracking in the oligociliated mouse node and implications for left-right symmetry breaking mechanics', Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Series B, vol. 375, no. 1792, 20190161.

Hall-McNair, A, Montenegro-Johnson, T, Gadêlha, H, Smith, D & Gallagher, MT 2019, 'Efficient implementation of elastohydrodynamics via integral operators', Physical Review Fluids, vol. 4, no. 11, 113101, pp. 113101-1 - 113101-24.

Holloway, C, Smith, D & Dyson, R 2019, 'Linear Rayleigh-Bénard stability of a transversely isotropic fluid', European Journal of Applied Mathematics, vol. 30, no. 4, pp. 659-681.

Kerr, R, Thomson, W & Smith, D 2019, 'Mathematical modelling of the vitamin C clock reaction', Royal Society Open Science, vol. 6, no. 4, 181367.

Schuech, R, Hoehfurtner, T, Smith, D & Humphries, S 2019, 'Motile curved bacteria are Pareto-optimal', Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 116, no. 29, pp. 14440–14447.

Gallagher, MT, Wain, R, Dari, S, Whitty, J & Smith, D 2019, 'Non-identifiability of parameters for a class of shear-thinning rheological models, with implications for haematological fluid dynamics', Journal of Biomechanics, vol. 85, pp. 230-238.

Cupples, G, Smith, D, Hicks, M & Dyson, R 2019, 'Oriented suspension mechanics with application to improving flow linear dichroism spectroscopy', Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, vol. 475, no. 2232, 20190184.

Gallagher, MT, Cupples, G, Ooi, EH, Kirkman-Brown, J & Smith, D 2019, 'Rapid sperm capture: High-throughput flagellar waveform analysis', Human Reproduction, vol. 34, no. 7, pp. 1173–1185.

Tyrrell, J, Smith, D & Dyson, R 2019, 'Regularized Stokeslet rings: an efficient method for axisymmetric Stokes flow with application to the growing pollen tube', Physical Review Fluids, vol. 4, no. 6, 063102.

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.

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.


Culture and collections

Schools, institutes and departments

Services and facilities