Dr Paul Dalgarno


+44 131 4518033



Heriot-Watt University


EH14 4AS


Dr Paul Dalgarno works on developing pioneering optical and photonic techniques in order to address fundamental problems in biology and molecular science, pushing the boundaries of confocal and TIRF microscopy, single molecule spectroscopy, FRET and TCSPC. Example applications include real time 3D cellular imaging and probing RNA and DNA folding dynamics at the single molecule limit.

Paul received an MPhys in Physics in 2001 and a PhD in nano-optics in 2005, both from Heriot-Watt University, specialising in time-resolved spectroscopy of single self-assembled semiconducting quantum dots. From 2005-2009 Pauls research covered quantum dot physics, microscopy for biophotonics, single photon generation and detection and GHz electronics, all at Heriot-Watt. In 2010 Paul joined the single molecule biophotonics group at the University of St Andrews where he developed new microscopy techniques for studying the dynamics and functional landscape of RNA, DNA, vesicles and proteins at the single molecule/vesicle limit.

In 2012 Paul joined the Life-Physical Sciences Interface Laboratory at Heriot-Watt to work on applying novel optical techniques and signal processing for 3D vesicle tracking in live-cells. From 2013 onwards Paul will take the role of Research Fellow, developing an independent research program within the life sciences framework focussed on applying photonic techniques to understand the biological world at the single molecule limit.


Real time 3D imaging and signal processing for live cell imaging

This STFC funded project utilises novel imaging techniques, developed with Professor Alan Greenaway, for real time 3D particle tracking within living cells, with Professor Rory Duncan. The research aims to develop a simple, user friendly, optical system and analyses algorithm, that uses simultaneous multi-plane imaging to track single secretory vesicles within a living cell with an accuracy of <20nm in XY plane and < 50 nm in Z. This technique offers significant advantages over existing 3D imaging techniques in terms of speed of acquisition, processing and imaging, all in a compact, low cost optical system fully compatible with existing commercial microscopy technology.

Advanced photonics for biology

Photonics has revolutionised the way we observe the biological world, allowing for a real time, sterile probe of biological behaviour in the sub-micron scale. However, the diffraction limit and the inherent low-photon flux of biological specimens create formidable challenges for acquiring, analysing and interpreting biologically relevant data, particularly in-vivo. This project sets-out to break these barriers by developing and applying cutting edge physics techniques to investigate directly the functional biological world, such as bio-polymer dynamics, protein aggregation and vesicle function. The core methodology will focus on multi-parameter optical characterisation combined with single molecule spectroscopy, FRET, photonic enhancement and photonic manipulation.

(in collaboration with numerous researchers, including Rory Duncan, Alan Greenaway Robert Hadfield and Brian Gerardot)