Paul Dalgarno

MPhys PhD CPhys

Associate Professor

+44 (0)131 451 8033
Room 1.53
David Brewster Building
Heriot-Watt University
Roles and responsibilities

Senior Program Director for Physics (Head of Discipline)

Group leader of the Advanced Microscopy Group

Y1 Co-Ordinator for Physics

Chair of the Physics Staff Student Liaison Committee

Teaching Responsibilities:

B27MW – Waves and Matter (Y1 Physics)

B27TA – Group tutorial lead (Y1 Investigative Techniques)

B28EP – Programming Skills (Y2 Physics)

B21MT - Biophysics (Y5 Physics)


The Advanced Microscopy Group at Heriot-Watt develops pioneering optical and photonic techniques to address fundamental problems in biology and molecular science. Our work is based primarily on real time 3D cellular imaging, single molecule spectroscopy and single photon counting applications for the life sciences.

For 3D cellular imaging we develop novel multi-plane and adaptive optics systems to probe the full three-dimensional environment of cellular environments, ideally in real time at the single molecule level. Our research can trace its origins back to optical developments for astronomy, now translated into the life sciences. We have strong collaborations with biologists, and in developing practical systems for integration into advanced commercial imaging platforms. Applications include the study of 3D gel matrix based cell cultures, depth imaging in tissue slices and shear stress studied of cells in flow environments.

We work closely with collaborators at the University of Edinburgh to bring novel and experimental single photon counting imaging arrays to life science applications. Our work is based on developing widefield fluorescence lifetime imaging platforms, ultra-fast particle tracking, clinical instrumentation and single molecule spectroscopy.

Selected publications

I. Gyongy, A. Davies, B. Gallinet, N. A. W. Dutton, R. R. Duncan, C. Rickman, R. K. Henderson, and P. A. Dalgarno, “Cylindrical microlensing for enhanced collection efficiency of small pixel SPAD arrays in single-molecule localisation microscopy,” Opt. Express, 26, 2280, (2018) Link

L. C. Wicks, G. S. Cairns, J. Melnyk, S. Bryce, R. R. Duncan, and P. A. Dalgarno, “EnLightenment: High resolution smartphone microscopy as an educational and public engagement platform” Wellcome Open Res., 2, 107, (2017).  Link

N. Krstajić, A. R. Akram, T. R. Choudhary, N. McDonald, M. G. Tanner, E. Pedretti, P. A. Dalgarno, E. Scholefield, J. M. Girkin, A. Moore, M. Bradley, and K. Dhaliwal, “Two-color widefield fluorescence microendoscopy enables multiplexed molecular imaging in the alveolar space of human lung tissue,” J. Biomed. Opt., 21, 046009 (2016). Link

I. Gyongy, A. Davies, N. A. W. Dutton, R. R. Duncan, C. Rickman, R. K. Henderson and P. A. DalgarnoSmart-aggregation imaging for single molecule localisation with SPAD cameras”, Scientific Reports, 6:37349, (2016). Link

H. Chandrasekharan, F. Izdebski, I. Gris-Sanchez, N. Krstajic, R. Walker, H. Bridle, P. A. Dalgarno, W. MacPherson, R. Henderson, T. Birks and R. R Thomson “Multiplexed single-mode wavelength-to-time mapping of multimode light”, Nature Communications, 8:14080 (2016). Link

H. Yu, R. Saleeb, P. Dalgarno, D. Li “Estimation of Fluorescence Lifetimes via Rotational Invariance Techniques”, IEEE Biomedical Engineering (2015) Link

S. D. Quinn, P. A. Dalgarno, R. T. Cameron, G. J. Hedley, C. Hacker, J. M. Lucocq, G. S. Baillie, I. Samuel and J. C. Penedo "Real-time probing of beta-amyloid self-assembly and inhibition using fluorescence self-quenching between neighbouring dyes." Molecular bioSystems, 10, 34, (2014) Link

P.A. Dalgarno, C. A. Traina, J. C. Penedo, G. C. Bazan and I.D.W. Samuel “Solution-based single molecule imaging of surface-immobilized conjugated polymers” Journal of the American Chemical Society, 135, 7187, (2013). Link

P.A. Dalgarno, J.A. Bordello, R. Morris, P. St-Pierre, A. Dube, I.D.W. Samuel, D.A. Lafontaine, and J.C. Penedo “Single-molecule chemical denaturation of riboswitches” Nucleic Acids Research, 41, 4253, (2013). Link

J. Houel, A. Kuhlmann, L. Greuter, F. Xue, M. Poggio, B.D. Gerardot, P.A. Dalgarno, A. Badolato, P.M. Petroff, A. Ludwig, D. Reuter, A.D. Wieck, and R.J. Warburton, "Probing single charge fluctuations at a GaAs/AlAs interface using laser spectroscopy on a nearby InGaAs quantum dot". Physical Review Letters, 108, (2012). Link

C. Kloeffel, P.A. Dalgarno, B. Urbaszek, B.D. Gerardot, D. Brunner, P.M. Petroff, D. Loss, and R.J. Warburton, "Controlling the Interaction of Electron and Nuclear Spins in a Tunnel-Coupled Quantum Dot". Physical Review Letters, 106, 46802 (2011). Link

P.A. Dalgarno, H.I.C. Dalgarno, A. Putoud, R. Lambert, L. Paterson, D.C. Logan, D.P. Towers, R.J. Warburton, and A.H. Greenaway, "Multiplane imaging and three-dimensional nanoscale particle tracking in biological microscopy". Optics Express, 18, 877 (2010). Link


Dr. Paul Dalgarno is Associate Professor in Physics, group leader of the Advanced Microscopy Group and Senior Program Director of Physics.

Paul received an MPhys in Physics in 2001 and then a PhD in Nano-Optics in 2005, both from Heriot-Watt University, where he specialized 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. In 2013 Paul became a full lecturer of physics and formed the Advanced Microscopy Group, where they specialize in development novel microscopy instrumentation for the life sciences. Paul was promoted to Associate Professor in 2018.