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Fellows Directory

David Colquhoun

Professor David Colquhoun FRS


Elected: 1985


Twitter @david_colquhoun


ORCID 0000-0002-4263-017X


David Colquhoun is a pharmacologist notable for his insights into the biophysics of drug–receptor interactions of single ion channels. Using mathematical approaches, David pioneered the accurate interpretation of recordings from single ion channels, predicting that channel opening events occur in bursts and shedding light on the ‘binding–gating’ problem.

Transmission of an impulse from a nerve cell involves the binding of a transmitter chemical to a channel spanning the neighbouring cell’s surface membrane. This opens the channel, allowing ions to flow through to initiate an electrical impulse. David’s research developed the stochastic theory necessary to interpret recordings of the interactions between these channels and pharmaceutical compounds.

By measuring their efficiency in opening channels, David’s analytical techniques enable scientists to tease out the strength with which drugs bind to ion channels. This measurement is fundamental for rational drug design. Lately, David has focused on his blog, DC’s Improbable Science, which explains the nature of good evidence to a wide audience. Commenting on alternative medicine, statistics and university policy, it has received over 4.2 million views.

Professional positions

Professor of Pharmacology and Honorary Director of the Wellcome Laboratory for Molecular Pharmacology at University College London, Department Of Neuroscience, Physiology and Pharmacology, University College London (UCL)

Interests and expertise

Subject groups


Evidence-based medicine, Higher education policy, Ion channels, Ligand-gated ion channels, Linear algebra, Maximum likelihood estimation, quackery, Science policy, Statistical inference, Stochastic processes, Test statistics