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Fellows Directory

David Colquhoun

David Colquhoun

Professor David Colquhoun FRS


Elected: 1985






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

Pharmacology Prof & Director of Wellcome Lab, Department Of Neuroscience, Physiology and Pharmacology, University College London (UCL)
AJ Clark Professor of Pharmacology, Department Of Neuroscience, Physiology and Pharmacology, University College London (UCL)

Interest and expertise

Subject groups

  • Anatomy, physiology and neurosciences
    • Pharmacology (non-clinical), Physiology incl biophysics of cells (non-clinical)


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

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