Professor Alistair Elfick

Chair of Synthetic Biological Engineering and Head of Research Institute



+44(0)131 6507254


2.068 Faraday Building

Engineering Discipline: 

  • Mechanical Engineering

Research Institute: 

  • Bioengineering

Research Theme: 

  • Bioengineering

Academic Qualifications: 

  • PhD Biomedical Engineering, University of Durham, 1999
  • BSc Mechanical Engineering, University of Durham, 1993
  • MSc Bioengineering, University of Strathclyde, 1994

Professional Qualifications and Memberships: 

  • Member, Optical Society of America
  • Member, Society of Applied Spectroscopists
  • Fellow of the Society of Biology
  • Member, European Society for Biomaterials
  • Active member, Orthopaedic Research Society

Research Interests: 

Orthopaedic Biomaterials

Dr Elfick's research portfolio encompasses many aspects of orthopaedics. Most notable amongst these is research into the wear performance of total joint replacements. This work is augmented with investigation of the cellular/tissue reaction to orthopaedic biomaterials and their wear products. Further research has included empirical biomechanical evaluation of fracture fixation products for the femur and humerus.

Optical Spectroscopy

Optical spectroscopy is a very valuable tool for non-invasively probing the chemistry and molecular structure of matter. The application of optical spectroscopy to materials science and live cell diagnostics are great. Instrumentation is being developed to investigate the utility of conducing near-field optical microscopy and spectroscopy using an apertureless approach.

Synthetic Biology

Synthetic Biology is an emergent discipline in which we undertake to rationally design and fabricate biological devices which show some desired functionality. SynBio draws heavily on the engineering design process and notions of abstraction and standardisation. I am an instructor on the Edinburgh iGEM team and Director of one of the recently funded BBSRC Networks in Synthetic Biology.


The tribology of biological systems is in general poorly understood at the molecular level. On-going basic science research into the molecular lubricating ability of adsorbed proteins, glycoproteins, lipids, polyelectrolytes and so on will inform many future medical and engineering applications.

Further Information: 

  • Director of the BBSRC Synthetic Biology Network on Standardisation
  • US-UK Fulbright Commission, Distinguished Scholars Award, University of California Berkeley, 2003
  • EPSRC Advanced Research Fellowship, 2004-2009
  • Royal Academy of Engineering, Global Research Award, University of California Berkeley, 2003