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Norman Kirkby, PhD. Cantab


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Proton therapy poses many challenges for computational oncology: from the prediction of the number of patients for each indication, to the molecular processes of detecting and repairing the DNA damage caused by protons. We have established a group to provide mathematical modelling support for the biological and medical issues and problems.

My background is partly in modelling bioprocess engineering systems, but since 2003 has been increasingly focussed on modelling and computational methodologies for assisting medical decision making and treatment optimisation.

Research interests

Mathematical models of the cell cycle (CelCyMUS)

Models of radiation-DNA interaction

Statistical analysis of clonogenic survival and models of the role of feeder cells.

Models of clinical trials (BBJJK) (Chemo-radio-immunotherapy combinations)

Models of demand for radiotherapy (Malthus)

My collaborations

Prof Karen Kirkby, The Richard Rose Chair in Proton Therapy Physics, University of Manchester

Prof Neil Burnet and Raj Jena (Cambridge)

Prof Catherine West and Gillian Whitfield and colleagues in RRR group in ICS

Dr Tom Mee, Dr Mike Merchant & Dr Mike Taylor, all proton team, RRR/ICS

Memberships of committees and professional bodies

Institution of Chemical Engineers

Methodological knowledge

Formulation and solution of models in biological mathematics

Ordinary and partial differential equations

Numerical methods for ODEs and PDEs especially cellular automata

Reaction kinetics and transport phenomena in biological systems

Monte Carlo simulation techniques

High performance computing and Fortran 2018


BSc Nottingham Chemical Engineering (1979)

PhD Cambridge Chemical Engineering (1984)


Originally from Leatherhead in Surrey, I attended Kingston Grammar School and then obtained a First in Chemical Engineering at the University of Nottingham and was awarded the Elizabeth and J D Marsden Prize.  From there I went to the University of Cambridge to study for a PhD in Chemical Engineering, sponsored by BOC Ltd. My dissertation on gas separation by pressure swing adsorption was awarded the Danckwerts Prize.  After my PhD, I condensed into the liquid phase but remained in Cambridge with a two year post doc sponsored by Glaxo where the project was looking at the separation of antibiotics from closely related byproducts again by adsorption.

I then spent 33 years at the University of Surrey serving as lecturer, senior lecturer, reader and professor in the Department of Chemical & Process Engineering.  I gained an interest in cell cycle modelling and then in radiotherapy through Neil Burnet, ultimately spending a sabbatical year back in Cambridge on a discipline hopping grant from EPSRC, MRC and BBSRC.

Since January 2015, I have been working part-time in the Precise group at the University of Manchester, a variety of models have been developed and we are very excited about soon being able to test and validate these models in our proton research laboratory.

My group


Karen Kirkby
Group Lead
Richard Rose Chair in Proton Therapy Physics 
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Norman Kirkby 

Research Fellow
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Michael Taylor 

Lecturer in Proton Therapy Physics
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Michael Merchant 

Lecturer in Proton Therapy Physics 
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Thomas Mee 

Research Associate
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Amy Chadwick 

Research Associate 
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Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production

External positions

Visiting Professor, University of Surrey

1 Jan 2015 → …

Areas of expertise

  • TP Chemical technology
  • Reaction engineering and mass transfer
  • QA76 Computer software
  • Mathematical modelling
  • Numerical analysis
  • RZ Other systems of medicine
  • Computational oncology

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Digital Futures


  • Modelling radiotherapy


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