Personal profile

Research interests

Associate Professor, Heriot-Watt University

Dr Michael Tanner is an Associate Professor in Biomedical Photonics at Heriot-Watt University. He is currently growing a research group to exploit time resolved single photon technologies and optical fibre sensors for clinical/biomedical photonics and other real world applications.

He is a Principle Investigator in the Photonic Instrumentation group with Prof. Robert Thomson.

He is part of the Global Research Institute in Health & Care Technologies where he jointly leads the ‘Sense’ capability.


Michael has a desire to bring the most advanced photonic technologies out of the darkened physics lab and into practical application. As a physicist with wide ranging experience in experimental systems, fibre optics, quantum technologies and fibre sensing he has developed advanced optical systems on site at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh.

Michael has a track record in developing quantum technologies. Initially designing silicon chips for quantum information processing at the Hitachi Cambridge Laboratory and The University of Cambridge, he moved to quantum optics and single photon detector technologies with the Quantum Sensors group at Heriot-Watt University and The University of Glasgow. While developing cutting edge quantum optics experiments and new secure optical communication technologies, he applied photon counting technologies to real world sensing problems. These included time of flight depth imaging, singlet oxygen fluorescence measurements for photodynamic therapy in cancer treatment and primary temperature measurement with optic fibre. Now he applies single photon detector arrays for medical sensing, imaging and diagnosis with a focus on practical systems for translation to clinic or elsewhere.


Informal news updates can be found at


Michael has research and translation funding from various sources including the MRC, EPSRC and Scottish Enterprise.


Roles & Responsibilities

Michael is a Principle Investigator in the Photonic Instrumentation group with Prof. Robert Thomson.

He is part of the Global Research Institute in Health & Care Technologies where he jointly leads the ‘Sense’ capability.

Michael is the Treasurer of the Medical Physics Special Interest group of the Institute of Physics, having joined the committee in 2019.

He sits on the Joint Biomedical Steering Group, which currently comprises of representatives from the IET, IMechE, IPEM, IOP, IOM3, BCS, FCI and the BioMedEng Association.


Dr Tanner teaches in the Physics department:
-course leader for B29SS Solid State Physics (3rd year), in collaboration with Dr Chen
-course leader for Experimental Labs in B27TB Investigative Techniques 2 (1st year practical laboratories)
-supervises 4th and 5th year undergraduate research projects in his labs (largely experimental)


Research Group Contact Details

David Brewster Building, DB1.11,
Heriot-Watt University,
Edinburgh, EH14 4AS
+44 (0)131 451 3067

(& IRR, Bioquarter, Edinburgh)

Key Research Words/Phrases

Health and Care Technology

Fibre Optics

Photon counting




Clinical Translation


Associate Professor, Heriot-Watt University

Michael completed his PhD at Cambridge University, in the Microelectronics Research Centre, in collaboration with the Hitachi Cambridge Laboratory
He continued his work as a Postdoctoral Research Scientist at Hitachi, investigating the excitation structure of Isolated Double Quantum Dots (IDQDs), or “artificial molecules”.
Later he expanded into the field of quantum optics, moving to Heriot-Watt University to work with Prof. Robert Hadfield on Superconducting Nanowire Single Photon Detectors (SNSPDs) and integrated quantum optical circuits.
Michael helped to guide and grow the research group moving with it to the University of Glasgow as a Research Fellow within the Quantum Sensors Group.
He joined the EPSRC Proteus IRC as a Research Fellow to grow optical medical device design at the QMRI, University of Edinburgh.
He gained an academic position within IPAQS at Heriot-Watt University linked to the Photonic Instrumentation group.


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


Dive into the research topics where Michael George Tanner is active. These topic labels come from the works of this person. Together they form a unique fingerprint.
  • 1 Similar Profiles

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

Recent external collaboration on country/territory level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or