David P. Stirling, PhD Biography

David Stirling, Ph.D. joined the U of L as an Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery in August 2012, and has an associate appointment in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. As a member of the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center, he runs the Laboratory of Advanced Optical Imaging.

Dr. Stirling’s research interests focus on observing, quantifying, and interrogating the complex interplay between the inflammatory response and white matter degeneration following trauma to the spinal cord. Neuroinflammation involves activation of resident immune cells (microglia) and recruitment of blood derived immune cells to the spinal cord injury site, that together may influence secondary degeneration of central myelinated fibers and thus contribute to neurological deficits following trauma to the spinal cord.  The Stirling laboratory contains a “state of the art” two-photon/confocal microscope with spectral capabilities that allow his group to document changes in immune cells and myelineated fiber degeneration simultaneously following spinal cord injury as these dynamic processes are unravelling in real time.

Dr. Stirling was born in the historic “market town” Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire, England and immigrated to Canada where he grew up in the picturesque city of North Vancouver, British Columbia.  Here he played soccer and developed his love for the outdoors. He often could be found hurling himself down the North Shore mountains on a mountain bike in the summer and on a snowboard in the winter. Dr. Stirling earned a B.Sc. in Cell biology and Genetics at the University of British Columbia and a Ph.D. in Zoology, option Neurobiology in the laboratory of Dr. Wolfram Tetzlaff.  Dr. Stirling fondly recalls that under the charismatic tutelage and mentorship of Dr. Wolfram Tetzlaff, my passion for the complexity and challenge of spinal cord injury (SCI) research was ignited. Dr. Stirling then went on to complete post doctoral fellowships with Drs. Voon Wee Yong and Peter Stys at the Hotchkiss Brain Institute, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Before being recruited to the U of L, Dr. Stirling served at the rank of Research Assistant Professor under the mentorship of Dr. Peter Stys, in the Department of Clinical Neurosciences, at the University of Calgary.    

Dr. Stirling spends his free time raising two beautiful daughters, running, cycling, and swimming. He recently finished his first ultramarathon (Yamacraw, Sterns, KY) and completed two full Ironmans (October 13th, 2019, Louisville, KY and September 12th, 2021, Madison, WI ). Together with Brenna and their children, they enjoy the rich, diverse, and beautiful landscape that Kentucky offers.