Professor Daniel Smith

Chair of Psychiatry and Head of Division of Psychiatry


My primary research and clinical focus is bipolar disorder. I have conducted work on the classification, genetic epidemiology and treatment of bipolar disorder. I have also been active in data science approaches and in work to understand the complex interface between major mental illness and cardiometabolic disease. My current primary focus is sleep, circadian science and mental illness. I lead the interdisciplinary MRC-funded UK Circadian Mental Health Network and I am PI for two major Wellcome Trust programme grants on bipolar disorder, called AMBIENT-BD and HELIOS-BD.

I also lead the new interdisciplinary Hub for Metabolic Psychiatry (2024-2029), which is part of the UKRI Mental Health Platform and I am part of several global research collaborations, including the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium and the Consortium for Lithium Genomics. I am Co-Director of the Chronobiology Task Force of the International Society for Bipolar Disorder.

I trained in medicine at the University of Edinburgh (BSc, 1994 and MB ChB, 1996) and completed a clinical research training fellowship in Edinburgh (MD, 2006) alongside an International Masters in Affective Neuroscience in Maastricht (MSc, 2006). After clinical training in psychiatry, I held a postdoctoral fellowship from the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) at Cardiff University (2006-2012). I moved to the University of Glasgow as Reader in Psychiatry in 2012 and was promoted to a personal chair in 2014. I joined the University of Edinburgh in April 2021.

I work as an honorary consultant psychiatrist with NHS Lothian, specialising in bipolar disorder.


BSc, MBChB, MSc, MD, FRCPsych.

Awards and prizes:

  • Lister Institute Prize Fellowship 2016
  • BMJ Innovation Team Award 2014
  • Brain and Behaviour Research Foundation Independent Investigator Award 2014
  • National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Postdoctoral Fellowship 2007
  • American Psychiatric Association Young Minds in Psychiatry Award 2007

Responsibilities & affiliations

  • Head of Division of Psychiatry
  • Convenor for Undergraduate Psychiatry
  • MRC Neurosciences and Mental Health Board
  • MRC Population Health Sciences Group
  • Medical Research Foundation Review Panel for Launchpad Grants in Mental Health
  • Co-Director, Chronobiology Task Force of the International Society for Bipolar Disorders (ISBD)
  • Medical Advisor for Bipolar Scotland
  • Bipolar UK Clinical Advisory Panel
  • Chair of the Trial Steering Committee for RCT of Cognitive Remediation in Bipolar Disorder (CRiB2)
  • Mental Health Research, Development & Innovation Leadership Group, The Scottish Government


Undergraduate teaching

  • Convenor for Undergraduate Psychiatry on the MB ChB programme, University of Edinburgh.

Postgraduate teaching

Postgraduate Psychiatry MRCPsych Course.

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Current PhD students supervised

  • Nicole Needham (PhD): Circadian rhythms and light sensitivity in bipolar disorder.
  • Matthew Whelan (PhD): Artificial intelligence approaches to using sleep and circadian data in mental illness. AI in Biomedicine Doctoral Training Programme
  • Reesha Zahir (PhD): Investigating the mechanisms underlying sleep problems and mental ill health in autistic children and adolescents. Wellcome Trust Translational Neuroscience Doctoral Training Programme. Co-supervisor.
  • Natasha Sanghu (PhD): Integrating circadian, genomic and imaging data to understand mood disorders. MRC Precision Medicine Doctoral Training Programme Studentship, 2019-2021, co-supervisor.
  • XingXing Chen (PhD): Imaging genomics of physical and mental health comorbidity. Chinese Government PhD Scholarship, 2019-2022.
  • Hannah Casey (PhD): Genetic epidemiology of chronic pain and depression. MRC Precision Medicine Doctoral Training Programme Studentship, 2020-2023, co-supervisor).
  • Charlotte Greene (PhD): Antidepressant and antipsychotic drug use and microvascular morbidity, cardiovascular morbidity, and all-cause and cause-specific mortality in mental illness comorbid with diabetes (MRC Precision Medicine Doctoral Training Programme Studentship, 2018-2021, co-supervisor).


Past PhD students supervised

  1. Joey Ward (PhD) Genomic Investigations of Psychiatric Conditions via Research Domain Criteria Traits (main supervisor). Passed 2021.
  2. Nick Graham (PhD): The genetic interface between mood and cardiometabolic disorders (Aitchison Family Fellowship, 2015-2019, main supervisor).
  3. Natalie Chalmers (PhD): Developing a lifestyle intervention for adults with bipolar disorder (MRC SPHSU PhD Studentship, 2015-2019, co-supervisor).
  4. Keira Johnson (PhD): Genetic epidemiology of chronic pain and major depression (MRC Precision Medicine Doctoral Training Programme Studentship, 2018-2021, co-supervisor).
  5. Karl Ferguson (PhD): Diagram based analysis of Causal Systems for understanding the causes of alcohol problems (MRC Doctoral Training Programme PhD Studentship, 2015-2019, co-supervisor).
  6. Sumit Mistry (PhD): Polygenic profile scores and features of bipolar disorder (MHRUK PhD Studentship, 2015-2019, co-supervisor with Prof S Zammit at Cardiff University).
  7. Amy Ferguson (PhD): Identification of novel endophenotypes for bipolar disorder using genetic risk score analysis (MRC Doctoral Training Programme PhD Studentship). Passed 2019.
  8. Moira Hansen (PhD): "Melancholy and low spirits are half my disease": Physical and mental health in the life and works of Robert Burns (Lord Kelvin Adam Smith Interdisciplinary Studentship). Passed 2019.
  9. Breda Cullen (PhD): Cognitive outcomes in people with behavioural and brain disorders within UK Biobank (Chief Scientist Office Research Training Fellowship, 2014-2017, co-supervisor). Passed 2018.
  10. Daniel Martin (MD): Investigating the causes and outcomes of cardiometabolic diseases in bipolar affective disorder. Passed 2018.
  11. Aikaterini Kavalidou (PhD): Multimorbidity and suicidality (ESRC Studentship and self-funding, 2014-2017, co-supervisor). Passed 2018.
  12. Rhys Bevan Jones (PhD): Developing and evaluating an online psychoeducation package for adolescent depression.  Passed 2017.
  13. Julie Langan Martin (MD): Identifying health inequalities in individuals with major mental illness using routine data. (Mason Medical Research Foundation Fellowship, 2013-2015, main supervisor).  Passed 2016.
  14. Ria Poole (PhD): Therapeutic mechanisms of psychoeducation for bipolar disorder (2010-2013, main supervisor).  Passed 2014.
  15. Andrew Smith (DClinPsy): Scottish Transgender and Autistic Traits Study. Passed 2014.
  16. Naomi Swift (DClinPsy): Barriers to early diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Passed 2012.

Research summary

HELIOS-BD: Lithium's mechanism of action in bipolar disorder: investigating the light hypersensitivty hypothesis: 

Lithium has been in use for 70 years and is the most effective treatment for bipolar disorder. It has many actions but the precise mechanism of action in bipolar disorder is uncertain. Recent evidence suggests that lithium may work by stabilizing aberrant circadian rhythms of mood, cognition and rest/activity, possibly via an action at the level of the retina. Specifically, individuals with bipolar disorder who are hypersensitive to the destabilizing effects of excess light in the evening may respond to lithium because it acts on the retina to make light-induced circadian disruption less likely. This is a plausible and exciting hypothesis that, if true, could herald a new era of chronotherapeutic approaches. We will test whether people with bipolar disorder are hypersensitive to evening light stimuli and whether lithium works by increasing retinal resilience to light-induced circadian disruption. In parallel, we will test the effect of light stimuli and lithium treatment on retinal organoid cells derived from individuals with bipolar disorder. People with bipolar disorder are involved in every aspect of this project, from design to dissemination, and we will also co-produce a range of knowledge exchange activities on the theme of ‘Bipolar Disorder, Lithium and Light’. 

AMBIENT-BD: Ambient and passive collection of sleep and circadian rhythm data in bipolar disorder to understand symptom trajectories and clinical outcomes: 

Bipolar disorder is defined by extreme variability in mood, activity, sleep and circadian timing recurring over weeks and months. We will optimize innovative ambient and passive data collection methods and test their feasibility and performance against gold standards. A lived experience advisory panel will help us to identify and prioritize clinical and functional outcome measures to co-produce low intensity methods for collecting these outcomes. In parallel, we will develop a data collection and data management system to support data collection and optimize data sharing with patients, clinicians and the research community. The core of data collection within AMBIENT-BD is an 18-month prospective follow-up study of sleep, circadian rhythms and clinical/functional outcomes in people with bipolar disorder that primarily makes use of low intensity ambient and passive data collection methods. Our goal is to identify causal mechanisms by which sleep and circadian disruption leads to relapse in bipolar disorder. We will also deliver an innovative programme of knowledge exchange and dissemination in collaboration with Bipolar Scotland.

Current project grants

UKRI/MRC (2024-2029) Hub for Metabolic Psychiatry. PI D Smith with multiple co-investigators. Value £4m.

Wellcome Trust (2023-2028) Ambient and passive collection of sleep and circadian rhythm data in bipolar disorder to understand symptom trajectories and clinical outcomes (AMBIENT-BD). PI D Smith, Co-Is A Millar, T Tsanas, R Riha. Value £3m.

Wellcome Trust (2023-2028) Lithium's mechanism in bipolar disorder: investigating the light hypersensitivity hypothesis (HELIOS-BD). PI D Smith, Co-Is: B Dhillon, R Riha, I Campbell, J Martinovic. Value: £3.5m

MRC (2023-2026) UK Mental Health and Circadian Science Network. PI D Smith. Value £780,756.

MRC (2023-2024) Acquiring rich longitudinal passive sleep data across childhood and adolescence. PI H Whalley, Co-I D Smith. Value £150k.

Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) BioClocks UK, for robust cycles of discovery to impact. PI A Millar, Co-I D Smith. Value £18,910.

MRC (2022-2025) Brain sulcal folding and mental illness: investigating causal associations and stratification approaches for psychosis. PI G Murray (Cambridge), Co-I D Smith. Value £1m.

Past project grants

Chief Scientist Office (CSO) (2022-2024) Severe mental illness and receipt of acute cardiac care and mortality following myocardial infarction. PI C Jackson, Co-I D Smith. Value £350k.

Baszucki Brain Research Fund. Pilot study to assess the effectiveness of the ketogenic diet on  the symptoms of bipolar disorder (2021-2023). Co-PIs DJ Smith, H Campbell and I Campbell. Value $320k.

MRC Mental Health Data Platform "DATAMIND" (2021-2023). PIs John and Stewart plus 10 UK co-investigators, including Smith DJ. Value £2m.

MRC Mental Health Data Pathfinder Award (2018-2020).  PI: DJ Smith, Co-applicants: J Pell, L Moore, SA Cooper, C McCowan.  Value: £1m.

MRC Adolescent Mental Health Engagement Award (2020-2021). PI: DJ Smith, Co-applicants: M von Schantz, A Gregory, C Wyse, B Cullen, J Inchley, L Lyall, H Sibley, S Chan, S Simpson. “Sleep, circadian rhythms and mental health in schools (SCRAMS)”. Value: £100,000.

MRC (2019-2022) Understanding the relationship between depression and trajectories of physical multimorbidity accrual: longitudinal analysis of UK Biobank data. PI: B Guthrie, Co-investigators: DJ Smith, C Sudlow, S Mercer, C Jackson, D Morales, J Norrie. Value: £742,089.

MRC (2018-2021) “Understanding the excess risk of cardiometabolic disease in individuals with serious mental illness.” Skills Development Fellowship (C Niedzwiedz). Value: £350k.

NIHR Health Technology Assessment grant (2018-2023): “Pramipexole for treatment resistant bipolar depression.”  PI: H McAllister-Williams, Co-investigators: DJ Smith, A Young, P Stokes, J Geddes, R Morriss.  Value £1.9m.

The Health Foundation (2018-2022).  “Causal effects of alcohol and mental health problems on employment outcomes: Harnessing UK Biobank and linked administrative data.”  PI: V. Katikireddi; Co-applicants: DJ Smith, M Green, A Leyland, E Demou, R Dundas, N Davies, M Munafo, N Bailey.  Value: £449,501.

Lister Institute Research Prize Fellowship (2016-2021).  “Investigating the overlap between bipolar disorder and hypertension to identify repurposed medications for bipolar disorder.”  PI: DJ Smith.  Value £200,000.

Chief Scientist Office Scotland Translational Clinical Studies funding (2016-2018). “Antihypertensives as repurposed treatments for mood disorders: Scottish national linkage and UK Biobank investigation.” PI: DJ Smith, co-applicants: J Pell, D Mackay, S Padmanabhan. Value £250,898.

Brain and Behaviour Research Foundation (NARSAD). Independent Investigator Award 2014-17. “Genome-wide association studies of depression and cardiometabolic disease.” PI: DJ Smith, Value: $100,000.

National Alliance for Research into Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD) Young Investigator Award: ‘Identifying neural markers of bipolarity in young adults with major depressive disorder.’ 2009-2012, PI: D.J. Smith, Co-applicant: M. Phillips. Value: £37,336

National Institute of Health Research (Department of Health) Personal Award Scheme: Postdoctoral Fellowship: ‘Improving outcomes in major depression: focus on bipolarity’. 2007-2010, PI: D.J. Smith, Co-applicant: N. Craddock. Value: £434,047

Big Lottery Fund: ‘Project Clorian: Group Psychoeducation for Bipolar Disorder in Wales’. 2008-2013, PIs: D.J. Smith, I.R. Jones, Co-applicant: N. Craddock. Value: £770,862

MRC/Welsh Assembly Government Research Partnership Award: ‘Unrecognised bipolar spectrum disorders in primary care patients with depression’. 2008-2010, PI: D.J. Smith, Co-applicant: N. Craddock. Value: £121,909

National Alliance for Research into Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD) Young Investigator Award: ‘Genetic Dissection of the Unipolar-Bipolar Interface’. 2007-2010, PI: D.J. Smith, Co-applicant: N. Craddock. Value: £37,336

View all 173 publications on Research Explorer