David received his Ph.D. in mineralogy from the Pennsylvania State University in 1977 under the guidance of G. W. Brindley. After a three-year postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University, he moved to Los Alamos, New Mexico, where he was employed at the Los Alamos National Laboratory until 2003. He then moved to Bloomington where he was Professor and the Haydn Murray Chair of Applied Clay Mineralogy in the Department of Geology at Indiana University until his retirement in 2018.
His research focuses on applications of X-ray diffraction and thermoanalytical methods in the study of the behavior of solids, primarily minerals, particularly under non-ambient conditions. He was one of the original developers of the CheMin miniaturized X-ray diffraction/X-ray fluorescence instrument that is now operating on the surface of Mars.