David read Engineering Science at St John's College Oxford, graduating in 1976, and spent a short time working for Tecquipment Ltd, which makes educational teaching equipment.
He read for a PhD at what was then Trent Polytechnic, where he was subsequently given a lectureship. In 1983, David went as a visitor to the University of Michigan, and returned to Oxford in 1984.
In 2006, David was appointed Editor In Chief of the International Journal of Solids and Structures. He was the I Mech E Donald Julius Groen Prize lecturer 2015 in 'Contacts, Friction and Fretting.'
He was elected as a Royal Academy of Engineering Fellow in 2022.
David Hills retired from the Department in 2023.