The Athena SWAN Charter was established by the Equality Challenge Unit to recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) employment in higher education and research. The Charter has since been expanded to cover additional disciplines and addresses gender equality more broadly.
The Department of Medical Physics & Biomedical Engineering currently holds a Bronze Award.
The achievements and careers of outstanding women engineers at all levels at UCL Engineering are being celebrated as part of International Women in Engineering Day on 23 June
The stark under-representation of women in physics and engineering has been one of the few negative aspects of working in my chosen career field. Since I became Head of Department in 2008, we have been highly proactive in promoting Medical Physics to female school students and early-career women who might not otherwise consider physics or engineering as a career. However, it is essential that we are also able to provide the resources and friendly environment that will support female as well as male staff and students in developing rewarding careers in this exciting academic field. In 2012 we formed an Athena SWAN Working Group which reviewed our efforts to increase the representation of women among our students and staff, and examined our career support mechanisms. We also assessed the degree to which our departmental culture and processes take into account the particular needs of staff and students with childcare responsibilities. Our Working Group devised an Action Plan to continue our progress towards a 50:50 gender balance within the department, to enhance our career support for women, and to increase awareness of institutional and departmental family-friendly policies and schemes. As a result of our efforts, in April 2013 we were delighted to receive an Athena SWAN bronze award which recognised the positive changes we have implemented within the department, and the quality of our Action Plan for further improvement. I hope that this online Athena Swan resource will prove helpful in highlighting the actions the department has taken to combat gender inequality in physics and engineering, as well as showcasing the recent successes of our female staff and students.
- Professor Jem Hebden, November 2013.
- What is the Athena SWAN Award?
The Athena SWAN Charter recognises commitment to advancing women's careers in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) employment in higher education. The Charter was launched in June 2005. Any higher education institution which is committed to the advancement and promotion of the careers of women in STEMM in higher education and research can apply for membership. The beliefs underpinning the Charter are:
- The advancement of science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine is fundamental to quality of life across the globe.
- It is vitally important that women are adequately represented in what has traditionally been, and is still, a male-dominated area.
- Science cannot reach its full potential unless it can benefit from the talents of the whole population, and until women and men can benefit equally from the opportunities it affords.
- Case Studies
Pardis Kaynezhad, PhD student
Pardis is a PhD student within the Department of Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering. She volunteered at the launch event of the Brilliant Club Scholars Programme at Royal Holloway University on 18 April 2018.
The Brilliant Club is an organisation which mobilises PhD students to engage with state schools, and support talented pupils from under-represented backgrounds to progress to selective universities.
The Scholars Programme employs doctoral and post-doctoral researchers to deliver programmes of academic enrichment to small groups of pupils, through a combination of university trips, in-school tutorials and online resources.
Pardis attended the launch event as a PhD tutor, teaching year 8 students from London Academy. She said the following about the event:
"My first experience as a PhD tutor for the Brilliant Club has been extraordinary so far and the amount of support and guidance I received from the wonderful and friendly staff has been incredible.
I really enjoyed the launch trip at the Royal Holloway University and my first tutorial with year 8 pupils from London Academy was delightful. It was very encouraging to see how talented and enthusiastic the pupils were about an engineering subject that they came to know for the very first time.
It was also surprising how their understanding of engineering changed drastically after the first tutorial. Furthermore, after reading and discussing some case studies from the MetaboLight group with their peers, the students perfectly fathomed the need for advancements in Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering in saving lives and were amazed by its importance.
I look forward to my future tutorials with this fantastic group of pupils and I am proud to be associated with such a worthwhile cause at the Brilliant Club."
Women in Engineering Event
Clare Elwell, and four of the Department’s female PhDs, Reem Ahmad (pictured, left), Irina Grigorescu, Emma Biondetti and Laura Dempsey hosted a group of all-female students on 15 March, as part of a tour organized by UCL Women Engineers Society.
The event was specifically about how policies such as Athena Swan have impacted positively on the UCL environment. The speakers, all at different stages in their academic careers, talked about what attracted them to the field, their particular areas of research expertise, and what they particularly enjoyed about working in the Department (citing a welcoming, inclusive environment, a healthy gender mix, and chance to work with some of the best researchers in the world).
They also shared advice about how to cope with some of the challenges of being a woman in STEM – including finding great mentors, making full use of the support available, and dealing with ‘imposter syndrome’.
Professor Clare Elwell
I joined UCL as a Research Assistant in 1991. I gained an MRC Fellowship in the same year that I became pregnant with my first child. With the support of my Head of Department I negotiated a return to work part-time (0.6FTE). I was able to balance my part-time working hours with continuing to build my research profile. One important aspect of this was departmental support of flexible working hours to accommodate travel to national and international conferences.
Whilst on extended maternity leave with my second child in 1999 I applied for a lectureship with full transparency of my intention to continue to work part-time. I was the only female candidate, and the only applicant wishing to work part-time. I was awarded the lectureship, taking up the post on continued part-time (0.6FTE) status. Course organisers and the Head of Department facilitated the necessary adjustments to the teaching timetable to accommodate a staggered return to work.
I was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2005 and after discussion with the Head of Department and head of my research group I increased my hours to 0.8FTE. I continued to build a successful multidisciplinary research team investigating acute brain injury in adults, neurodevelopment in young infants and neurological consequences of cardiothoracic procedures. With departmental support, the help of a timely Female Promotion workshop, and the encouragement of senior female academics across the faculty, I was promoted to Professor in 2008. I continue to work part-time (0.8FTE), being absent from college on Fridays, but adopting a flexible working pattern as required.
Recently, with the full support of my Head of Department and colleagues, I have chosen to undertake a period of Sabbatical Leave, in accordance with the established UCL policy. This has allowed me to postpone my teaching commitments for one term in order to focus on my research.
Dr. Adam Gibson
Adam joined the department in 2001 as a Postdoctoral Research Associate, working on a project to develop a novel technique for imaging the brain, breast, and other organs using laser light. Three years later he obtained an EPSRC Advanced Fellowship which involved extending his previous research work into tools for imaging the brains of newborn infants in intensive care.
Adam’s son was born in January 2006, and soon after returning to UCL after a period of paternity leave, Adam arranged with his Head of Department to switch to part time status (0.8FTE) with an agreement that he would be able to spend one day per week working from home. This arrangement has existed ever since. Staff and students are made aware that Adam is typically at UCL from Wednesday to Friday, but is usually available via email and phone during certain periods on Mondays and/or Tuesdays.
Meanwhile, in 2008 Adam was awarded a highly prestigious grant under the EPSRC Challenging Engineering Scheme, and the part-time arrangement was fully approved by the funding body. This award coincided with his very well deserved promotion to Reader. By appropriate scheduling of relevant departmental meetings and student lectures to avoid the first two days of the week, Adam contributes fully to the department’s academic activities. He is organiser of two course modules and contributes lectures to several more. He is Chair of the Department’s Research Committee (which meets monthly) and is responsible for management of the department’s website.
Adam is the programme tutor for the new Biomedical Engineering degrees under the Integrated Engineering Programme. Adam’s research activities and his childcare responsibilities frequently demand flexibility in his work schedule, and the department is normally able to accommodate alternative arrangements when required (e.g. Adam will occasionally need to perform experiments or attend a conference on a Monday and/or Tuesday and work from home later in the week). Adam and his Head of Department are anticipating further modifications to Adam’s working arrangements over the next few years, in order to adapt to changes in childcare requirements as his son progresses through school. Adam’s current career trajectory should ensure a promotion to professor within a few years.
- Links and Points of Contact
UCL equality policies and resources
- UCL: Taking Action for Equality
- UCL: Human Resources
- UCL Women in Engineering
- UCL Student Society of Women Engineers
- Equality Challenge Unit
- UCL Equality & Diversity Strategy
Daphne Jackson Trust
The Daphne Jackson Fellowship scheme is designed to assist scientists, engineers and technologists to return to their careers after a break.
Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship
The Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship scheme is intended for outstanding UK scientists at an early stage of their research career who require a flexible working pattern due to personal circumstances, such as parenting or caring responsibilities or health issues. Female candidates are particularly encouraged to apply.
Wellcome Trust Career Re-Entry Fellowships
The Wellcome Trust runs a scheme for postdoctoral scientists who have recently decided to recommence a scientific research career after a continuous break of at least two years. It provides such scientists an opportunity to return to high-quality research, with the potential to undertake refresher or further training. The fellowship is particularly suitable for applicants wishing to return to research after a break due to family commitments.
Funding for female graduates
British Federation of Women Graduates (BFWG) Scholarships
The British Federation of Women Graduates scholarships are for women who will be in the third year of their doctoral studies (or part-time equivalent) at the time when the awards are made. The awards are given on the basis of evidence of academic excellence as demonstrated on the application form, in referee reports and, for those shortlisted, in a research presentation to a panel of academics. The average size of the award is about £3000. The number of awards depends on the funds available and on the quality of the applications, but typically six to eight awards are made each year. The final selection is made in June/July of each year, and the scholarships are awarded in September/October.
Funds for women graduates
Funds for Women Graduates offers Foundation Grants to help women graduates with their living expenses (not fees) while registered for study or research at an approved institution of higher education in the UK. The criteria are the proven needs of the applicant and their academic calibre. The awarded amount is not likely to exceed £6000. They also offer Emergency Grants to graduate women who face an unforeseen financial crisis whilst engaged in study or research at institutions of higher education in Great Britain.
- 2012 Athena SWAN Award: submission highlights
- We provided detailed case studies from members of the department, highlighting the benefit and implementation of UCL’s family friendly policies.
- During the past four years, our average percentage female intake of medical physics undergraduates is 44%, roughly double the national percentage of females on physics degree programmes, and roughly double the percentage of women students studying physics at A'level.
- We provided evidence of a substantial increase in public engagement activities, particularly targeting female audiences.
- We have adopted a departmental policy of scheduling all regular meetings as much as possible during the "family friendly" hours of 10am-4pm.
- Mentoring processes have been established for both PhD students and staff, focusing on career progression and tackling perceived barriers. (The Athena SWAN assessment panel commended the introduction of our postdoctoral mentoring scheme, particularly because the postdoctoral research assistants committee have ownership of the scheme and because family friendly information is being provided to the mentors to improve the quality of the scheme).
- Regular departmental social activities have been organised which facilitate better communication and networking for both staff and PhD students. These include staff and student retreats, as well as coffee mornings and family friendly activities such as our annual Sports Day.
- In the past five years, 70% of all student prizes have been awarded to female students (all four of our prizewinners in 2013 are female).
- We reported a 100% return rate from maternity leave.
- We confirmed regular receipt and approval of paternity leave requests in line with UCL policy.
- The proportion of female students registering for our MSc programmes has remained very close to 50% despite our total numbers fluctuating significantly.
- Our percentage of female staff at all grades has exceeded 25% for the first time, and demonstrates an upward trend.
- Outreach and Successes
March 2016 - UCL Doctoral School Research Poster Competition
Congratulations to Anita Karsa who was awarded a Runner-up prize in the UCL Doctoral School Research Poster Competition for her poster on Optimising MRI Acquisition for Clinically Applicable Magnetic Susceptibility Mapping.
February 2016 - Karin Shmueli's paper accepted for a Special Issue of NMR in Biomedicine
Dr Karin Shmueli's paper "Investigating Lipids as a Source of Chemical Exchange-Induced MRI Frequency Shifts" has been accepted for a Special Issue of the MRI medical journal NMR in Biomedicine. This Special Issue focuses on MRI Phase Contrast and Quantitative Susceptibility Mapping.
December 2015 - Clare Elwell Interviewed by Sci Dev Net about globalfnirs project
Prof Clare Elwell has been interviewed by Sci Dev Net, a site which promotes stories about the use of science and technology for global development. The interview covers the globalfnirs project using optical imaging to understand brain development of infants in global health projects.
December 2015 - Inaugural Lecture of Professor Heather Payne
Congratulations to Prof Heather Payne who gave her Inaugural Lecture, “RADARS of the lost particle”, on 18th December 2015.
Heather Payne is a consultant in clinical oncology at University College Hospital with a special interest in the treatment of prostate cancer, and is currently working with a small multidisciplinary group of clinicians,physicists and scientists who are dedicated to promote novel research and development.
September 2015 – Laura Dempsey presents poster at 5th Cambridge Neuroscience Symposium
On 9th-10th September 2015, PhD student Laura Dempsey attended the 5th Cambridge Neuroscience Symposium - Imaging the Nervous System, and showcased recent neonatal diffuse optics work with a poster entitled “Time-resolved diffuse optical tomography for cot-side neonatal functional brain imaging.”
July 2015 – ISOTT Conference 2015
PhD students Gemma Bale and Phong Phan attended this year’s ISOTT conference (International Society on Oxygen Transport to Tissue) in Wuhan, China, and gave a talk as well as presenting posters.
ISOTT has a diverse range of subjects from the biology behind oxygen transport in the body, to the medical engineering involved in measuring it. This year there was a particular focus on optical measurements in memorial of Britton Chance, a pioneer in the field of optical spectroscopy. Attendees were also given a tour of the impressive Wuhan National Laboratory for Optoelectronics.
The presentation/poster titles and sessions they were presented in are as follows:
Gemma Bale in Brain oxygenation and function” session: Relationship between haemodynamics and metabolism in the injured neonatal brain during spontaneous oxygen desaturations
Gemma in Poster session - Interrelationship between NIRS measurements of cerebral cytochrome-c-oxidase and systemic changes indicates injury severity in perinatal hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy
Gemma (presenting on behalf of Subhabrata Mitra) in Poster session - Relationship between cerebral oxygenation and metabolism during rewarming in newborn infants after therapeutic hypothermia following hypoxic-ischemic brain injury
Phong in “Multi-Modal Imaging/Spectroscopy & Modelling” session: Spatial distribution of changes in oxidised cytochrome c oxidase during visual stimulation using broadband spectroscopy imaging
Gemma receiving the Duane Bruley Travel Award for student researchers in all aspects of areas of oxygen transport to tissue.
July 2015 - Dr Lynsey Duffell presents IBME monthly seminar
On Wednesday 15 July Dr Lynsey Duffell, a lecturer in the Department of Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering, gave a talk as part of IBME's Monthly Seminar Series titled 'Restoring Function After Spinal Cord Injury: Emerging Techniques'.
Lynsey's main interests are focused on developing novel therapies to restore function after damage to the central nervous system using neuromodulation and activity-based therapies.
Lynsey described two novel therapies for patients with spinal cord injury: acute intermittent hypoxia (AIH) and electrical stimulation applied to the spinal cord. She began her talk by providing a background to the life-changing effects of spinal cord injury and by explaining the neurophysiological mechanisms that allow the central nervous system to adapt and potentially recover from damage.
She went on to describe a study she carried out at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago investigating whether non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs could augment the therapeutic benefits of AIH. Lynsey then discussed some of her previous work using functional electrical stimulation and compared these techniques to emerging methods that use electrical stimulation applied to the spinal cord for functional recovery. She explained the exciting discoveries that have been made using spinal cord stimulation in the USA and discussed how she plans to incorporate these novel therapeutic techniques into her future research here at UCL.
June 2015 - Women in Engineering Taster Day
On 29th June 2015 Jennifer Griffiths, Rebecca Yerworth, Eve Hatten and Stevia-Marie Fletcher hosted groups of girls as part of the faculty’s Women in Engineering Taster Day (organised by Martina Micheletti and Elpida Makrygianni). Three groups of Year 12 students came to the department to find out more about what we do and got the opportunity to try out one of our first year biomedical engineering experimental sessions.
June 2015 – Brain Conference 2015
The Brain conference (International Symposium on Cerebral Blood Flow, Metabolism and Function) brings together researchers within all areas of neuroscience with the goal of enhancing the understanding of brain function under physiological and pathological conditions.
Gemma Bale and Pardis Kaynezhad attended this year’s conference in Vancouver, Canada, and presented work on using near-infrared spectroscopy to measure changes in brain metabolism.
The presentation titles and sessions they were presented in are as follows:
Pardis Kaynezhad in “Cellular Pathways of Ischaemic Injury” session - INVESTIGATION OF THE ASSOCIATION OF THE EARLY RECOVERY OF CYTOCHROME-C-OXIDASE REDOX STATE WITH INJURY SEVERITY FOLLOWING HYPOXIA-ISCHEMIA IN THE NEONATAL PIG
Gemma Bale in “Neurovascular Coupling: Pathophysiology” session - INTERRELATIONSHIP BETWEEN NIRS MEASUREMENTS OF CEREBRAL CYTOCHROME-C-OXIDASE AND SYSTEMIC CHANGES INDICATES INJURY SEVERITY IN NEONATAL ENCEPHALOPATHY
June 2015 - Clare Elwell Outreach at Oasis Academy Southbank
Prof Clare Elwell visited Oasis Academy Southbank to talk to young students about Engineering, and had a very positive response from the female students!
May 2015 - Provost's Engineering Engagement Awards
The Provost’s Engineering Engagement awards were announced on Monday 11th May. Congratulations to Jo Brunker, Gemma Bale and Jenny Griffiths, who were recognised for their excellence in engaging young people in engineering.
Gemma Bale won the "Postgraduate Student" category, Jenny Griffiths was a runner-up in the "Professional / Support Staff" category, while Jo Brunker was also a runner-up in the "Academic / Research Staff (Grade 6&7)" category.
May 2015 - 'On Light' At The Wellcome Trust
The Wellcome Trust’s ‘On Light’ Event took place on 1st-4th May 2015 as part of UNESCO’s International Year of Light. Clare Elwell, Jo Brunker, Gemma Bale, Laura Dempsey, Pardis Kaynezhad, Sabrina Brigadoi, Terence Leung, Phong Phan and Danial Chitnis represented the department of Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering, showcasing several activities during event, which took a number of weeks of planning and preparation.
There was a NIRS device which was attached to a person’s arm as they used an arm ergometer; from the signals acquired they could see changes in the oxygenated and deoxygenated blood in their muscles due to the intense exercise. There was also a multicolour lightbulb that allowed you to individually tune the red, green, and blue (RGB) channels so that you can see how colour mixing works with emitted light. Finally there was a webcam-based device that could detect a person’s pulse by acquiring only the green channel on the camera and taking the fourier transform of the images.
April 2015 - Anne Vanhoestenberghe wins MRC Science Suffrage award
We are delighted to announce that former employee, Dr Anne Vanhoestenberge, has recently been awarded an MRC Science Suffrage Award, which celebrates the achievements of leading female researchers in the fields of science and engineering, while recalling the women’s suffrage movement.
Congratulations to Anne!
March 2015 - Set for Britain Exhibition at the House of Commons
On March 9 2015 the annual ‘Set for Britain’ Exhibition was held in the House of Commons. This event is a poster competition for early career researchers, and 6 out of the 17 presentations from UCL were from Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering. Pilar Garcia Souto, Sabrina Brigadoi and Thomas Dowrick attended the Biological and Biomedical Sciences Session, and Laura Dempsey attended as a guest. Pilar Garcia Souto also received a visit from her MP Jim Fitzpatrick, with whom she discussed part of her research. Markus Jehl attended the Maths session, Charlotte Hagen attended the Engineering session, and former student (and current NHS clinical scientist trainee) Callum Giles attended another session.
Pilar with MP Jim Fitzpatrick
The titles of posters presented are as follows:
• Dr Sabrina Brigadoi: Real-time Imaging of Brain Oxygenation in the New-born Infant
• Dr Thomas Dowrick: Stroke Diagnosis and Imaging Using Electrical Impedance Tomography
• Dr Pilar Garcia Souto: Non-invasive Core temperature Measurement Method for Mass Screening Based on Infrared Images of the Body
• Callum Giles: Quality Assurance of Proton beam Radiotherapy for NHS Cancer patients: evaluation of techniques and equipment for accurate relative dosimetry
• Dr Charlotte Hagen: X-ray phase contrast computed tomography: Exploiting improved soft tissue contrast in 3D for biomedical applications
• Markus Jehl: Modelling Challenges in Electrical Impedance Tomography
Laura Dempsey, Sabrina Brigadoi, Thomas Dowrick and Pilar Garcia Souto at the 2015 Set for Britain Exhibition
February 2015 - UCL Medical Physics & Biomedical Engineering PHD Student Gemma Bale appears in Science Showoff Event
UCL PhD Student Gemma Bale performed a comedy set which she summarised: "Can you use light to measure brain activity? No? Well I can. I’ll be showing off science from my PhD at UCL, focusing (light) on blood, brains and babies."
January 2015 - UCL Lunch Hour Lecture, "How can we deal with gender bias in the world of science?"
On January 29th 2015, Prof Snezana Djordjevic, from the Institute of Structural and Molecular Biology, gave a UCL Lunch Hour Lecture titled "How can we deal with gender bias in the world of science?"
Drawing from various sources including personal experiences, the Athena SWAN Charter, and published studies, Prof Djordjevic addressed prejudice and gender bias in scientific environment and the ways in which these could and should be tackled.
December 2014 - Gemma Bale wins PhD Student Prize
Gemma Bale has won the 2014 Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering PhD Student Prize for her paper on "A new broadband near-infrared spectroscopy system for in-vivo measurements of cerebral cytochrome-c-oxidase changes in neonatal brain injury" published in Biomedical Optics Express.
Other winners at this year's Student Prize Ceremony were:
Samuel Searles-Bryant: John Clifton Prize for Best performance by a non-final-year undergraduate.
Phong Thanh Phan: Sidney Russ Prize for Best performance by a final-year undergraduate.
Kehao Wang: Joseph Rotblat Prize for Best performance by an MSc student.
James Breen-Norris: IPEM Prize for Best MSc project.
December 2014 - Karin Shmueli wins a Top Teacher Award
We are delighted to announce that Dr Karin Shmueli has won a 'Top Teacher Award'.
Throughout the course of the year, UCL Medical School students are given the opportunity to nominate teachers who were particularly helpful or inspiring to them during their studies. In 2013-14 students cast over 1000 votes, from which there are 65 award winners.
Congratulations to Karin!
October 2014 - Clare Elwell wins an Inspirational Teaching Award
We are delighted to announce that Professor Clare Elwell is the winner of the Inspirational Teaching Award, part of the Inspiration Awards for Women 2014.
Congratulations to Clare!
These Inspiration Awards for Women are run by the Breakthrough Breast Cancer charity and celebrate the achievements of remarkable women who inspire those around them either through the media or through their astounding achievements in their everyday lives.
If you would like to know more about the Inspiration Awards for Women, please do visit their website where you can read about all the other winners. The awards ceremony was held at Cadogan Hall, Chelsea on the 2nd October.
September 2014 - Teaching Awards and nominations for Karin Shmueli and Clare Elwell
We are delighted to announce that Karin Shmueli has been voted for a 'Top Teacher Award' by UCL Medical School students. The formal announcement will appear here.
Furthermore Clare Elwell has been nominated for an Inspiration Teaching Award as part of the Inspiration Awards for Women 2014.
The Inspiration Awards for Women are run by the Breakthrough Breast Cancer charity and celebrate the achievements of remarkable women who inspire those around them either through the media or through their astounding achievements in their everyday lives. The annual awards ceremony will take place at Cadogan Hall, Chelsea.
There are a number of award categories recognising inspirational and aspirational women from both public and academic life and it is fantastic for the disciplines of physics and engineering to be represented through Clare.
August 2014 - Medical Physics & Biomedical Engineering achieve 100% overall satisfaction in National Student Survey
The recent National Student Survey recently showed that 86% of undergraduates are now satisfied with their overall experience at UCL, which places the university 68th in the UK – 32 places higher than in 2013.
Excitingly, our department was one of only 4 departments at UCL who have achieved 100% overall satisfaction in 2014. The other departments at UCL who achieved this were The Bartlett School of Contstruction and Project Management, UCL Speech Sciences and UCL Science & Technology Studies.
Congratulations are due to all our teaching and support staff for this fantastic achievement.
March 2014 - UCL Medical Physicists and a science fan support women's collective in Gambia
A UCL field study on infant brain development, and a chance encounter at a science communication event in a London pub, have changed the lives of women in a rural community in Keneba, The Gambia.
Researchers from UCL Medical Physics & Bioengineering and Babylab, Birkbeck College were visiting the Medical Research Council field station in the village of Keneba in rural Gambia to investigate brain development in malnourished infants. Field workers from the centre – which provides free healthcare for the region, as well as a base for collecting research data – explained the project to local mothers and asked if they would be willing to have their infants participate in the study.
The all-female team from UCL, led by Professor Clare Elwell (UCL Medical Physics & Bioengineering) were overwhelmed by the response, and the efforts made by Gambian families to help their study. Many mothers and infants travelled for over an hour on unmade roads so they could assist the researchers, having seen the good done by the clinic.
While they visited the village, members of a local women's collective, known as the Kaafo, invited the researchers to come and see the work they had been doing to transform a barren patch of land into a garden. The main aim of the Kaafo is to engage in small scale communal subsistence farming and income generating activities of which gardening is the main activity. The researchers were impressed with the dedication and hard work of the women in creating the garden, and the incredibly supportive response from the community in helping with the study, and asked if there was anything they could do to help the Kaafo. The local women explained that they had secured a larger plot of land and that they had started a subscription scheme to save money to enable them to start farming the larger plot of land. Funds were required to purchase items ranging from nails and fencing materials to a solar powered pump to supply water from a borehole. The team returned to London with plans to raise funds to help the Kaafo.
The original Keneba garden
Some weeks later, researchers from the team were participating in a pub-based evening of science communication as part of the Pint of Science series. At the end of the talk they told the London pub audience of the Kaafo's needs and asked for donations. Seeing just a few coins in the bucket city financier Peter Brewer, a member of the audience, approached the fundraisers and offered to contribute a cheque for the whole amount.
Peter realised how much fundraising it would take to collect the amount in small bits, and was confident that through the community connections of the researchers the money would go directly to the people who needed it. Peter explained:
“I love events like Pint of Science where I can talk to real scientists and catch up with the science I love, and this seemed like a great opportunity to give to a community that were enabling that science to happen."
Professor Elwell was welcomed back to Keneba on International Women’s Day, 8th March 2014 with her family to see the opened farm which has enabled the Kaafo to farm all year round and have the freedom to grow what they need.
Nanyana Ceesay, the President of the Kaafo explained:
"This new farm is all fenced and it is fantastic. That is the number one difference we notice, we don't worry about animals destroying our crops anymore. The second difference is the space, the garden is huge compared to the one we had before – it’s at least twenty times bigger. The Kaafo are now growing what they want to grow. Here we can farm all year round. We have more freedom in what we can grow and how much we can harvest. We are very happy about these benefits. We've only started it just now but it's made a huge difference and we expect even bigger benefits in the future. This has strengthened the bond between us as women. We are there for each other, standing for each other, and working together."
(The new solar powered pump supplying water from a borehole)
Professor Elwell says:
"We were inspired by these women, who were working on an all-woman project like us. We appreciated their help and were inspired by their farming initiative. Peter Brewer’s donation has really changed their lives and that of their community."
To listen to Professor Elwell’s full interview with the members of the Kaafo please click on the following link:
The project currently being researched by Professor Elwell and her group uses an optical imaging technique investigate brain developing in infants. Previous studies using this technique have looked at infants at risk of autism in the UK – see a video here. In this stream of research, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, they are looking for key indicators of malnutrition so that aid can be given at the point where it will do the most good. You can keep up with the work of the group via their website and via their Twitter feed, @globalfnirs
March 2014 - PhD Poster Display
The Medical Physics PhD poster display was held on the 3rd March with presentations from 1st and 2nd year PhD students. The standard was very high.
A small committee judged the posters and the first prize was awarded to the following:
1st year – Chiaki Crews
2nd year – Nir Goren
February 2014 - Karin Shmueli demonstrates her research to Frank Dobson MP
Following on from her 'Week in Westminster' as part of her Royal Society scientist-MP pairing scheme, in which she shadowed Frank Dobson MP for two days, Frank visited the department for a few hours. As Dr Karin Shmueli writes:
"Instead of two days, I had just a couple of hours to give Frank a flavour of my role as a researcher and academic when he came to visit me here in the department. As well as distilling an explanation of my research into a 10-minute presentation, I showed Frank around the MRI-PET facility in the UCLH Macmillan Cancer Centre. This is the first facility of its kind in the UK and is fully integrated to allow a positron emission tomography (PET) scan to be acquired at the same time as MRI images. This means it has the best of both worlds: the high-resolution soft tissue information from MRI can be combined with simultaneous measures of metabolism or perfusion available from PET. Together with UCLH Medical Physicist Dr Anna Barnes, we explained the system to Frank as well as the combination of MRI and PET safety precautions. Clinicians and radiographers from the MRI-PET team talked Frank through a plethora of clinical images from the system including dynamic MRI ‘videos’ of a beating heart showing regions of infarcted tissue that were much less contractile in the cine-MRI and also had lower perfusion in the PET images.
To give him a window into the breadth of research going on here, Professor Jem Hebden, Head of Department, kindly showed Frank around the Department where he also met with two PhD students who showed him their imaging research. Frank demonstrated his interest in our work by asking some insightful questions.
As I wanted Frank to appreciate the wider context to my research projects and work in the department, we also met with the Dean of the UCL faculty of Engineering, Professor Anthony Finkelstein and UCL’s new Provost, Professor Michael Arthur. The discussions ranged from past UCL provosts, UCL’s strength in biomedical science, its global impact, brand-recognition and desire to “Change the World” to UCL’s role in the local London community, politics and economy, particularly in the light of several huge infrastructure projects planned near UCL in Mr Dobson’s constituency."
February 2014 - PhD Showcase
The annual Medical Physics & Bioengineering PhD Showcase was held on the 21st February 2014 where all third year PhD students gave a short and accessible 'snapshot' of their key research goals using just 5 PowerPoint slides to give a greater awareness of the breadth of research activity within the department.
The event was concluded with a prize giving and the winners were as follows:
Alex Menys - Communication of Ideas
Thomas Millard - Presentation Style
Emma Malone - Enthusiasm and Engagement
Our thanks are expressed to the Departmental Social Committee who coordinated the event alongside Dr Anne Vanhoestenberghe.
December 2013 - Building Bridges between Scientists & Policy Makers
This winter, Karin Shmueli particiapted in the Royal Society scientist-MP pairing scheme and was matched with Frank Dobson, MP for Holborn & St Pancras.
The scheme aims to build lasting connections between scientists and parliamentarians and help them gain worthwhile insights into the policy-making process as well as the science behind it.
As well as UCL being in his constituency, Frank also has experience in health policy having been Secretary of State for Health from May 1997 until October 1999. My research aims to develop new Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) techniques and maximise their potential to offer earlier diagnosis and improved understanding of disease. My current focus is on creating MR images sensitive to the magnetic susceptibility of tissues. Tissue magnetic susceptibility depends on its microstructure and composition, e.g. iron and myelin content, which are altered in diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Multiple Sclerosis, making MRI susceptibility images a promising tool to investigate the effects of diseases like these.
During a fascinating “Week in Westminster” we had a packed schedule of lectures on the role of science in Parliament and Government. I was thrilled that, during my brief visit to the House of Lords, I heard MRI mentioned in a speech on a motion noting the contribution of high quality education to economic growth. Baroness Morgan spoke about universities driving innovation through fundamental and translational research that helps to create new products and services:
“For instance, Sir Peter Mansfield began fundamental research on MRI, which was then licensed to transform imaging and diagnosis worldwide.”
This was personally relevant since Sir Peter was my PhD supervisor’s PhD supervisor! I had the privilege of shadowing Mr Dobson for two days, gaining a real insight into his role and perspectives as an MP as well as hearing plenty of entertaining anecdotes from his many years in Westminster and serving his constituency.
As well as seeing first-hand that UCL, the Royal Society and the Houses of Parliament each have their very own grand Royal Mace, I learned a lot about the different ways scientists like myself can get involved in informing and supporting policy-making and policy-makers in Westminster.
November 2013 - Departmental Prize Award Ceremony
The annual student Prize Award Ceremony was held on November 27, 2013 in Room MPEB 2.14. The prize winners were as follows:
- Geraldine Chee: John Clifton Prize for most outstanding performance by a non-final year undergraduate.
- Anna Zamir: Sidney Russ Prize for most oustanding performance by a final year undergraduate.
- Anne-Marie Stapleton: Joseph Rotblat Prize for most outstanding performance by an MSc student.
- Eftychia Nafti: IPEM Prize for best MSc project.
- Isabel Christie: Medical Physics & Bioengineering PhD Prize.
October 2013 - Departmental PhD Prize 2013
There were five nominations for the 2013 Departmental PhD Prize and we are pleased to announce that the winner was Isabel Christie.
September 2013 - Female Prizes
Geraldine Chee has been awarded the 2013 John Clifton Prize for the most outstanding performance by a non final-year undergraduate student.
Anna Zamir has been awarded the Sidney Russ Prize for the most outstanding performance by a final year undergraduate.
August 2013 - Dr. Anne Vanhoestenberghe leaves to take up an Aspire lectureship at UCL
We are proud to announce that our colleague Dr. Anne Vanhoestenberghe, who has been working in the Implanted Devices group at UCL Medical Physics & Bioengineering for ten years, will be taking up an Aspire Lectureship at the UCL Institute of Orthopaedics and Musculo-skeletal Science. Anne commented that:
“Research in rehabilitation and assistive technology needs to be truly multi-disciplinary to deliver patient benefits, so it’s great to be part of a new team that will combine our strengths and insights. This new role will allow me to develop clinical applications for my work through new collaborations with the medical specialists at the IOMS.”
Anne has been a truly invaluable asset to the department and was recently part of the team who worked on our recent Athena SWAN submission. We wish her all the best in her new position, and look forward to future collaborations.
July 2013 - Marta Caballero travels to Ghana
One of our 2013 medical physics graduates, Marta Caballero, has traveled to Ghana along with another UCL graduate Ewa Karczewska, as part of a Medical Physics Educational and Outreach Project. The project was inspired by UCL’s "paRTner" initiative, a collaboration between UCL and two cancer centres in Ghana to train radiotherapists in West Africa. The project is funded by the Institute of Physics and you can read about Marta and Ewa's exploits on the Institute of Physics website.
July 2013 - Jo Brunker and Paul Doolan - commended for event in parliament
PhD students Paul Doolan and Jo Brunker recently contributed to an Insitute of Physics event in parliament. The Chief Executive of the Institute of Physics was keen to note that “Jo and Paul were a delight to work with, and they added a welcome element of interactivity to the event”.
June 2013 - Graduating students continuing their interests abroad
Graduating student Mary Neal received a travel grant to visit schools in Ghana and promote cancer awareness in June 2013.
May 2013 - Medical Physics & Bioengineering Open Day
On May 31, 2013, the UCL Department of Medical Physics & Bioengineering held its inaugural Open Day, with exhibitions by our world-leading research groups in medical imaging, radiotherapy and bioengineering. The event was a great success with both internal and external visitors as well as a number of school groups attending.
May 2013 - Unconscious Bias Training
On May 1st, our department hosted an Unconscious Bias Training Session, led by Dr. Marie Stewart. This session was extremely well attended by our staff and Dr. Stewart explained the concept of unconscious bias is and how it permeates through our daily lives. The workshop focused on developing the skills to recognise when unconscious bias arises and how we should adjust our behaviour accordingly.
April 2013 - Award of Athena SWAN Bronze Award
Following our first Athena SWAN submission in November 2012 we were rewarded with a bronze award in April 2013. We are now currently implementing the Action Plan submitted as part of our award and in due course we plan to submit an application for a silver award.
March 2013 - Jo Brunker - SET for Britain Award
Jo Brunker, a PhD student in the UCL Department of Medical Physics and Bioengineering, struck Gold at a competition in the House of Commons, for the excellence of her research, walking away with a £3,000 prize on the March 27, 2013.
Jo presented her research on a new technique to study blood flow in tumours to dozens of politicians and a panel of expert judges, as part of the poster competition SET for Britain, on Monday 18 March. Her research, developing a new imaging technique called "photoacoustic Doppler flowmetry" which can provide new insights into the behavior of tumours, was judged against 59 other shortlisted researchers’ work and came out on top. Jo said "I am delighted that my research was so well received. Winning this medal makes me all the more determined to continue with my research so that I can make a difference to our understanding and treatment of tumours."
March 2013 Clare Elwell – Suffrage Science Award
On Friday March 8, Professor Clare Elwell, along with 11 other leading researchers, was honoured for her research work at a Suffrage Science Event.
Suffrage Science is an annual Medical Research Council event which celebrates the achievements of leading female researchers in physical sciences and engineering with medical applications, while recalling the historic women’s suffrage movement.
Descendants of suffragist leader Emmeline Pankhurst awarded the women bespoke heirloom jewellery, reminiscent of the specially crafted jewellery received by noted women of the suffrage movement.
In 2015 these women and their fellow nominees will pass on their heirloom jewellery to the next group of excellent female scientists and communicators, in a bid to encourage them to make their way to the top.
UCL’s official publicity statement of the Suffrage Science event can be found here.
February 2013 - Focus On The Positive Awards
We have had two winners of UCL’s Focus on the Positive event, run by the UCL Public Engagement Unit. UCL researchers pitch an idea to an audience of 120 people, who then vote to decide which idea they want to support.
Gibrill Kallon (a third year undergraduate) proposed a project to develop a simple system using ultraviolet light to detect carcinogenic toxins in crops for use by farming communities in Sierra Leone.
Kate Ricketts (a post-doctoral researcher) won funding for a network for UK radiotherapy professionals to support and train colleagues in Ghana and elsewhere in Western Africa.
Grants Awarded to Female Researchers
Karin Shmueli has won a £124K EPSRC First Grant on "Optimising magnetic susceptibility mapping to enhance MRI of microbubbles".
Clare Elwell has won an £1.23 million pound grant from the EPSRC on "Multimodal neuroimaging: novel engineering solutions for clinical applications and assistive technologies".