Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering


Female Futures

The Department of Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering is committed to supporting and advancing the careers of women in STEM.

Spotlight on: Women in the Department

As we aim to encourage more girls and young women to choose STEM paths, it is important for us to highlight the work that our female academics are currently doing.
These are just a few of them:

Professor Clare Elwell

Professor Elwell has won awards for her world-leading research using novel optical imaging techniques to understand the human brain in health and disease, as well as her work to inspire girls and women to study and build careers using science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). Learn more about her research projects and activities, including the use of fMRI to investigate impact of malnutrition on brain development in infants:
read more.

Stacey Holloway

stacey Holloway
Dr Holloway started out as a Physics undergraduate student, who had never heard about the field of Medical Physics. She now works in the Department in the Proton and Advanced Radiotherapy (PART) Group, focusing on proton therapy planning and using AI to determine the changes in a patient’s anatomy that occur over the course of radiotherapy treatment. Learn more about Dr Holloway and why it is "an exciting time for proton therapy":
read more.

Dr Gemma Bale

Gemma Bale
Dr Bale is a Research Associate in the Biomedical Optics Research Laboratory, who has been at UCL since 2012. Her work focuses on developing new near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) techniques for the measurement of cerebral oxygenation and metabolism, via cytochrome-c-oxidase. Learn about her life in the Department and her recent British Science Association Media Fellowship:
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Work-life balance

We support our staff and students in many ways, and providing a supportive work environment for all new parents is important in promoting equality.
Two of our staff members share how they've navigated having a family while continuing to develop their careers.

With departmental support, the help of a timely Female Promotion workshop, and the encouragement of senior female academics across the faculty, Clare was promoted to Professor in 2008.
Professor Clare Elwell

Clare joined UCL as a Research Assistant in 1991. She gained an MRC Fellowship in the same year that she became pregnant with my first child. With the support of her Head of Department she negotiated a return to work part-time (0.6FTE). She was able to balance my part-time working hours with continuing to build her 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 her second child in 1999, she applied for a lectureship with full transparency of my intention to continue to work part-time. She was the only female candidate, and the only applicant wishing to work part-time. She 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. 

Clare was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2005 and after discussion with the Head of Department and head of her research group she increased my hours to 0.8FTE. She 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, Clare was promoted to Professor in 2008. Clare continues to work part-time (0.8FTE), adopting a flexible working pattern as required.

Read Clare's story here

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. 

Read Adam's story here

What is Athena SWAN?

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 and Biomedical Engineering currently holds an Athena Swan Bronze Award in recognition of our commitment to supporting and advancing the careers of women in STEM.

athena swan bronze award

A message from Professor Jem Hebden, Chair of the Athena SWAN committee

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, and there is still a long way to go. A report by the Institute of Physics in 2018 found that only 1.9% of girls study A level Physics compared to 6.5% of boys, despite the fact that girls perform just as well as boys in the subject at GCSE.

We are keen to change that. Click on the departmental video above, and you'll meet just a few of our inspiring academics and students (more are featured as case studies below). We strive for, and regularly achieve, a 50/50 gender balance on our courses and our staff and students are 100% committed to promoting Physics and Engineering to female school students and early-career women who might not otherwise have considered these subjects as a career option. In the past year alone, colleagues have visited schools, hosted tours for female undergrads at UCL considering postgraduate study, and taken part in a speed networking and careers advice session for sixth form girls as part of International Women in Engineering Day. 

The department currently holds an Athena SWAN Bronze Award, and our Athena SWAN Working Group meets every month to ensure that our departmental culture, processes and career support mechanisms take into account the particular needs of staff and students, both male and female, with childcare or other caring responsibilities.  I am incredibly proud of this diverse, welcoming department and of the staff and students working so hard to spread the word — to girls and boys alike — about this exciting field of research and the many career routes a degree in Medical Physics or Biomedical Engineering can lead to.

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