Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering


Joel Lecture Series | Engineering solutions to transform how, when and where we can image the brain

18 July 2023, 5:30 pm–6:30 pm

a picture of a child wearing a neuroimaging headset with the words 'Joel Lecture Series' printed

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







UCL Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering

You are warmly invited to join us for our annual Joel Lecture Series. This year, we will be celebrating the career and research of Professor Clare Elwell:


The last decade has seen unprecedented advances in the capability of neuroimaging technologies for studies of the human brain. Many of these advances have targeted increasingly specific investigations of brain activity and function under a range of applications. The advent of non invasive technologies has opened up whole new horizons for how, when and where we can image the brain.

During this lecture I will discuss the transformative impact of one such technology, near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS), a portable, wearable and affordable optical neuroimaging technique. Engineering innovations have enabled NIRS images of brain oxygen metabolism to be acquired in infants and adults. NIRS studies of the developing brain are paving the way for early markers of autism in toddlers and following its successful implementation in resource poor settings, NIRS is now an important brain imaging tool in global health studies.

With these advances comes a responsibility to understand the ethical and societal implications of increased accessibility to brain imaging and the data it generates. I will consider these issues and particularly the role played by medical physicists in guiding the appropriate use of neuroimaging technologies.

  • 17:30 - 17:45: Introduction by Professor Robert Speller
  • 17:45 - 18:30: Joel Lecture by Professor Clare Elwell
  • 18:30 - 18:35: Closing remarks by Professor Andy Nisbet
  • 18:35 - 20:00: Evening reception

The Joel Chair is the oldest established Chair in Medical Physics in the world. It is currently held by Prof Robert Speller of UCL Medical Physics & Biomedical Engineering.

Live Streaming

This will be an in-person event and open to the public, if you are unable to attend the UCL campus on Tuesday 18th July, please register for the online stream via Zoom.

Register to attend online

Meet the Expert

Professor Clare Elwell, Professor of Medical Physics

A profile picture of Clare Elwell
Clare Elwell is a Professor of Medical Physics at University College London and Vice Dean for Impact for UCL Engineering. She develops functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) techniques to image the human brain and her research projects include studies of infant brain development, autism, acute brain injury, migraine and malaria. She currently leads the Brain Imaging for Global Health (BRIGHT) project which delivered the first brain images of infants in Africa.

Clare is Past President of the Society for Functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy and current President of the London International Youth Science Forum. She has won numerous awards for her research, teaching and science communication. She was a 2018 British Science Association Media Fellow at the Financial Times and is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics and of the RSA. She was awarded a Brocher Foundation Fellowship in 2023 to investigate the responsible use of neuroimaging in disorders of consciousness. She is Founder and Trustee of the charity Young Scientists for Africa.

Clare's IRIS page

The Joel Lecture Series is free to attend and open to all. You don't have to be a UCL staff member or student to come along.

Lectures begin at 17:30 and are typically one hour long. A drinks reception will follow, to which everyone is welcome to join. We look forward to meeting you at one of our events!


Please note photographs and recordings taken at this event may be included in future publications, on our website and on social media. You will have the opportunity to opt out at the event. If you have any questions, please contact medphys.comms@ucl.ac.uk


Register your details to reserve a place at the lecture. Your personal information will only be used to administer your event attendance.