Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering

Prof Clare Elwell

Prof Clare Elwell

Professor of Medical Physics

Dept of Med Phys & Biomedical Eng

Faculty of Engineering Science

Joined UCL
1st Nov 1999

Research summary

Teaching summary


University of London
Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy | 1995
University of Exeter
Other higher degree, Master of Philosophy | 1990
University of Exeter
First Degree, Bachelor of Science (Honours) | 1988


Clare Elwell is a Professor of Medical Physics in the Department of Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering at University College London (UCL). She obtained her BSc. in Physics with Medical Physics in 1988 from the University of Exeter, where she also completed her MPhil (1991). She gained a PhD from UCL in 1995 describing the application of near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) to measurements of brain oxygenation and blood flow in adults. She is now Director of the Near Infrared Spectroscopy Research Group in the Biomedical Optics Research Laboratory at UCL and holds honorary positions at University College London Hospital, the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, University of Essex and Birkbeck, University of London. She develops novel optical systems for monitoring and imaging the human body. Her research projects include studies of autism, acute brain injury in adults, children and infants, sports performance, migraine and malaria.

Her most recent project is the use of near infrared spectroscopy to investigate malnutrition related brain development in rural Gambia, resulting in the first functional brain imaging of infants in Africa. She started the Globalfnirs initiative (www.globalfnirs.org) to support the application of NIRS in global health projects. She currently leads the Brain Imaging for Global Health (BRIGHT) project which is developing brain function for age curves for Gambian and UK infants from birth to 24 months of age with the aim of informing targeted interventions to improve long term neurocognitive outcome.

Her research is supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Medical Research Council, Wellcome Trust, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and industrial collaborators Hamamatsu Photonics and Hitachi Medical Systems.

She is a founder member and President of the Society for Functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy, and President of the London International Youth Science Forum. She is Founder and Trustee of the charity Young Scientists for Africa (YoSA, www.yosa.org.uk).

Clare has won the UCL Provost’s Public Engagement Award, Medical Research Council Science Suffrage Award, Inspirational Teacher Award at the UK Inspirational Awards for Women and the Women in Science and Engineering Research Award. Most recently she was awarded the UCL Engineering Engagement Outstanding Contribution Award and a British Science Association Media Fellowship to work with the Financial Times in London.