Athena SWAN Case Studies

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.