Winner of the WISE Research Award
Clare Elwell, Professor of Medical Physics, University College London
Clare is the Director of the Near Infrared Spectroscopy Research Group using innovative physics and engineering to develop novel optical systems for monitoring and imaging the human body. Her groundbreaking work is transforming our understanding of the developing brain. Clare was the lead physicist on a project demonstrating, for the first time, the use of NIRS to detect brain activation in newborn infants. In collaboration with the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, Birkbeck, University of London, she went on to develop NIRS methods to investigate brain development during the first year of life. This resulted in the identification of differences in brain responses to social and non-social stimuli in infants as young as four months of age at high and low risk of autism – described as one of the best examples of potential biomarkers in the whole autism literature. She is currently leading a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded project to investigate the impact of malnutrition on brain development in infants in rural Gambia, resulting in the first functional brain imaging of infants in Africa. Her research will inform nutritional and other interventions targeted at protecting the ‘at risk’ brain and enabling children to reach their full developmental potential. Clare’s outreach with year 12 girls has ensured gender balance of undergraduates studying medical physics at UCL.
Clare’s People Like Me types: Entrepreneur, Communicator and Supporter
Judges comments: The winner is a communicator and can engage anyone. She is undertaking ground-breaking research that is genuinely making a difference to society. She understands that engagement should happen at every level and is active in key areas from influencing young girls and young scientists, right through to professionals and academics on the international stage.