Department of
Electrical and Electronic Engineering

Image of John Crowe

John Crowe

Professor of Biomedical Engineering,



After leaving Alcester Grammar School in rural Warwickshire I studied Physics at the University of Southampton, graduating in 1980. Having always been interested in the physical life/science interface I then spent 5 years in the Bioengineering Unit within Oxford University's Department of Paediatrics, based in the John Radcliffe Hospital. My research during that period included the optical monitoring of physiological variables that was the subject of my DPhil.

In 1985 I moved to the School of Physics and Astronomy at (the former) Lancashire Polytechnic. In 1987 I came to Nottingham to join the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering.

  • Medici Fellowship in Entrepreneurship in 2004
  • Appointed Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, University of Nottingham in 2009 - Part of the Bioengineering Research Group.
  • Awarded MA in Higher Education, University of Nottingham in 2012

More information about me and my research can be found at my home webpage.

Expertise Summary

My research lies firmly at the physical / life science interface. This includes the development of new instrumentation for physiological monitoring as well as investigating cellular activity and form .

Previously our group has demonstrated that monitoring fetal heart rate during the antenatal period is feasible and an antenatal fetal heart rate monitor is now available from the university spin out company With this instrument we were winners of the Bioscience category of the Research Council's 2004 Business Plan Competition. We have also used this technology to gain a unique understanding of how Doppler ultrasound based fetal monitors work; and using data collected with this technique, and the application of fractal based signal processing tools, we believe we have 'observed' a change in the 'wiring' of the fetal brain at around 24 weeks gestation. (This ties in with other known measures of fetal maturation.)

My work in biomedical optics involves investigating how to perform quantitative spectroscopy on scattering media. The main application of this is the development of novel oximeters. I am also involved in the design of new forms of laser Doppler blow flow meters. This includes blood flow imagers using custom designed integrated circuits containing both photodetectors and the necessary signal processing.

Other projects are the production of an optical heart rate sensor for use on newborn infants requiring resuscitation; and investigating the possibility of monitoring the 'activity signature' (that includes using mobile phones as a sensor, logger and communication device) of people with bipolar disorder with a view to assisting the self assessment of their condition. This work has led to my current involvement in the National Institute of Health Research's (NIHR) Health Technology Cooperative (HTC) in mental health, MindTech.

I was also participated in in two large EPSRC projects: MATCH which concerned the development of 'tools' (often software based) for use in Health Technology Assessment; and remedi : Regenerative Medicine, A New Industry, where my input was in the sensing and characterisation of regenerative medicine products. Work in this area continues via the development of a total internal reflection microscope (TIRM) that is capable of monitoring cell attachment.

Teaching Summary

Business Planning for Engineers - This module draws on my personal experiences of my: time as a Medici Fellow studying entrepreneurship; involvement in the creation of two spin out companies; and… read more

Research Summary

Paediatric Continuous Early Warning System (PaedCEW) - MRC DPFS Control of plant growth via tailored LED lighting - TSB Monitoring of workers in hazardous environments - TSB Heart rate… read more

Selected Publications

Business Planning for Engineers - This module draws on my personal experiences of my: time as a Medici Fellow studying entrepreneurship; involvement in the creation of two spin out companies; and involvement in the EPSRC funded MATCH and remedi Innovative Manufacturing Research Centres. The module introduces numerous concepts and tools that graduates are likely to encounter in the commercial sector and is largely based around the students construction of a business plan for an idea of their own.

Digital Electronics - This module covered the fundamental of digital electronics (eg Boolean algebra and fundamental gates) to combinational circuits and an introduction to asynchronous and synchronous sequential circuits. The content of this module is included in a book 'An Introduction to Digital Electronics' that has sold around 5,000 copies (and is also included as as a component of "Circuit Design : Know it all" (Newnes) 2008 ISBN 978-1-85617-527-2.)

Electronic Circuits - A first year module introducing the basic concepts of amplifiers; negative feedback and operational amplifiers; op amp based circuits; and simple analogue filters.

Information & Systems - Introductory material to an 'Information & Systems' module.

  • Lecture Slides - Set 1
  • Notes - Set 1
  • Solutions to Problems - Set 1
  • Matlab Code - Set 1
  • Lecture Slides - Set 2
  • Notes - Set 2

Introduction to Communications - A first year module introducing: analogue and digital signals; sampling theory; the information content of messages; compression; error correction; the links between the time and frequency domains; Fourier analysis; filtering; convolution; analogue (AM & FM) and digital modulation. This module made extensive use of Matlab as an instructional aid.

Medical Signal Processing - ​​​​​​​ An MSc level module about (primarily digital) signal processing using examples drawn from biomedical engineering

Numerical Methods - An introductory module on the solution of engineering problems using numerical methods (ie algorithms on a computer). Topics included: numerical integration; numerical solution of differential equations (eg using Runge-Kutta); Monte Carlo techniques; Root location (Newton-Raphson).

Physical Electronics - Taught to HND students at University of Central Lancashire. The content ran from: the hydrogen atom & energy levels; periodic table; semiconductors; through to the operation of diodes and transistors.

Programming & Software Engineering - Numerous modules instructing engineering undergraduates how to write well structured programs using: Pascal, C, C++, Fortran, Java and Matlab

Engineering Maths - Whist acting as the interface between the Department of Electrical & Electronic Engineering and School of Maths who teach a number of modules to EEE students I prepared material on the following topics to aid this student learning.

  • Glossary of Terms
  • Algebra, Linearity & Orthogonality
  • Complex Numbers
  • Matrices
  • Calculus
  • Ordinary Differential Equation & Electrical Circuits
  • Laplace Transforms & Electrical Circuits

Current Research

  • Paediatric Continuous Early Warning System (PaedCEW) - MRC DPFS
  • Control of plant growth via tailored LED lighting - TSB
  • Monitoring of workers in hazardous environments - TSB
  • Heart rate monitoring of newborns - EPSRC via IAA
  • MindTech - technologies for monitoring the mentally ill - NIHR HTC
  • TIRM for monitoring cell adhesion and behaviour - EPSRC

Past Research

My main area of research is Biomedical Engineering - this involves designing, making and testing devices to monitor physiological function; as well as exploring new ways of performing such measurements.

Most of these devices have been for use in fetal & neonatal medicine and include:

The acquisition of the transabdominal fetal ECG whilst of value in its own right (see Monica Healthcare) also enabled: a greater understanding of the operation of Doppler ultrasound heart rate monitors; analysis of antenatal heart rate variability; and comparison of the fECG with the fetal magnetocardiogram (fMCG):

Often the means of monitoring is optical:

and analysis of the problems of quantitative spectroscopy is of particular interest:

There is often a need to adapt signal processing strategies to suit the acquired data:

and my research has also included environmental monitoring:

a very early example of what was in effect a smartphone app:

and investigation into the application of mobile technologies to mental health monitoring:

Via involvement in two large EPSRC projects I have also worked in Sensing Systems for Regenerative Medicine and Health Technology Assessment; output included:

Future Research

I welcome enquiries from potential PhD candidates from Home, EU and international countries who are interested in the following research areas: Biomedical Engineering; Biomedical Signal Processing; Biomedical Optics.

Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering

The University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 95 14081