Dr Jane Bromley

Research Associate

My CV is here.

I grew up and went to school in High Wycombe, a leafy, furniture making town in the Chilterns.  This was followed by a BSc in Physics and PhD in Biophysics (1987) at Imperial College (IC). I then held a joint postdoc funded by the Wellcome Trust between IC and the Royal London Hospital during which I constructed a visual psychophysics lab in a small room off the Neurology Ward and also occasionally visited the museum to see the skeleton of the "Elephant Man".

My research at this time was on Visual Dysfunction and my most interesting subject was a person with Visual Agnosia  who you can see in this YouTube video.  As a result of this study I became interested in modelling visual dysfunction and with a travel grant from the Royal Society I went to  Bell Labs (1990) to learn about artificial Neural Networks.  Here I became involved in the work of the Adaptive Systems Research Department on recognizing characters - handwritten or machine printed, on paper or a tablet.  Initially this was applied to automating mail sorting for the US post office, but later the technology was (and is) used by banks around the world.  This was one of the first demonstrations that neural networks could be applied to "real-world" applications.  I also developed some expertise in signature verification using Time Delay Neural Networks.  When AT&T broke up (for the 2nd time) I then worked in Project Management (I always gravitated to organising things) on a variety of telecoms projects.

When my son started school I returned to the UK and taught in schools for a few years, but I restarted my research career by joining the Open University as a Visiting Research Fellow in 2005.   Initially I worked on Robotics Activities for children, editing the English Language version of Roberta learning material, running Robotics Clubs and entering competitions - one team even won the UK RoboCup Junior and competed in the world finals in Suzhou, China (2008).  More recently I have worked as a researcher on EU funded projects.  Firstly with the ASSYST, a Coordination Action for Complex Systems, and now on agINFRA

As a result of my involvement in a number of EU projects I'm now a dab hand at the financial tracking and reporting required to run a successful EU project.  I continue to organise things such as the group coffee club and the Complexity and Design group - here's a picture of  my door plate which appeared one morning...

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Information extraction and data mining (at the OU)

Copy of latest paper on this work is here; submitted to special track at 8th Metadata and Semantic Reserach Conference

Project: agINFRA: a data infrastructure to support agricultural scientific communities - promoting data sharing and development of trust in agricultural sciences. EU FP7, Capacities – Research Infrastructures. The total budget is €4 million, with the OU share being £222,745.

  • information extraction from the legacy biodiversity literature
  • how to find agriculturally relevant educational material automatically (Semantic Web, SPARQL queries

eg typing "select distinct ?t where {
?olu a <http://data.open.ac.uk/openlearn/ontology/OpenLearnUnit>.    
?olu <http://purl.org/dc/terms/subject> ?t
}" here will give you a list of topics covered by OpenLearn - the OU's free learning material - selecting any of these topics will then list the OpenLearn webpages


Complexity and Design (at the OU)
A highly interdisciplinary area involving fundamental research into the methods of complex systems science supported by research into the design of many domains of application.  Projects are:

  • UNESCO CS-DS UniTwin, Complex Systems Digital Campus
  • Étoile, EU FET Coordination Action "Enhanced Technologies for Open Intelligent Learning Environments".
  • ASSYST a €900,000 funded Coordination Action 2009-2012  "Action for the Science of complex SYstems for Socially intelligent icT" where we were the lead partner

Convolutional Neural Networks (at Bell Labs, NJ)
Initially for modelling the visual system, but I never got very far on this, instead becoming engrossed in projects that applied variants of the famous LeNet architecture  created by Yann LeCun to a broad variety of problems in image recognition and signal processing

  • handwritten and machine printed address readers (for the US post office)
  • faxed form reader (for AT&T business forms)
  • use of a special purpose chip (called ANNA) that implemented a handwriting recogniser in silicon (with Bernard Boser and Eduard Sackinger)
  • automatic teller machine that can read checks and bills deposited by bank customers
  • signature verification with a time delay neural network

The last 2 were collaborative projects with NCR.

My unique contribution, apart from training software that ran like the Disney version of the Sorcerer's Apprentice and couldn't be stopped, was introducing training on “rubbish” to improve rejection performance.

Human Vision (at Imperial College and the Royal London Hospital with Keith Ruddock and Chris Kennard)
The application of psychophysics (the investigation of the relations between physical stimuli and sensation) to the understanding of the normal mechanisms of visual processing, but also to the study of visual abnormalities in order to offer practical assistance to clinical patients.  This was experimental work using computer monitors, Maxwellian View Optical Systems , essentially an optical bench with mirrors, lenses, filters and light sources (picture) and the wonderful W. D. Wright Trichromatic Colorimeter built in the 1920s.

  • the role of blue-sensitive cones on spatial processing
  • parallel and sequential visual processing (particularly in dyslexia and amblyopia)
  • visual perseveration
  • visual agnosia
  • hemianopia (in particular blindsight)
  • various central visual defects

Maxwellian View Optical System

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My first experience of teaching was over 20 years ago in the physics labs (picture below) at Imperial College.  Following this I also tutored maths (KS2 and GCSE).

More recently I have started teaching with the Open University:

I also jointly supervise Cristian Jimenez-Romero, a full-time postgraduate student in the Centre for Complexity and Design whose thesis title is "Intelligent and socially intelligent assessment systems for massive open online education"

Finally, I have studied the following OU short courses:

  • T184 Robotics & the meaning of life: a practical guide to things that think (there seems to be some old content for this course here and part of it reused in T174 - Engineering the future.  Tony Hirst also talks about the course on the OU's free learning material site OpenLearn
  • TM190 The story of maths
  • T183 Design and the Web - a useful introduction to web page design issues - which I did partly so that I could make a web site (pic) using ideas from my son.  It looks a bit dated now, but I'm sure he was ahead of the crowd at the time

They were all excellent - the content was thought provoking - and I would recommend any of them, but the only one still available to study is "The story of maths".  

Joanne Haigh current head of physics in the IC labs

Jo Haigh, current head of physics

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Research Associate


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