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Prof Jem Hebden
Department of Medical Physics & Bioengineering
Malet Place Engineering Building
University College London
Tel: 02076790280
Fax: 02076790255
Prof Jem Hebden profile picture
  • Professor of Biomedical Optics
  • Dept of Med Phys & Biomedical Eng
  • Faculty of Engineering Science
Research Summary

I am former head of the UCL Department of Medical Physics & Biomedical Engineering (2008-2019), and director of the UCL Biomedical Optics Research Laboratory (BORL), which represents a federation of four research groups, each involved in internationally-leading research. These groups are: Near-infrared Spectroscopy (led by Dr. Clare Elwell), Photoacoustics and Optical Ultrasound Sensing (Dr. Paul Beard), Theory and Modelling (Prof. Simon Arridge), and my own Experimental Imaging group. The original biomedical optics group was founded by Prof. David Delpy in the 1980’s, and a few years ago I was responsible for creating BORL and the current federal structure. The new organisation has provided greater opportunities for individuals to raise their research profiles (as leaders of their own groups), while still retaining the benefits of membership of the largest team of biomedical optics researchers in Europe.

BORL continues to pioneer the development of new optical instruments and techniques for monitoring tissue oxygenation and metabolism. To date, BORL has attracted more than £6M of external funding (not including several major multi-centre grants) from EPSRC, Wellcome Trust, Action Research, and other funding sources including industry. We have been awarded 24 patents and have published well over 300 papers.

I joined the UCL Department of Medical Physics & Bioengineering in 1992 when I vacated a tenure-track position at the University of Utah to take up a 5-year Wellcome Trust Senior Fellowship (later renewed for a further 5 years). I immediately established my own group devoted to the development of clinical prototypes for optical imaging of human subjects, with particular emphasis on the study of the premature infant brain at risk of damage resulting from hypoxia-ischaemia. I have pioneered the technique of time-resolved diffuse optical imaging, and (with Wellcome Trust and industrial support) developed a prototype which is widely regarded as the most sophisticated clinical instrument in optical tomography, utilising unique, ground-breaking technology. My group has published the first (and so far the only) three-dimensional (3D) optical images of the entire infant brain, including 3D functional images. We have also developed a novel optical topography system for real-time display of functional activity in the cortex of adults and children. Under contracts negotiated by UCL Business, we have successfully supplied similar systems to collaborating groups at the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, Birkbeck College, and at L’Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (Paris). We are currently exploring possibilities for commercialisation of this system.

The internationally-leading position of my research group has been acknowledged through invitations to chair the leading conferences in the field (e.g. appointed as General Chair of the largest and most prestigious conference in the field of Biomedical Optics, held in Miami Beach in April 2002, involving over 350 participants), requests for keynote conference presentations, and invitations for major review articles. 

Teaching Summary

I currently teach about 50 hours of undergraduate lectures per year, and abour 16 hours of MSc lectures. In 2002 I identified the need for and designed a new mathematics course (MPHY0017) specifically for our cohort of intercalated students. This enables them to significantly enhance their mathematical skills, and thus to take year 3 and  year 4 physics courses without disadvantage compared to physics students. I also teach introductory medical imaging to first-year students (MPHY0001). I am also responsible for designing a novel set of first-year lectures (PHAS0011) which adopt a differential approach towards medical imaging, which places the students in the position of a team of radiologists requiring a diagnosis from patients exhibiting unusual symptoms and/or evidence of trauma.  

2008 – 2019 Head of Department Medical Physics & Bioengineering UCL, United Kingdom
2002 Professor of Biomedical Optics Medical Physics & Bioengineering UCL, United Kingdom
1992 – 2002 Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow Medical Physics & Bioengineering UCL, United Kingdom
1990 – 1992 Assistant Professor (tenure-track) Medical Imaging Research Laboratory University of Utah, United States
1987 – 1989 Research Fellow Medical Imaging Research Laboratory University of Utah, United States
1984 – 1986 Postdoctoral Research Associate Steward Observatory University of Arizona, United States
Academic Background
1984   Doctor of Philosophy Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine
1981   Bachelor of Science Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine
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