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Prof Umber Cheema
Fax: +44 208 954 8560
Prof Umber Cheema profile picture
  • Professor of Bioengineering
  • Department of Ortho and MSK Science
  • Div of Surgery & Interventional Sci
  • Faculty of Medical Sciences

Prof.  Cheema completed her PhD in tissue engineering of skeletal muscle at UCL in 2004. She then went on to work as a post-doctoral fellow with Professor Robert Brown  from 2004, and Professor Teruo Okano from 2007 in Japan. 

In 2008 she was awarded a prestigious  BBSRC David Phillips fellowship. During this time her research was based on  understanding cell behaviour and signalling  in 3D collagen scaffolds., which resulted in  close collaboration with industrial partners, including Oxford Optronix, on real-time O2 monitoring in 3D tissue engineered scaffolds and Sartorius, on development of biomimetic 3D tumour models. She continues working closely with industrial partners, including Lonza. 

Prof. Cheema was lab lead for the Division of Surgery Stanmore campus during a £3 million refurbishment (Jan-July 2019). In conjunction with the changing research focus of this campus, she led the reorganisation of resource and infrastructure allocation for newly fitted lab facilities through chairing the Stanmore working group.

Prof. Cheema was awarded her chair in bioengineering in 2020. She leads the Centre for 3D models of Health and Disease, which nurtures a team of dedicated research leaders committed to championing science in this area. 

Research Summary

Professor Cheema's research interests centre around engineering biomimetic tissue models.  Her research remit includes both the matrix and cellular components of tissues, with a specific focus on controlling biophysical parameters of the matrix to direct cell behaviour. 

She was part of the team to pioneer the novel plastic compression technique for collagen type I scaffolds to generate dense, tissue like scaffolds. She has worked on projects in bioengineering of musculoskeletal tissues using these collagen scaffolds. This has directed her further work into developing primitive vascular networks in tissue models and complex, compartmentalised models to study tumour-stroma interaction. 

Recent research projects include the development of a reproducible 3D in vitro model of solid tumour growth. Here the spatial architecture of a tumour and its surrounding stroma has been reproduced in vitro, with evidence of tumour invasion into surrounding 'normal' tissue. Engineered tumouroids include epithelial cancers and sarcoma's. 

Her collaborative work includes engineering basic tissue models to study decompression sickness, using hypoxia-induced signalling to enhance the angiogenic potential of engineered grafts and developing models to study stem cell niche. 

Teaching Summary

Professor Cheema has been Divisional Graduate Tutor in the Division of Surgery and Interventional Science since 2014. She has pioneered a number of new initiatives following review of existing procedures. These include an introduction of a new travel award (Robert Brown Travel award) which awards up to graduate students with funding towards conference fees for national and international conferences. She was the Head of Education within Surgery from April 2016-December 2017, and oversaw development of 2 MSc programmes and 2 BSc programmes which are currently being successfully delivered.

From 2011 to 2017, Prof. Cheema was the lead for modules in Clinical aspects of Orthopaedics, based at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital. 

She is the Chair of the board of examiners for the MSc in Performing Arts Medicine from 2019. 

She has supervised numerous PhD students and has introduced a number of measures to enhance the Graduate experience. 

Academic Background
2005   Doctor of Philosophy University College London
1999   Bachelor of Science Queen Mary College, University of London
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