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10 Questions

By ucqndko, on 11 March 2015

The Institute of Biomedical Engineering (IBME) interviews our researchers, academics, students, clinicians, affiliates and partners to find out a little more about who they are and what they do.

This month we interviewed Dr Umber Cheema who works as Lecturer in In-Vitro Tissue Engineering at the Institute of Orthopaedics and Musculoskeletal Science, UCL. We asked her ten questions around her research, career and personal life and here is what she told us…

Dr Umber Cheema1) What is your job title?

Lecturer – In vitro tissue engineering.

2) What brought you to the world of science/engineering/medical technologies/medicine?

I always wanted to be a scientist, and during my PhD I developed a tissue engineered model of skeletal muscle. Following on from that I decided I wanted to be in the translational medicine field.

3) What is your favourite thing about your work?

The interaction I have with engineers, mathematicians, clinicians and surgeons means my work and science are varied, and I enjoy all the different perspectives it gives the research.

4) What do you feel are the main challenges facing your research at the moment?

The emphasis on conducting research which has an impact to wider society is now more critical than ever, but remains a challenge especially with the regulations in translational medicine.

5) How will you deal with these challenges?

Stay informed, talk to funding bodies including research councils and charities, keep close links with patient groups.

6) What’s been your career highlight?

I have 2 highlights: I was awarded a BBSRC David’s Phillips Fellowship in 2008; and my first PhD student passing her viva this November gone!

7) What is your favourite quote?

“When it’s dark enough you can see the stars.”

8) What do you do in your spare time?

I spend time with my boys – mostly at zoos and farms, or any place with animals.

9) What’s your favourite book at the moment?

Right now I’m reading ‘Istanbul’ by Orhan Pamuk and it paints a beautiful picture of the city.

10) If you had a superpower, what would it be and why?

Definitely being able to fly. Would massively help with getting from place to place quickly, and provide the perfect escape when things get too hectic.


Dr Cheema is Lecturer in in-vitro tissue, and previous to this she was a BBSRC David Phillips Fellow (2008-2013). Dr Cheema’s research is based on understanding cell behaviour and signalling in 3D collagen scaffolds. This work has 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. Dr Cheema’s recent research projects include (i) The development of a reproducible 3D in vitro model of tumour growth. Here the spatial architecture of a tumour and its surrounding stroma have been reproduced in vitro, with evidence of tumour invasion into surrounding ‘normal’ tissue; (ii) The development of engineered capillary beds for tissue engineered constructs; (iii) Development of tissue models to study decompression sickness.

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