Message from the Head of Department

Welcome to UP’s Department of Pharmacology!

I am Natalie Schellack and the Head of Pharmacology. Before getting into all the wonderful aspects of our Department, I wish to begin by acknowledging how events over the past year have shaken our community as well as the significant challenges that we face in the months ahead. The onset of COVID-19 has changed the way in which we present and engage with our community and students all rounds.

Since the onset of COVID-19 and the various stages of lockdown, our faculty, lab coordinators, staff, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students have worked tirelessly to design and execute a strategy to open our Department to research activities while minimizing the chance of viral transmission. Even more so our graduate students have been working in intricately choreographed shifts that allow for physical distancing. The University of Pretoria stays is constantly updating the policies to ensure the safety of the University community, please refer to the University of Pretoria’s Coronavirus Updates, Student Information Page, and any communications distributed by the Department.

We are supremely tested by Covid-19, and in the short time that I am with the University, I am proud to have witnessed a willingness to act, to lead, and an exceptional esprit de corps.

I would like to reassure our undergraduate students that we empathize with how Covid-19 will impact your year at UP. We anticipate that the 2021 academic year will be a more distant student experience, but we endeavor to still engage with you in a constructive and fun way. To this end we are committed to delivering a program that will fulfill your degree requirements and inspire you to pursue research or career opportunities in Pharmacology.  We are planning for in-class instruction, especially with labs, wherever we can.

Despite these challenges, our Department is positioned for a bright future, which is described in our strategic plan Strategic Planning.pdf . Our Department is in the Basic Medical Sciences Building that has been recently renovated. The Department has 16 staff members (including academic, laboratory and support staff).  

Our research interests are broad and continue to evolve, covering:

  • Analytical methodological development
  • Blood-brain barrier permeability alterations due to cancer
  • Cancer chemotherapy
  • Cancer dormancy and proliferation
  • Diabetes
  • Drug discovery
  • Health professions education in pharmacology
  • In silico design and "docking" studies
  • Neurodegeneration
  • Phytopharmacology
  • Proteomics
  • Toxicology
  • Wound healing and antimicrobial therapy
  • Infectious Diseases

Our department has undergone dramatic renewal by hiring 2 new staff members, in the last year.

Our staff members are widely recognized and acknowledged including NRF rated researchers, and many of the staff members serve on national and international committees, including the South African Pharmacy Council, the National Department of Health, and societies such as The South African Society of Clinical Pharmacy and Pharmacology Committee.  

Our Department offers several exciting undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Pharmacology, this includes different opportunities for national and international collaborations.

Lastly and perhaps more importantly I would like to highlight Department, and that is our commitment to quality teaching and research.  Through the sense of community and involvement with the students, through encouraging regular research meetings and other informal opportunities to engage with staff and students.

As we continue with our activities in the time of COVID-19, that still require physical distancing and other protective measures. We will still endeavor to maintain a sense of community and a constructive space for teaching and learning.

Warm wishes

Natalie Schellack 

Published by Magdalena Swart

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