The College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (CAES) has a new Dean overseeing its research, with organic chemistry expert Professor Neil Koorbanally taking on this role at the beginning of April.
The College Dean of Research provides academic leadership and co-ordination of research and postgraduate training in the College, aligned to the University research agenda, and leads PhD training in the science of research, focusing on theory, method, and approach, while still conducting teaching and research within his School. Koorbanally will be responsible for mentoring academic staff on research career issues, providing leadership and oversight for CAES research committees, overseeing the research budget and its programmes, and evaluating research and grant opportunities and grant cost sharing opportunities.
The Dean supports the College’s research centres and institutes works with the Research Office on all aspects of research administration, and with colleagues develops and implements the College research strategy and plan of action. He represents the College on the University Research and Ethics Committee, University Senate, and on University-wide strategic research partnerships.
Koorbanally has served the University in several roles since he joined the then University of Natal as a lecturer in 2000, including as Assistant Dean of the Faculty of Science and Agriculture, Head of the Centre for Science Access, and Interim Director of Access in CAES. Until this appointment, he served as the Academic Leader for Research in the School of Chemistry and Physics.
Koorbanally obtained his undergraduate, honours, master’s and PhD degrees from the former University of Natal, and went on to do postdoctoral research at St John’s College in the University of Cambridge in 2005.
With a C2 rating from the National Research Foundation (NRF), Koorbanally has conducted research in the fields of synthetic organic chemistry, natural products chemistry and medicinal chemistry. He has more than 140 publications in high quality journals, one patent, and one book publication. His work has attracted several grants, including from the Thuthuka Fund, the NRF, and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
Koorbanally said that he looks forward to contributing his experience and expertise to enhancing the College’s high quality research outputs. He plans to foster more collaboration between the College’s internationally-recognised research centres, groups, Research Chairs and highly-rated scientists.
‘I hope to enable and create platforms for different researchers to work together on larger problems, as well as get younger staff involved in larger collaborative projects,’ he said.
Koorbanally also aims to strengthen the College’s interactions and collaborations with international and national external partners, hoping to drive larger funding proposals and enable researchers to attract large grants for multidisciplinary projects.
Koorbanally is active in the Phytochemical Society of Europe, the American Society of Pharmacognosy and the South African Chemical Institute. He is a reviewer for the NRF and for journals including Phytochemistry, Planta Medica, the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, and Phytochemistry Letters. He is a member of the editorial advisory board for Natural Product Communications and was part of the 2006 International Council of Science, Health and Human Well Being Scoping group.
He has supervised or co-supervised 25 PhD graduates, and 21 master’s graduates.
‘As a College, we are grateful to Professor Koorbanally for accepting this position and are confident of his ability to deliver excellent service in the next five years,’ said Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of CAES Professor Albert Modi.
Words: Christine Cuénod