In Summary
  • I am a pharmacist by virtue of my first degree. But I have never practiced.

  • I found my passion in research.

  • I am fascinated with the brain and the potential of stem cells

The potential of stem cells in the treatment of various diseases, especially those of the brain, is amazing. That’s what Dr Juliet Obanda Makanga — lecturer, neuropharmacologist and biotechnologist— loves about her work

 

Tell us about yourself?

I am a research scientist and lecturer in neuropharmacology and stem-cell biotechnology.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

I wanted to be a medical doctor. My parents are both physicians and it came naturally, I guess.

 

What does your job entail?

It’s a blend of teaching and research. It entails lecture planning and preparation, student teaching, assessment and mentoring, planning and supervising research projects, carrying out actual research and writing publications on the findings. Also attending conferences and community outreach programmes, such as medical camps.

 

What is your normal day like?

It starts at around 5am (I am a member of the 5am club). I treasure the quiet time before anyone else in my household gets up. I plan my day at this time. I prep my daughter for school and see her off.

From this point, every day is different. I get to campus between 7am and 9am, depending on the semester timetable. It’s classes, office hours for students, faculty meetings, desk work, hospital ward rotations and data collection. If I have laboratory experiments, the end of my work day depends on these. I am typically through by 6pm.

 

What do you love most about your work in neuropharmacology and stem-cell biotechnology?

The brain has always fascinated me. Getting to understand more about how drugs and other substances affect brain function just makes me happy. Also, the potential that stem cells hold in treatment of various diseases, especially those of the brain, is amazing.

 

You were one of the Top 40 under 40 awardees. How did it feel? Do you know why you were nominated?

Awesome! Honestly, I really do not see anything extraordinary that got me on the list. It is quite easy not to celebrate oneself. However, I do believe I did bring a “fresh” field to the list. There aren’t many of us.

 

For how long have you been practicing?

I am a pharmacist by virtue of my first degree. But I have never practiced. I found my passion in research.

 

Do you think the government is treating doctors well?

Lol! No comment.

 

Why did you choose this specialty?

My fascination with the brain and the potential of stem cells.

 

How do you handle workload stress and emergencies?

By simply doing what has got to be done. I prioritise whatever tasks need to be done and also delegate.

 

What are your weaknesses and strengths?

My strength has got to be my resilience. I just don’t quit. When I undertake a task, I do everything to see it to completion.

My weakness... I worry way more than I should.

 

Describe your successful accomplishments.

My PhD has got to be my most successful accomplishment yet. And I did it just as I turned 30.

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