College of Agriculture, Engineering
and Science (CAES)

Dr Lamla Thungatha was awarded a PhD in Chemistry.

Antibacterial Resistance Under the Spotlight

Dr Lamla Thungatha was awarded a PhD in Chemistry for his study on Synthesis, Characterisation and Antibacterial Activity of Quinoline Chalcone Derivatives.

After matriculating at Welsh Senior Secondary School in the Eastern Cape, Thungatha received his BSc, BSc honours and MSc degrees from Walter Sisulu University in Mthatha.

During his postgraduate studies, he developed an interest in physical and organic chemistry. His honours research focused on the synthesis of bromonitrostyrenes, which enabled him to work confidently in a wet chemistry laboratory and use specialised analytical instrumentation.

For his master’s research, Thungatha was exposed to industrial based research, mostly physical chemistry that involved determining the impact of small explosives buried in soil with varying moisture content.

Whilst lecturing at Walter Sisulu University, Thungatha was recruited by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to embark on a PhD programme.  It was due to this initiative that he registered for doctoral studies at UKZN.

Thungatha’s PhD research was based on organic chemistry and involved the design, synthesis and bioassaying of new drug candidates to address the problem of antibacterial resistance, a growing health concern worldwide. He was able to manufacture several novel molecules or drugs, which were then tested and found to be active as antibacterial molecules and considered to be hit compounds for pharmaceutical development.

His supervisor, Professor Neil Koorbanally from the School of Chemistry and Physics said: ‘Lamla grew tremendously during the time he spent in my laboratory. His research skills are exceptional, leading him to produce world-class research.  He was also able to teach himself several new techniques in computation chemistry.  He is now a confident scientist.’

‘As a chemist, I am excited to be part of this research which involves developing drugs that impact the health of humanity. It also enabled me to grow and gain more insight into the area of drug development,’ said Thungatha.

Thungatha relaxes by visiting parks, watching the news and Sci-Fi based TV series.  He is also fascinated by technology and in his spare time, he is involved in app and web development.

Currently Thungatha is employed by the CSIR-LS as a researcher for energetic materials, which involves both physical and organic chemistry. ‘My current short term plans are to grow as a researcher and as a hands-on chemist,’ he said.

Words: Leena Rajpal

Photograph: Abhi Indrarajan