Mail & Guardian 200 Young South Africans – 2018 Edition
Science & Technology

Dr Pradeep Kumar (34)

Senior lecturer, Wits University

It was while at high school, participating in science fairs and mathematics olympiads that Dr Pradeep Kumar discovered his passions.

“One project I clearly remember involved the live food adulteration detection and presentation. I was really fascinated as to how chemicals and their mixtures can produce confirmatory results and how science could be applied to everyday life. This was the start to my growing interest in science and hence research. Twenty years later, I am still mixing chemicals and being fascinated every day,” says the 34-year-old.

An internationally trained pharmacist, Kumar is a senior pharmaceutics lecturer in Wits University’s department of pharmacy and pharmacology as well as a neuro-regenerative medicine researcher at the Wits Advanced Drug Delivery Platform. Kumar’s doctoral thesis — focused on engineering neural devices for spinal cord injury interventions — was awarded the Most Prestigious PhD Degree Award. He has also established a first-in-the-world computational analysis and programming algorithm for the design of drug delivery devices and polymeric architectures. For the advancement of his discipline, Kumar was awarded the prestigious Claude Leon Foundation merit award in 2018 and an African-German Network of Excellence in Science junior researcher grant, funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and the German education and research ministry in 2018. Earlier this year, Kumar also clinched the SPER Young Scientist Award at PST2018, Bangkok. He has also presented his research at reputed international conferences globally and is the recipient of the 2011 Elsevier’s NanoToday and 2012 International Society of Developmental Neuroscience awards.

As for what drives him, Kumar says: “In one word: nature. I am always fascinated by how even the simplest of natural phenomenon is the result of complex arrangements and processes. My research involves the generation of bio-mimetic structures. I strive to replicate the structure and function of neuronal — brain and spinal cord — tissue in the lab using bioinspired platforms and ‘natural’ instincts. In four words, working with the best. I am really privileged to work with the best in the field at the Wits Advanced Drug Delivery Platform.

“True success,” he adds, “can only be achieved through hard work and with support from those that matter in your life: family, friends and colleagues.” — Carl Collison

Twitter: @PKumar_Wits