Dr Hlumani Ndlovu

Lecturer : Integrative Biomedical Science at the University of Cape Town

Dr Hlumani Ndlovu is a lecturer in Integrative Biomedical Science at the University of Cape Town, doing research into diseases that impact South Africans and Africans as a way to solve some of society’s most pressing problems.

“My special area of focus is on understanding the factors that cause tissue inflammation and damage using tuberculosis and drug-induced liver injury as models of tissue pathology,” he explains. “Through this work, I hope to identify factors that trigger excessive tissue damage and find ways to target these factors with repurposed drugs as an adjunctive therapy, in conjunction with standard treatment regimens.”

Ndlovu completed his first BSc in biomolecular technology cum laude at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He subsequently pursued postgraduate studies, completing his honours and master’s degrees in Biochemistry (both with distinction) at the same institution. He went on to do a PhD in immunology at the University of Cape Town and took two postdoctoral training fellowships. He is a member of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Collaboration for TB Vaccine Development, and has published several papers in respected journals, with more in press.

Ndlovu is no stranger to navigating uncharted territory. “I remember when I started my PhD, one of my mentors left the lab to pursue other interests elsewhere,” he says. “I had moved from the University of KwaZulu-Natal to the University of Cape Town to broaden my horizons and to undertake research in a new discipline. With the little training I had received, I had to steer the ship alone to ensure I met all my milestones and completed my PhD in record time. I learnt by trial and error and I was not afraid to ask for help from colleagues when I struggled to solve some of the problems.”

He cautions young South Africans planning on pursuing a career in scientific research to approach the discipline with circumspection. “I have learned to expect more failure than success, but I take every failure as an opportunity to learn new things and invent new solutions to problems,” he says. “Success is on the other side of failure and only those who don’t surrender in the face of challenges can enjoy the fruits of their hard work.”

Ndlovu has a strong leadership record, having completed the UCT Emerging Student Leaders Program; he was a member of the IDM Education Task Team, and was one of the Top 100 Brightest Young Minds in 2013.

He also has an impeccable community engagement record, having co-founded Dikakapa Everyday Heroes Initiative, a registered nongovernmental organisation that aims to inspire the next generation of young South Africans through information sharing and mentorship. They have published a book with 25 short stories that they give to learners free of charge.

— Tamsin Oxford

Twitter: @HlumaniN