UCL School of Pharmacy

Dr Afia Ali

Dr Afia Ali

Associate Professor


UCL School of Pharmacy

Joined UCL
1st Jan 2012

Research summary

Dr Afia B. Ali is an Associate Professor at the UCL School of Pharmacy, her expertise lies in the cellular basis of information processing in the mammalian brain. She regularly works in multi-disciplinary projects spanning neurological disorders from epilepsy to Alzheimer’s disease and is best known for her expertise in combining leading edge electrophysiology, pharmacology combined with detailed neuroanatomy. Her key achievements include research leadership in investigations funded by the Wellcome Trust and Medical Research Council (UK): target-dependent short-term synaptic plasticity, and synaptic mechanisms of GABAA receptors at local interneuron circuits.

Dr Ali brings a unique skill set and expertise in the study of inhibitory – excitatory axis, and aims to fill that gap in our understanding of the cellular mechanisms of the neurological diseases and train the next generation of neuroscientists to perform these tasks. More recently, she switched research fields to help answer key questions in Alzheimer’s disease and is now involved in bring new potential drugs towards pre-clinical investigations in collaboration with UCL Alzheimer’s Research (UK) Drug Discovery Institution and AstronauTx, focused on modulating astrocyte biology as a therapeutic strategy in dementia.

Teaching summary

Accredited lecturer: Professional Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher and Professional education programme (institute of Education, University of London). Dr Ali has been involved in Pharmacy education since 2006. She has led a number of Body Systems and Therapeutics courses, which involved curriculum design, coordination of teaching material, and setting and marking formative and summative assessments. She is currently leading Patient, Public and Career Engagement in the MPharm Programme, which explores novel teaching methods to improve the teaching and learning experience of students. She also supervises significant numbers of MPharm, taught masters project students, Master in Research and PhD students. Dr Ali is an elected member of UCL Academic Board and since 2019 and has played an active role in promoting science education as well taking a lead role in developing Summer School in Pharmacy as an initiative for Widening Participation.


Other Postgraduate qualification (including professional), ATQ07 - Holder of a PGCE in higher education, secondary edu, further edu, life long lear |
Other Postgraduate qualification (including professional), ATQ08 - Accredited as a teacher of their subject by a professional UK body |


Dr Afia Ali obtained a first class honours degree in Physiology in 1995, followed by a PhD in Neuroscience from University College London in 1998.  Dr Ali’s thesis was supervised by Professor Alex Thomson and was based on the physiology, pharmacology and morphology of single axon connections made and received by inhibitory interneurones in the adult rat hippocampus, using dual sharp electrodes and biocytin labelling.  

Following her PhD, Dr Ali was awarded the prestigious Wellcome International Prize Travelling Fellowship to work in Paris at the laboratory of Professor Jean Rossier and Dr Etienne Audinat at the Ecole Superieure de Physique et Chimie Industrielles, where she investigated the role of pre and postsynaptic kainate receptors using whole-cell recordings.  

In 2000, Dr Ali joined Professor Julian Jack’s laboratory at University Laboratory of Physiology at the University of Oxford, as an independent research fellow funded by the Wellcome Trust and Novartis Pharmaceuticals (Basel).  During this period Dr Ali gained expertise in allowing mature inhibitory circuits to be studied, rather than the immature preparations typically used for dual whole cell recordings. She also refined the whole-cell technique to improve histological recovery and to allow the pharmacology of specific synapses to be studied over a long period of time. 

In 2005, Dr Ali moved to the Department of Pharmacology at The School of Pharmacy, University of London as an independent fellow. In 2006 she was awarded a prestigious New Investigators Award from the Medical Research Council to work on synaptic communication between GABAergic interneurones in the hippocampus. In 2009 Dr Ali was appointed a Lectureship at the School of Pharmacy and became Associate Professor in 2013.