UCL School of Pharmacy

Dr Afia Ali

Dr Afia Ali

Associate Professor


UCL School of Pharmacy

Joined UCL
1st Jan 2012

Research summary

Areas of Expertise and Techniques used:

Cellular Neuroscience; Synaptic physiology, pharmacology and morphology of micro-circuitry of the neocortex and hippocampus.

Electrophysiology: Dual whole-cell and conventional intracellular recordings withsharp electrodes under voltage and current clamp, in-vitro.

Neuroanatomy: Histological processing of cells filled with biocytin and full reconstruction of these cells. Double Immunofluorescence and Peroxidase labelling of neurones in cortex and hippocampus. Confocal microscopy.

Molecular Biology: Multiplex single cell RT-PCR.

Optogenetics: introduce ChR2-e YFP by stereotaxic injection of a viral vector/optically activate axons of specific neuronal sub-populations, combined with electrophysiology.

Teaching summary

Accredited lecturer: Professional Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher and Professional education programme (institute of Education, University of London)- 2009. 

Dr Ali began lecturing at The School of Pharmacy in 2005 covering heart ECG and anatomy Practical classes; endocrinology tutorials on Grave’s and Cushing’s disease and lecturing on various topics:

Current teaching on the MPharm  

·    Module leader: course, design, team leader and teacher : Body Systems and Therapeutics - Central nervous system, gastro-intestinal system, liver (2nd year)

·    Teacher: Diabetes lectures and cardiovascular practicals (2nd year) and effects of Benzodiazepines in the ageing Brain (4th year)


Past: CNS Pharmacology and disorders. This is a specialist option Dr Ali designed covering various mental health issues including depression, mania, anxiety and sleep disorders and the treatments available.

Dr Ali is also involved in setting and marking of course work and exams papers.

Dr Ali has extensive supervision skills of PhD, Master and M. Pharm. students.


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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.