Prof Alvaro Viljoen.
Prof Viljoen completed a BSc, BSc Hons (cum laude) and MSc (cum laude) in Botany at the Stellenbosch University. In 1994, he commenced with a PhD at the University of Johannesburg. In 1999, he was appointed lecturer in Pharmaceutical Chemistry at the Department of Pharmacy, University of the Witwatersrand. In 2002, he was promoted to senior lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand and in 2005 to Associate Professor at the same institution. In July 2005, he was appointed as a research fellow at TUT’s Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences.
When asked about his success, Prof Viljoen attributes it to his passion for research, conceiving and developing new ideas and his postgraduate students who share his vision. “The biggest contributing factor to my research success is by far my postgraduate students and postdoctoral research fellows . I have worked, and still continue to, with some of the finest minds who devotedly delivered excellent research. I am proud that these students now form part of the academic fraternity in South Africa and internationally,” said Prof Viljoen.
As a scientist of many accolades, Prof Viljoen has authored/co-authored more than 280 peer-reviewed papers and supervised more than 80 postgraduate students on the topic of phytochemical exploration and biological activity of indigenous medicinal and aromatic plants. He currently enjoys an h-index of 47, which confirms his national and international recognition in his research field.
Based on his research contributions in the field of medicinal and aromatic plants, he has been elected to the editorial boards of several journals. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Ethnopharmacology (Elsevier), a prestigious international journal in medicinal plant research. In 2013, Prof Viljoen received the SAAB Silver medal for his outstanding contribution to botanical research and in the same year, he received the TWAS-ROSSA Award from The World Academy of Sciences for advancing the knowledge on the safe and effective use of herbal medicines. Later that year, he was awarded the National Research Chair in Phytomedicine, a position he holds concurrently with his position as Director of the SAMRC Herbal Drugs Research Unit in South Africa.
He aims to continue building on the research outcomes of his previous NRF evaluation period. “I will continue to drive myself to maintain research excellence, to remain at the front of research in my field, to continue playing a leading role, and to produce work that will continue to form the foundation for future research endeavours,” said Prof Viljoen.
Being at the centre of worldwide recognition, one can only believe Prof Viljoen to be in high demand for commentary on his success. However, his humility was laudable when interviewed. “Over the years, I have never much emphasised what I have achieved. I am a firm believer of hard work and doing what needs to be done. Recognition and awards are a bonus in our line of work,” Prof Viljoen concluded.