The Department in the 1990s

The Department's expertise in medicinal chemistry was recognised by the naming of The Adrien Albert Laboratory of Medicinal Chemistry, where Adrien Albert had worked during the 1940s and where tacrine was first synthesised. The laboratory was to be officially opened by Albert in January 1990. Unfortunately, his health suddenly deteriorated and he died in Canberra on 29 December 1989. As he fell ill, he learned also that he had been awarded an honorary DSc by the University of Sydney on the nomination of the Department. This degree was conferred posthumously in March 1990.

Paul Seale, a medical graduate from the University of Sydney, was appointed Head of Department in 1991 and Professor of Clinical Pharmacology in 1992. He served as Head of Department until Macdonald Christie, a PhD graduate of the Department in 1983, was appointed Head of Department in 1999.

Members of the Department helped organise the very successful 13th International Meeting of the International Society for Neurochemistry in Sydney in 1991 and a satellite meeting on Amino Acid Neurochemistry in the Hunter Valley, reflecting the Department's strength in neurochemistry.

Continuing the development of clinical pharmacology, Gillian Shenfield was appointed as a Clinical Professor in Pharmacology at Royal North Shore Hospital in 1993. Judith Black (PhD 1980) was appointed to a personal chair in pharmacology in 1997 in recognition of her research work in respiratory pharmacology, another major research strength in the Department. She formed The Respiratory Research Group with Carol Armour (PhD 1981), who subsequently was appointed to a lectureship in the Department of Pharmacy at the same time maintaining the collaborative activities of the group (Carol was appointed to a Personal Chair in the Department of Pharmacy in 2000). Graham Starmer established a Psychopharmacology Unit at Rozelle Hospital with a special interest in the effects of drugs on driving. Collaborative links with medicinal chemists at the Royal Danish School of Pharmacy were established, which saw the exchange of staff and students between Copenhagen and Sydney.

Graduates of the Department continued to be appointed to senior positions. Colin Gibbs (PhD 1962) was appointed to a Personal Chair in Physiology at Monash University in 1991. James Angus (PhD 1974) succeeded Mike Rand (PhD 1957) as Professor of Pharmacology at the University of Melbourne in 1992 and was made a Pro Vice Chancellor in 1999. David Jackson (PhD 1970 and long time member of staff) became Professor of Pharmacology at the University of Otago in New Zealand in 1998. John Skerritt (PhD 1984), who received the first university medal in pharmacology at the University of Sydney in 1980 and published 34 papers as a PhD student, was appointed Deputy Director of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research in 1999.

Dorothy Thorp was remembered for her long time commitment to the Department by the establishment in 1998 of the Dorothy Thorp Prize awarded for excellence in science communication by a student in the Honours course. Continuing the tradition of Roland and Dorothy Thorp, staff of the Department served the scientific and wider communities in many ways. Two have been made Members of the Order of Australia: Diana Temple for 'service to medical and scientific research, particularly in the field of respiratory pharmacology, as an advocate for the role of women in science and in promoting an understanding of science by the general public'; and Graham Johnston for 'services to bio-organic chemistry and pharmacology, to scientific organisations and to science policy development'.

At the end of the 1990s, the Department has record student numbers with its third year science numbers being larger than those choosing third year chemistry. The Department has developed great research strengths in CNS and respiratory pharmacology, and in medicinal chemistry. It is to be hoped that this growth in student numbers and research performance will lead to the provision of new facilities commensurate with the very high quality of our staff and students.