DPhil Student, 1991-94
Professor Sulayma Albarwani joined the Laboratory of Physiology in 1991 to study her DPhil under the supervision of Dr Piers Nye. The Nye Group was identifying mechanisms of oxygen sensing in pulmonary blood vessels. Sulayma’s project investigated the role of transmembrane calcium influx and calcium released from the sarcoplasm in the development and maintenance of hypoxic vasoconstriction of small pulmonary arteries. Additionally, she performed electrophysiological work to identify potassium channels that are oxygen sensitive.
In 1994, Sulayma returned to her native Oman, joining the Department of Physiology, College of Medicine at Sultan Qaboos University Oman, becoming the first Omani Physiologist, where she still works to this day as a Full Professor of Physiology. Her research work focused on the remodeling of vascular ion channels in various physiological and pathological conditions such as exercise training, aging and hypertension. According to Sulayma: "Setting up my research lab was challenging as research in Oman at that time was in its infancy; research laboratories were basically empty rooms.” She utilised this challenging opportunity to train students and departmental technical staff in new methodologies, and she started a new postgraduate program on vascular research. She also presided over a number of academic and administrative posts, including the Head of the Department of Physiology and Assistant Dean for Research and Postgraduate Studies.
She briefly returned to Oxford in 1998, to the Department of Pharmacology for a short research visit, and in 2000 she was awarded a Fulbright Senior Scholar Fellowship to work on potassium channels in cerebral circulation in Milwaukee, USA. In 2002, she became one of the members of the founding committee of University of Nizwa, Oman, where she continues to serve on its Board of Trustees. She also represented Oman as a member of the Board of Trustees of Arabian Gulf University, Bahrain. In 2007, She was appointed by Royal Decree as an Honourable member of the Oman State Council, equivalent to the UK House of Lords. She also became a member of the National Research Council Committee that forged the Oman National Research Strategy for the health sector in Oman in 2008. She is currently a member of The World Academy of Science (TWAS), an organization that supports and promotes excellence in scientific research in the developing world.
Her research evolved to incorporate community-based human genetics studies of cardiovascular disease in the Omani population (The Oman Family Study). This study aims to identify genetic causes of cardiovascular diseases, specifically hypertension and metabolic syndrome, in the population of Omani families characterized by deep consanguineous marriages. Currently, we are working on the causes of the unique heart rate variability (HRV). The multidisciplinary team has compiled an extensive database of genetic, metabolic, and hemodynamic variables of Omanis. Many researchers in Oman now use the database for their work.