Forty-one students from the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, College of Medicine and Health Science of Afe Babalola University, have benefitted from a training programme organised by the Bioscience Centre of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).
IITA is, however, a non-profit institution that generates agricultural innovations to meet Africa’s most pressing challenges of hunger, malnutrition, poverty, and natural resource degradation.
The 5-day Basic Molecular Biology Techniques and Bioinformatics workshop took place last January at the Ibadan campus of the institute in Oyo State. The purpose of the workshop was to equip students with the basic knowledge of Biotechnology and Bioinformatics and allow them to have hands-on experience.
Bioscience Laboratory Manager, Yemi Fasanmade, said the IITA Bioscience Centre organizes hands-on molecular biology training twice a year to give students and researchers the opportunity to gain practical knowledge of biotechnology. Although this is not one of the usual annual training, IITA seizes every opportunity to help students go beyond their theoretical knowledge, to gain practical experience through the Institute’s world-class laboratory facilities.
Many students have theoretical knowledge but have not been exposed to the first-hand experience due to a lack of facilities.
Accompanied by the Acting Head of Department and a lecturer, the students received a warm welcome from Melaku Gedil, Molecular Geneticist, on behalf of the Head of the Bioscience Centre, Michael Abberton.
Gedil encouraged the students to take the opportunity seriously as IITA is one of the best places in Africa for this training because of the availability and functionality of its facilities. “It’s not about wanting to know the techniques of genomics or biotechnology, passion, and hard work is required in understanding why we do these things”, he said.
The students visited the DNA and RNA laboratories for the practical sessions, working in teams. For the first time, they were exposed to genomic DNA extraction, amplification using the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) machine, sequencing using the genetic analyzer, and interpretation of results.
Describing their experience, two students—Igwe Philip Chinonso and Solomon Okon Rejoice—recalled that they have been exposed to the theoretical aspects of Biotechnology and Genomics since their 200 Level but have never practiced it.
They both agreed that their expectations were exceeded, seeing the kind of facilities the Institute has and the way the staff handled the training. Okon explained that she not only learned how to extract DNA but also how to check the quality of the genomic DNA for impurities.
Dr. Olusegun Adeoluwa, the acting head of the Pharmacology and Therapeutics Department also commended IITA for the effectiveness of the training, adding that he also benefited from it. “I realized that my students needed to be exposed to hands-on training and I discovered that IITA is the best place for this training.”
While he also mentioned that the training will be continued for every set of final year students in the department henceforth, certificates were awarded after evaluating the effectiveness of the training through question and answer sessions and team assignments.