Department of Biology

                                                                                                                                                                                            

CONCEPT NOTE OF BIOLOGY DEPARTMENT - CST/UR

I.Introduction

 

This concept paper is about the departmental current situation and future plan for teaching, learning, and research in the medium and the long term, as per University of Rwanda’s (UR) goal to position its education as an internationally recognized institution excelling in research and innovation for development.  According to Rwanda’s long term 2050 vision, higher education is expected to play a crucial role in development with scientific research outputs that support evidence based decision-making. This departmental concept paper directly supports the University’s aim to produce innovative research and graduates with significant and sustainable contributions to Rwanda’s development and the well-being of people globally.

The paper presents (i) General background of the current biology department before and after UR establishment, (ii) Human resources of the department in terms of students (with their programs/exit degree) and staff (with their academic ranks and specialization), (iii) Department mission, Vision, and curriculum goals, (iv) Current and future planned programs, (v) Relevance of programs and career exploration, (vi) Challenges and proposed solutions. Although this concept note was developed in response to a request from the School of science, the department of Biology intends to use it to increase its visibility, seek for partnership and mobilize research funding sources, in the line of fulfilling the university’s main role of teaching, research, and community outreach.

 

II.Historical background

 

In the Rwanda National Leadership Retreat of 2011, the relevance of quality education in accelerating socio-economic transformation and development was discussed in details. Further experts’ consultations were carried out and the government was recommended to merge all Public Higher Learning Institutions into one university system. The University of Rwanda was then established by Law N° 71/2013 of 10/09/2013. The aim of establishing UR was to transform public higher education for improved teaching, and learning quality and to become a leading teaching and research institution in the region known for quality, relevance and impact of its programs.

The current Department of Biology is a merging result of two departments of Biology from former National University of Rwanda (NUR) and Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST). Before merging, the department of Biology had three options (Biotechnology, Botany, and Zoology) in NUR and two options (Biotechnology, and Microbiology) in KIST. In the line of UR’s mission and vision, the new department of Biology was restructured through review of its programs and modules. The department of Biology is currently under the College of Science and Technology (CST) with four undergraduate programs /options (Biotechnology, Biochemistry, Botany & Conservation, Zoology & Conservation, and Microbiology (phasing out)) and one master’s programs in Biodiversity Conservation.  Two more programs (BSc in Genetics, and MSc in Biotechnology) are under development and will be submitted to High Education Council (HEC) for approval.  The above mentioned programs are designed with the main purpose to enhancing the quality of Rwanda’s higher education provision via innovative approaches to teaching, learning, research, connections with the community and nation’s vision for development needs. Looking ahead, the department is still considering to increase the visibility of its programs and research, reduce overlap with other UR units, and lead to greater success of the combined research and teaching of all cross cutting biological sciences at UR.

 

III.Mission, Vision and Curricula Goals

 

The department of Biology is aware of Rwanda’s desire of building a knowledge-based and technology-led economy as expressed in Vision 2050. In this line, the department is committed to broadening its recognition for excellence in teaching, research, and service in our country and the region. The department will maintain a high quality and diverse curricula and expand both the undergraduate programs and creation of distinctive master’s programs in biotechnology field. The department will enhance student learning through improvement of existing facilities and by establishing a spin-off income generating biotechnology laboratory, and a biotechnology centre of excellence. The department will continue to integrate modern cross-cutting biological sciences with molecular and biochemical techniques to meet the scientific challenges our society and the region will face in the future. The department will increase the integration of its programs with the workforce needs in different industries where biological skills are needed such as medical & pharmaceutical research, toxicology and food safety, forensic biology, industrial manufacturing and processing technology, environment and sanitation, etc. The department will continue to seek partnerships with public stakeholders, non-profit organizations, and businesses in our country and in the region.

Curriculum Goals

The curriculum will provide Biology-related learning experiences that enable students to:

  • Construct and apply biological knowledge and skills, understand the nature of science in biology-related contexts, and appreciate the relationships between biological science and other disciplines;
  • Be aware of the social, health, ethical, economic, environmental and technological implications of biology, and be able to help concerned bodies to make informed decisions and judgments on biology-related issues;
  • Enhance the availability of workforce in different industries such as medical and pharmaceutical research, forensic, toxicology and food safety investigation, manufacturing and processing technology, environment cleaning, etc.
  • Develop and maintain an interest in biological science, a sense of wonder and curiosity about the living world, and a respect for all living things and the environment;
  • Develop the ability to make scientific inquiries; think scientifically, critically and creatively; and solve biology-related problems individually and collaboratively;
  • Understand the language of science and communicate ideas and views on biology-related issues;
  • Develop an attitude of responsible citizenship, and a commitment to promote personal and community health.
  • Attract more students in the region following well designed biological programs that respond to knowledge and skills needs

IV.Current Facts

The Department of Biology has 35 academic staff:  2 full professors; 2 associate professors, 2 senior Lecturers, 7 Lecturers, 20 assistant Lecturers, 2 tutorial assistants and 2 lab technicians. The total number of undergraduate students in Biology department is 425 (academic year 2017-2018), distributed in five programs: Biotechnology, Biochemistry, Botany & Conservation, Zoology & Conservation, and Microbiology.

 

Table 1. Academic staff profile

S/N

NAMES

 

Specialization

Academic Rank

Staff development remark

1

Prof Beth A. Kaplin 

Zoology

Full Prof

 

2

Prof Bizuru Elias

Botany

Full Prof

 

3

Prof Nsabimana Antoine

Biotechnology

Associate Prof

 

4

Prof Nsabimana Donat

Environ. sciences

Associate Prof

 

5

Dr Lyumugabe François

Biotechnology

Senior Lecturer 

 

6

Dr Migabo Tito

Biotechnology

Senior Lecturer

 

7

Dr Mutangana Dieudonné

Biotechnology

Lecturer 

 

8

Dr Nyiramana Aisha

Ecology

Lecturer 

 

9

Dr Nyirambangutse Brigitte

Environ. sciences

Lecturer

 

10

Dr Nsanzimana Jean Baptiste

Biotechnology

Lecturer 

 

11

Joseph Nsengimana

Biotechnology

Lecturer 

PhD student

12

Kabuyenge J Pierre

Zoology

Lecturer 

 

13

Rutanga Jean Pierre

Biotechnology

Lecturer

PhD student

14

Mukamugema Jane

Microbiology

Assistant Lecturer

 

15

Rashidi Mwimba

Aquaculture

Assistant Lecturer

 

16

Nyiragatare Alliance

Nematology

Assistant Lecturer

PhD student

17

Nshutiyayezu Samuel

Plant Biology

Assistant Lecturer

 

18

Uwizelimana Jean de Dieu

Biodiversity cons.

Assistant Lecturer

 

19

Majyambere Methode

Biodiversity cons.

Assistant Lecturer

 

20

Nzarora Alphonse

Biodiversity cons.

Assistant Lecturer

 

21

MANIRAKIZA Benjamin

Biotechnology

Assistant Lecturer

 

22

MUKAYISENGA Josiane

Nematology

Assistant Lecturer

 

23

Murindahabi Marylin

Biotechnology

Assistant Lecturer

PhD student

24

Rwibasira Peter

Biotechnology

Assistant Lecturer

PhD student

25

Nzayisenga Jean Claude

Biotechnology

Assistant Lecturer

PhD student

26

Manishimwe Aloysie

Ecology

Assistant Lecturer

PhD student

27

Uyisenga Jeanne Primitive

Biomedical sc.

Assistant Lecturer

PhD student

28

Mujawamariya Myriam

Botany

Assistant Lecturer

PhD student

29

Kalisa Egide

Environ. sciences

Assistant Lecturer

PhD student

30

Rizinjirabake Fabien

Ecology

Assistant Lecturer

 

31

Mukasekuru Marie Rose

Biotechnology

Tutorial Assistant

MSc student

32

Ufitinema J Chrysostome

Biotechnology

Assistant Lecturer

 

33

MUKAYISENGA Josiane

Nematology

Assistant Lecturer

 

34

MUKAMA Omar

Biotechnology

Assistant Lecturer

PhD student

35

Kamaliza Gaudence

Biotechnology

Tutorial Assistant

MSc student

 

 

 

 

Table 2. Biology (UG) Students' distribution in programs (2017-2018)

 

Program/option

Year 1

Year 2

Year 3

Year 4

Total

Biotechnology

69

 

57

31

157

Biochemistry

59

 

 

 

59

Biology*

 

40

 

 

40

Microbiology

-

 

 

39

39

Botany & conservation

-

 

40

39

79

Zoology and conservation

-

 

26

25

51

 

Note :(*) second years students (Biology) are in the transition between the old program (4 years) and new program (3 years), they select a specialization program at the completion of second year

 

V.Current programs and future plan

Current academic programs are designed on basis of Rwanda's development needs. Similarly, future academic programs will be developed based on the same following objectives:

  • Develop problem-based academic programs that broadly engage various disciplines to integrate relevant insights and knowledge application
  • Create scientific research hubs focused on problem solving that contribute to research-based policy making
  • Provide students with leadership, critical thinking, entrepreneurship and management skills
  • Prepare students for service to their communities and country through applied service learning programs both nationally and internationally
  • Develop continuous education programs aimed at upgrading skills and knowledge
  • Integrate IT-based resources from around the world

 

 

Table 3. Offered and Upcoming programs

 

Offered Programs

Level (UG/PS)

Duration

Exit Degree

Upcoming Programs

Biotechnology

UG

3 years

BSc Biology- Biotechnology

MSc in Biotechnology (2 years)

Biochemistry

UG

3 years

BSc Biology- Biochemistry

BSc in Genetics    (3 years)

Botany & Conservation

UG

4 years

BSc Biology-Botany & Conservation

 

Zoology and Conservation

UG

4years

BSc Biology- Botany & conservation

 

 

 

 

VI.Relevance of programs and career exploration

 

Modern biology increasingly relies on knowledge, skills, and perspectives associated with other scientific fields, particularly chemistry, mathematics, physics, and statistics. Success in Biological Sciences’ associated careers requires students to master the fundamentals of these cognate fields and to be able to apply these skill sets as well as demonstrate other professional competencies.

As a scientific discipline, biology is more than simply knowledge about living organisms. By integrating education and research, trans-disciplinary breadth and depth of experience; students are trained to be leaders in their field where they demonstrate innovative approaches to address real world problems.

 

 

  • Research and consultancy

Biology department is building strong links with business firms and processing industry. Research and consultancies will be carried out with partners in industries ranging from food to pharmaceuticals. The department is also looking ahead to work with local authorities, government agencies and others interested in our research expertise and laboratory analyses services.

The laboratories of Biology at CST (Nyarugenge campus) are well equipped to offer even more quality analytical services. These services are planned in the departmental long term research and consultancy policy as CST income generation source. In this line, Biology staff are designing consultancy project proposals, starting from microbiological analysis, toxicology, biosafety and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) in small & medium enterprises (SME), and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH). The following consultancy proposals are under elaboration:

  • Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCAP) project: systematic preventive approach to food safety hazards from biological, chemical, and physical hazards in production processes that can cause the finished product to be unsafe and designs measurements to reduce these risks to a safe level: consultancy with various SMEs (breweries, dairies, post-harvest manufacture enterprises, …)
  • WASH project: microbiological analysis for access to clean water in rural areas: consultancy with UNICEF-Rwanda
  • Biotoxins project: Analysis of microbial contamination in stored food products: consultancy with Rwanda Standard Bureau (RSB), Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB), etc
  • FORENSIC project: molecular analysis of biological samples for medical, toxicological, criminal, and legal purposes: consultancy with RSB, National Police, etc

VII.Challenges and suggested solutions

 

  • Challenges
  • Limited number of qualified academic staff (PhD holders, professors, lab technicians)
  • Uncertainty in academic programs and exit degrees (frequent changes in academic policy, fees, school & department location, etc.)
  • Unsuitable teaching and learning environment (lack of internet, computer labs, update & equipped library, etc.)
  • Lack of teaching and learning academic infrastructure (classes, projectors, laboratory material reagents, field visits, internship facilities)
  • Lack of research and consultancy facilitation policy
  • Too much bureaucracy in academic services

 

  • Proposed solutions
  • Further studies (PhD) and research facilitation for junior academic staff
  • Ensure programs and academic policy stability within UR
  • Maintain and improve academic environment and infrastructure for teaching and learning quality
  • Avoid excessively complicated administrative procedures in offering academic services

 

VIII.Concluding remarks

Biology is currently the biggest department in School of Science (SoS) in terms of students (425 students accounting 32.6% of total SoS students) and staff (37 staff accounting for 25% of all SoS academic staff). With the above mentioned future planned academic programs, research & consultancy projects, the department will even attract more students and staff that will contribute to the continuous growth of the school and college in general. The growth and promising future of Biology department can be insured by the considerable number of junior academic staff (11 PhD students) currently undertaking their PhD studies. This places the department of Biology among the top UR departments with a big number of qualified academic staff in the near future. Another important aspect, Biology department has got qualified staff in crosscutting field such as Biotechnology, bioinformatics, who will serve in various schools of UR in teaching and research projects.