Teaching & Learning

Visiting Nigerian Profs Lead the Charge to Bring Biotech Knowledge Home

Three visiting professors from Nigeria arrived in Utah in April, just in time to have their first experience with snow. Irene Ifeoma Ijeh, Uma Kalu Oke and Alex Nwanze Awurum are spending the month at Utah State University familiarizing themselves with new research techniques relating to agriculture.

“This visit is part of an innovative effort by Nigeria to develop a series of universities based more on the U.S. land-grant system to integrate research into the historical European model of teaching-only universities,” said Roger Kjelgren, professor and interim department head of plants, soils and climate department at USU.
Vice chancellor and professor Ikenna Onyido (FAS), from the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, Nigeria, visited USU in November 2007. On that visit he met with Alvan Hengge from the USU chemistry department and began building a connection with programs in the College of Agriculture.
“Ikenna is trying very hard to make a difference in African, specifically Nigerian, higher education, and in many ways is building a brighter future for Africa and these three professors really do share that vision,” said Kjelgren.
USU is the first university the group has visited, and the only one it will visit this trip.
Ijeh, the acting director for the Centre for Molecular Bioscience and Biotechnology, researches chemopreventive roles of dietary vegetables and hopes to gain new skills in metabolomics and proteomics. She is developing a biotechnology center, similar to USU’s Center for Integrated BioSystems.
As deputy dean of the College of Animal Science and Production, Oke’s primary area of study is poultry. His interests are in learning new techniques relating to marker assisted selection in improving indigenous varieties. He is observing DNA sequencing in Ken White’s laboratory in the department of animal, dairy and veterinary sciences.
While in Utah, Awurum, who studys plants pathology and is the deputy dean of the College of Crop and Soil Science, is interested in adding to his knowledge of identifying pathogens for isolating and diagnosis in order to improve the quality of crops.
“We would like to start research collaborations between USU and our university in common areas of interest,” said Ijeh. “We would also like to visit more universities in the future, including exchange trips with USU faculty to look at biodiversity.”
Collaboration between USU’s Center for Integrated BioSystems, department of animal, dairy and veterinary sciences and the department of plants, soils and climate, along with the College of Agriculture, provide support for visiting scholars.
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Contact: Roger Kjelgren, (435) 797-2972, rkjel@mendel.usu.edu;
Ken White, (435) 797-2149, ken.white@usu.edu;
Irene Ifeoma Ijeh, (435) 512-7609, ijehirene@yahoo.com or ijeh.ifeoma@mouau.edu.ng
Writer: Jeannine Huenemann, (435) 797-8274, jeannine.huenemann@usu.edu
Visiting Nigerian professors at USU

Alex Nwanze Awurum, Irene Ifeoma Ijeh and Uma Kalu Oke from Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, Nigeria. (Photo by Gary Neuenswander.)


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