Who we are
The Department of Biological Sciences was among the first science departments established at the founding of Njala University College in 1964, and immediately propelled itself into training undergraduate students from several African countries for a joint degree in Biological Sciences and Education, and this tradition has continued to date. In 2005 when Njala University College and Fourah Bay college became separate universities, the Department expanded its courses to include; biological sciences, biology education, biomedical sciences, and applied ecology & conservation. As well as teaching the Department has a strong track record in Research and consultancy both of which keep the staff and courses up-to-date.
What Options Exist for an Exciting Career
The Department offers prospective students a range of options for a rewarding career. Modern biological sciences are too broad and complex for mastery by any one individual. Students are introduced to some of this complexity in the first two years, before they follow a more focused degree track in the third and final year. Increasingly students come with a medical interest, and from 2020 we will be offering a degree program in Biomedical Sciences . Some biomedical courses are already part of the honors degree track in biological sciences which combines botany, zoology and ecology.. Students with interest in the natural sciences and a chance at working in the natural environment and contributing to protecting biodiversity will select the degree track in Applied Ecology & Conservation. This track also makes it possible for students to work with conservation related NGOs and government agencies dealing with biodiversity and related environmental issues. There is also a degree track for prospective high school/secondary school teachers in biology, as some would find a degree in Biology Education a rewarding experience working with students in their formative years. This has been the main thrust of our activities for the last 60 years.
How We Empower You
Training for a degree in the biological sciences is not based solely on a classroom affair, but rather we let students experience a broad range of learning including fieldwork, independent research, group work, teaching practice, seminars and internship. We support the future career development of our students with laboratory and field equipment for a challenging and changing world. This includes access to the latest molecular diagnostic equipment, field equipment, computer lab and high-speed internet access, a specialized library, a research station and partnership with national and international organizations like CDC, Kew Gardens, the National Herbarium of Sierra Leone housed in the Department of Biological Sciences, and the Center for Biodiversity Research based at Njala University.
The Department offers the following undergraduate courses, in which students are required to complete a minimum of 120 credit hours before graduation:
- BS in Biological Sciences
- BS in Applied Ecology & Conservation
- BS in Biological Education
- BS in Biomedical Sciences (starting in 2020)
Two options exist: one that is an 18 months program leading to an MSc in Biodiversity Conservation and a research option, with an MPhil and a PhD in Biodiversity Conservation and Biological Sciences. Both are supervised by a dissertation committee, with students taking their pre-field presentation within 6 months of enrolling in the programs.
The department manages a comfortable biological field station on Tiwai Island, with accommodation facilities and renewable solar energy, and a rich wildlife (12 species of primates, Pygmy Hippopotamus, etc) and plant species (over 700 species) on just 12 Km2. Undergraduate and graduate students are provided access to this unique ecosystem as part of their learning experience, where they have the chance to interact across 8 village communities and supervised by competent faculty members. Several sites across the country are also available for students to visit and conduct field research.
A molecular diagnostic laboratory focusing on viral hemorrhagic fevers and Poxviruses and Rabies exists with Real Time RT-PCR, nuclei acid extractors, centrifuges, -80 degree freezers, on site liquid nitrogen producing generator, 24 hours of electricity/solar/UPS and vehicles to take students into the field.
The department is home to the National Herbarium of Sierra Leone, housing over 20,000 plant specimens from across Sierra Leone and several other African countries to support taxonomic, ethnobotanical and floristic research.
Short training courses
The Department of Biological Sciences, in collaboration with the Center for Biodiversity Research and the Department of Wildlife Management, will soon commence short training courses lasting no more than a year at most for the following areas:
- Ecotourism & Hospitality Management – Certificate (6 months) & Diploma (nine months)
- Mentoring for the Protection of Apes & the Conservation of Ecosystems (MENTOR PACE) – Graduate Diploma (one year)
- Molecular Diagnostic Techniques – Certificate & Diploma (6 months to one year)
- Research Methods & Statistical Applications of R – Certificate (3 months)
Research, Internships and Collaborative Agreements
Departmental staff are actively engaged in research activities in collaboration with undergraduate and graduate students. Most students use this opportunity to gain field and laboratory experiences, and in the process complete requirements for their projects or theses. Staff members also work on joint initiatives with colleagues in other disciplines, thereby fostering interdisciplinary collaboration. Research interests are diverse but also staff members are open to new ideas for possible collaboration.
Every year, our final year students spend on average 8 weeks on internship in various institutions in the hope gaining further experience and enhancing their job prospects before returning to campus to complete their degree program. The internships are supervised by staff as well as the institutions to which the students are sent.
In late 2016, Njala University through its PI, Prof. Aiah Lebbie, signed a collaborative agreement to enhance capacity for ecological surveillance and molecular diagnosis of viral hemorrhagic fever viruses in Sierra Leone. This initiative led to the co-detection of the Marburg virus for the first time in Sierra Leone in fruit bats. This initiative has led to the training of nearly two dozen students and staff members in lab and field surveillance techniques, as well as equipping and renovations of both lab and field staff.
The Department of Biological Sciences through the National Herbarium of Sierra Leone has maintained a long collaboration with the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew (UK). Joint research initiatives leading to the discoveries of species new to science have occurred. Expert determination of specimens collected by staff members is also done at Kew.