The study of biology has both basic aspects (systematized acquisition of knowledge on living things and their environments) and applied aspects (the use of acquired knowledge to benefit human beings). The applied aspects of biology have vast practical applications in agriculture, industries, medicine, biotechnology, genetic engineering, environmental protection and biodiversity conservation management. Biological issues are at the heart of the daily life and survival of humans irrespective of differences in culture, geographical location, wealth and levels of advancement. Biological principles are practiced ranging from primitive societies that use crude ways of getting food and other survival requirements from the immediate environment through hunting and gathering to the most advanced societies that use cutting edge technologies to solve problems that challenge the survival and well being of mankind. Research in climate change, bio fuel production, rapid propagation of crops, gene therapy and cloning are examples of the latter category.
The relevance and importance of teaching science in general and Biology in particular in teaching and research to Ethiopia is thus apparent. As a developing nation aspiring to achieve overall advancement, the country has the option to combine both low and high level knowledge in biology to benefit its society particularly in the areas of food security, health, environmental protection and climate change. The country promotes the science of biology through advanced level university study and research. Currently, Jimma University runs a range of programs in various departments under six colleges. The Department of Biology is one of the active departments under the College of Natural Sciences offering different courses to both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.The currently called Department of Biology has undergone series of changes. For instance, Introductory Biology courses (Biol 101, 102, and 113) had been offered to both Medicine and Agriculture students to prepare them for their prospective specialization since the establishment of Jimma Institute of Health Science and College of Agriculture under a section called “Basic Sciences”. During this time, this section was merely recognized as a “Biology Unit” until organized at Departmental level since the establishment of Jimma University in 2000. The Department offered Diploma in Biology (Education) through evening program from 2002 to 2005. From 2001-2010, the Department offered training in a regular Bachelor of Education in Biology (B.Ed) programme. In addition to the regular B.Ed. programme, the Department gave training in B.Ed through a summer in-service and evening programmes from 2001-2010 August. Currently, the Biology Department has been training Bachelor of Science in Biology (B.Sc) through regular and summer-in-service programmes using the newly developed need- driven curriculum to partly fulfill the millennium development goals. The department has also very recently prepared and endorsed curricula on three Biology specialties (viz. Applied Microbiology, Botanical Sciences, and Ecological and Systematic Zoology) at M.Sc level. Applied Microbiology and Botanical Science specialties have been launched as of 2008/09 and 2009/2010 academic years, respectively. Ecological and Systematic Zoology specialty has been launched since February 2011. The Department has been initiated M.Sc programme in Biology (Applied Microbiology, Botanical Sciences and Ecological and Systematic Zoology streams) through Summer Programme. Furthermore, necessary preconditions have been completed including curriculum review at national level to initiate PhD programme in Applied Microbiology under five specialty areas (Environmental Microbiology, Food Microbiology, Industrial Microbiology , Medical Microbiology and Soil Microbiology) as of February 2012 in reaction to the national call made by the government to enhance capacity building in highly trained personnel.
The Department of Biology has been strongly striving to improve the teach-learning processes via the recently refined and need-based curricula through student-centered learning process. The research activities of our Department are staff-based research projects and postgraduate research activities where the qualified academic staff members directly involve. In terms of laboratory facilities and trained human resources, the Department has untapped potential to 1) conduct scientific researches in various biological disciplines, 2) provide special trainings to personnel from diverse research laboratories, researchers, laboratory technicians (at high schools/universities), etc., 3) provide consultancy services to various sectors related to biological science/environment/industries/health, etc.
The Department of Biology is highly committed to provide various services/consultancies using its highly qualified academic staff members to different sectors including Food Industries, Biofertilizers (Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, Rhizobia, Plant Growth Promoting Rhizobacteria), rehabilitation of degraded lands, food security (mushroom cultivation, popularization of underutilized wild edible plants, fisheries and aquaculture), wildlife resources utilization, Animal and Plant systematic. Working on quality assistance, giving trainings (high school teachers, lab technicians). The scientific wing of our Department provides special training on scientific paper writing including proposal writing and preparation of manuscripts for possible publication to young researchers or other interested personnel.