05 Nov Teaching in Addis Ababa
Teaching Gene Expression in Addis Ababa.
The classes were attended by PhD students from Biotechnology and from Medicine. We went through much on Lewin’s Genes XI textbook during a one week intensive course. On the Friday I gave a talk on RNA Modification and Innate Immunity. The students said I look like Tom Hanks from Captain Harris in the recent movie about Somali pirates!
The research in the Department is focused on plant genetics, variation in plants like coffee and finger millets that are native to Ethiopia and on identifying and improving plants that can be used in semi-desert areas and for remediating ecological damage. Professors Kassahun Tesfaye and Teklehaimanot Haileselassie are involved in this. Ethiopia has made great progress in food production although this is offset somewhat by continuing high population growth. Plans to improve marginal land involve more drought-resistant planting and new farming practices such as housing animals and bringing forage to them to prevent overgrazing leading to ecological damage or land erosion. Professor Addis Simachev studies extremophile microorganisms in the Danakil Depression in North-East Ethiopia – „The Hottest Place on Earth“ .
Professor Tesfaye Tessema studies infections transmitted between animals and humans and the Medical Faculty are interested in collaborations to study human populations. This should be particularly interesting in Ethiopia which has many hominid paleontology sites and also has populations representing each of the three main language groups of Africa.
The highlight of my visit to Addis was seeing the hominid section in the basement of the National Museum. Lucy, the three year old girl who is our oldest known bipedal ancestor, has missing parts of her skeleton replaced with a blue molding that makes her look like the Terminator! The rest of the exhibit shows all the other hominids that existed and the long process of improvement in stone tools by different hominid groups before modern man. The exhibit also shows just how human the Neanderthals were and suggests that Neanderthal-like hominids existed in Africa also. This is likely to be confirmed by studies on human genomes.