Soaking up learning

Exchange student will bring back knowledge to Nigeria

- August 27, 2007

Sunday Bisong
Sunday Bisong, a PhD student at the University of Calabar in Nigeria, is on exchange at Dalhousie. (Pearce photo)

For a stranger in a foreign land, Sunday Bisong has made himself right at home in DalhousieÕs Department of Psychology. HeÕs become a familiar face around the Life Sciences Centre, visiting labs and his fellow students as often as possible.

ÒIÕll often go around and visit the different labs and stay for a while,” Mr. Bisong explains. ÒI try and learn one or two things from everyone I meet and then go try and meet some more people.”

Mr. Bisong, a PhD student at the University of Calabar in Nigeria, is conducting research at Dal thanks to the Commonwealth Africa Graduate Students Exchange Program, administered by CanadaÕs Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. HeÕs working in Dr. Richard BrownÕs laboratory until the end of September. Dr. Brown was instrumental in bringing Mr. Bisong here to Canada after meeting him at a neuroscience conference in Nigeria in July of last year.

ÒMr. Bisong was my guide when I visited the University of Calabar,” says Dr. Brown. ÒI was impressed with his industry and desire to advance his knowledge of neuroscience. I think that he has learned a great deal at Dalhousie that will enable him to establish a neuroscience program at the University of Calabar when he completes his PhD.”

Mr. BisongÕs research concerns the medical benefits of a plant called Rauwolfia vomitoria, grown in the humid tropical forests of Africa and India. The plant's root is used in traditional herbal medicine to treat hypertension, psychological disorders, snake bites and cholera.

ÒThese plants seem to compensate for the side effects of regular drug treatments,” he says, explaining that heÕs working towards discovering if the plant can replicate the results of common drug treatments like chlorpromazine.

This is his first time in Canada and heÕs learning a significant amount about how research is done on this side of the Atlantic. ÒMost universities in Nigeria donÕt have good Internet access, so the opportunity to obtain information is much greater here,” he explains. ÒThe equipment here is quite sophisticated as well. WeÕd sometimes have to employ two or three people on an experiment in Nigeria, but here I can use the computer systems by myself and get even more reliable results.”

With his PhD likely in hand by the end of the year, Mr. Bisong will be bringing the experiences and knowledge earned here at Dal back with him to Nigeria with the hopes of improving the study of neurophysiology in his homeland. But heÕd be open to the idea of returning to Halifax and Dalhousie for a postdoctoral program.

ÒMy first impression of Halifax was just what a really beautiful place it is,” he says. ÒIt would be wonderful to be able to come back here.”


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