Profiling Chancellor College's DNA laboratory managed by Dr Wisdom Changadeya

In a khaki jacket, Dr Wisdom Changadeya taking SANBio/BioFISA II team on tour of facilities

The Face

Dr Wisdom Changadeya is an Associate Professor of Biology at Chancellor College, University of Malawi. He is a natural scientist with research interests in conservation of biological diversity through formulation of conservation management procedures based on, among other data, genetic diversity data.

He received his PhD in Plant Population Genetics from the University of Malawi, Chancellor College, Department of Biological Sciences in 2009. His further credentials include an MSc degree in Fish Population Genetics and a Bachelor Degree in Education Science, both from the University of Malawi.

Dr Changadeya has published over 24 journal articles in peer reviewed journals. Apart from teaching courses at the college, he is also interested in the promotion of Biotechnology, particularly research and use of genetically modified crops in Malawi. Furthermore, he is an editor of a monthly Biotechnology newsletter called Biotechnology Update Newsletter which has been in circulation since 2002 with funding from research partners.

The Newsletter

The Biotechnology Update Newsletter is a monthly newsletter which aims at highlighting some research out comes in the area of genetic modification and how they are applied to enhance human life and development. It also endeavours to showcase the regulatory framework that has been developed using both legal international and local instruments. This newsletter has been in circulation monthly since 2002. The newsletter can be accessed on Chancellor College website; Apart from this link PDF copies are sent electronically to more than 500 recipients all over the world. At local level both electronic and hard copies are distributed.

The College

Chancellor College is located in Zomba, the old capital city of Malawi, and is one of the four constituent colleges of the University of Malawi. The other colleges are: The Malawi Polytechnic, Kamuzu College of Nursing and College of Medicine. Chancellor College was established in 1964 in Blantyre and, in 1973, was relocated to Zomba.

It has five faculties; Humanities, Law, Education, Social Science and Science. The department of Biological Sciences is in the faculty of science together with the departments of Physics, Chemistry, Mathematical Sciences, Computer Sciences, Geography and Earth Sciences and Human Ecology.

The department of Biological Sciences offers a variety of courses to BSc and BEd students. These courses include: Microbiology, Biochemistry, Animal Physiology, Invertebrate Zoology, Ecology, Parasitology, Freshwater Biology, Evolution, Cryptogamic Botany, Plant Physiology, Plant Pathology, Genetics, Plant Anatomy, Entomology, Plant Taxonomy, Behavioural Ecology, Mammalogy and Fish Biology.

The Laboratory

Housed by the department of Biological Sciences, the DNA laboratory, as it is commonly known, was established in 1999-2000 through a Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) funded project entitled Lake Malawi Ecology Project. This project was a brain child of Prof Aggrey Ambali and Late Dr Harvey Kabwazi. The project had three components, namely; sociocultural, ecological and phylogenetic. The lab was under the phylogenetic component of the project. Its primary occupation at its inception was to investigate genetic diversity of commercially important fish species of Lake Malawi and other water bodies using DNA analysis.

The lab is equipped with the following equipment: 

  • 96-well thermocyclers
  • ABI 310 Genetic analyzer 
  • Two Advantec LH2000 water baths
  • ApelexPS 9009TX power supply
  • Aquamatic Hamilton Double distiller
  • Autoclave
  • Dry thermo Unit DTU-28
  • FC 610 Advantec oven
  • Two fridges
  • IWAKI Hybridization Oven HBO 350B
  • Olympus B071 unit
  • Olympus B06 microscope
  • Olympus BX 50 microscope
  • Sanyo ultra-low temperature freezer (-30°C)
  • Sanyo Incubator
  • Two Spencer ultra-low temperature freezers (-30°C)
  • Spencer ultra-low temperature freezer (-80°C)
  • Tomy MC 150 microcentrifuge
  • Tomy MX 160 Refrigerated High Speed microcentrifuge
  • UV-1601 UV-Visible Spectrophotometer

Coupled with this major equipment are numerous accessories and working spaces which include:

  • seven student study rooms
  • four side labs
  • one dark room equipped with UV light camera and accessories
  • one lab manager’s office and three associated offices
  • student computer room and
  • a board room.

The lab has two main doors which could allow for easy escape during a fire. There is also fire- fighting equipment and a shower room in case of accidental chemical–body contact.

The laboratory and its equipment has been used to conduct numerous genetic diversity analysis studies using molecular markers mainly microsatellites. Such studies have been on commodities such as fish (several species), sweet potatoes, cassava, banana, cattle and yams.

The laboratory has been used by MSc and PhD students and researchers from the University of Malawi and partner local universities such as University of Mzuzu (MZUNI), Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR). Internationally students and researchers have come from University of Pretoria, IITA (Nigeria and Tanzania). Visiting researchers from Japan, UK and USA have also used the lab.

As an interesting example of what can and has been accomplished at the lab, the laboratory once hosted a student registered at University of Pretoria (now Dr Yagotha Munthali, an associate professor at Mzuzu University in Malawi) who conducted his genetic diversity study of Adansonia digitata. The student had failed to extract amplifiable DNA from Adansonia digitata silica gel dried leaves while working in labs at University of Pretoria and Stellenbosch until he was referred to our lab where, using DNA extraction protocols, amplifiable DNA was extracted. The student did the rest of DNA analysis, including data analysis, in the lab.

Apart from generating genetic data that has been used by policy makers to shape policy for conservation and preservation of some natural resources, the lab has not yet made unique discoveries worth mentioning, but it should only be a matter of time, provided the right people find their way to the lab: Dr Changadeya wants to make it know that the lab is available for use by researchers in the region as well as outside the region. The lab is also interested in hosting international MSc and PhD students using collaborative efforts in registering students and as well as funding their research in the lab; the college can offer MSc and PhD training in mainly genetic diversity and conservation studies.


Contact details:

Dr Wisdom Changadeya

University of Malawi

Chancellor College

Department of Biological Sciences

P.O. Box 280

Zomba, Malawi

Cell (265) 888 877 858,  (265) 999 877 858