History of Microbiology

A Glimpse of Central Department of Microbiology

Central Department of Microbiology (CDM) has made the journey of 25 years since its establishment. Eleven years following the launching of bachelors program in Tri-Chandra College, the masters program was introduced in Tribhuvan University, Kirtipur on 14th November, 1990. The commencement of masters program in Microbiology in Tribhuvan University was a milestone in producing competent microbiologists within the nation.

The department was initially located in the building within the Tribhuvan University, Kirtipur premise that used to accommodate Peace Corp volunteers. Late Professor Dr. Sheetal Raj Basnyat was the first head of Department. The subsequent permanent faculty member, Prof. Dr. Achyut Prasad Sharma was the second head of CDM. Besides, experts from various fields related to microbiology made valuable contribution as visiting faculties to teach and render laboratory skill to the students. Prof. Dr. Tika Bahadur Karki, Prof. Dr. Bharat Mani Pokharel, Dr. Madav Prasad Baral, Prof. Dr. Kayo Devi Yami, Ms Jyotsna Shrestha, Dr. Ajudaya Shrestha are the names of the esteemed visiting faculties. The first batch comprised 14 students (seven male and seven female). The faculty members of CDM, Prof. Dr. Anjana Singh and Prof. Dr Dwij Raj Bhatta were the students of the first batch.

The course designed during the establishment was based on annual system encompassing, General microbiology, Clinical microbiology, Pharmaceutical microbiology, Food microbiology, Agriculture microbiology, Microbial biochemistry, Biostatistics, Microbial biotechnology and Environment microbiology. Students were involved in diverse field of research for their dissertation during their second year of their studies.

Within three years of its establishment the graduated students of first batch were qualified to teach the masters student. Prof. Dr. Anjana Singh, Prof. Dr. Dwij Raj Bhatta, Prof. Dr. Bidya Shrestha and Dr. Rajan Prasad Adhikari were the recruited teachers who were the graduates of the first batch. Besides, the department had a skilled biochemistry teacher Dr. Surya Prasad Manandhar as the faculty member as well.

Nine years after the first course was designed, the course was amended in 1999. The change was essential since three years bachelor program replaced the earlier two years system and the course was necessary to be designed to target the three years bachelor students. The master’s course then offered Microbial structure physiology and genetics; Epidemiology, immunology and biostatistics; Biochemistry, total quality management and quality assurance; Instrumentation and biotechnology in the first year which were compulsory to all the students. However, in their second year, students had option to choose the specialized group of subjects. Although four specialized groups that included Environment microbiology, Medical microbiology, Food microbiology and Agricultural microbiology were designed, CDM offered option only for Environment microbiology and Medical microbiology. Prof. Dr. Shreekant Adhikari was the acting head of the department during that period.

By the year 2001 the department moved into newly constructed building where it is currently located. The building was comparatively spacious and equipped with several modern equipments like Atomic adsportion spectrophotomer, Amino acid analyzer, Spectrophotometer, PCR thermocycler, UV transilluminator, etc .  The head of department during that period was Dr. Prakash Ghimire.

Each year the number of students willing to study microbiology increased and this subject was able to gain a reputation as a popular discipline in biological sciences. Though the limitation in the number of students for admission was 25 in the early days, with a constant demand to accommodate more students the maximum enrollment number of student was increased for the second time from 30 to 40.

Since its inception, the activity of CDM was not only limited to teaching. It has been conducting various workshops and talk programs. The speakers of the talk programs were renowned scientists and eminent personnel from nation as well as foreign countries. Professors and scientists from foreign universities have made their contributions for the department. The most remarkable contribution was made in 2005 by Fulbright professor Prof. Dr Ronald H Bauerle from University of Virginia, Charlottesville, USA. During his 6 months stay in the department, he not only taught students but also trained the faculties of department as well as other institutions that offer Microbiology degree. The skill and technique in molecular biology he had shared was a landmark in introducing molecular tools in laboratory classes and research. He has donated laboratory equipments, kits for molecular biology experiments and several books for the department. The head of department at that period was Prof. Dr. Anjana Singh. During her term Dr. Cindy Coffil from Canada in 2006 and two other Fulbright visiting scholars Dr. Sean Cleary in 2007 and Dr. Alenka H. Rajojdic in 2008 made their valuable contribution for the department.

Deeming necessary, the course was revised in 2008 The students were required to take Microbial structure, physiology and genetics; Immunology; Biochemistry and Instrumentation; Microbial biotechnology and Pharmaceutical microbiology; Epidemiology, Research methods and Biostatistics courses in their first year. Though Medical, Food and Agricutural microbiology, the specialized subjects of second year remained unchanged, the Environmental microbiology was replaced by Environmental and Public Health microbiology. The course was amended again in 2009.  Prof. Dr. Dwij Raj Bhatta was head during that period.

With an aim to upgrade the standard of university corresponding to international universities and continue to extend as center of excellence semester system was to be introduced in Tribhuvan University. Thus, in 2013 the yearly system was switched to semester system. The present curriculum was designed to upgrade master’s program to the international level in accordance to current advances in Microbiology.

The new curriculum has emphasized on research based teaching and learning practice. The graduates are expected to be able to use skills of modern molecular biology techniques in scientific research or applied research areas of Microbiology. A total of 30 students get enrolled each year under the semester system.

Since the inception of department students have been keenly involved in various activities of department. The teachers and students of CDM have volunteered to help recent earthquake damaged area of Kirtipur district. Considering the possibility of post-earthquake associated waterborne disease outbreak, the drinking water quality was assessed using the water testing kit generously offered by Kathmandu Upatyaka Khaneypani Limited (KUKL).

A student organization, Microbiology Student Association of Nepal (MISAN) has been actively involved in various activities like inter-college quiz contest, journal club competition, exhibitions and sports activities.

Students of CDM have conducted dissertation work in a diverse area of microbiology. Though significant researches on clinical samples and associated pathogenic microorganisms have been done, several researches involving environmental samples have been undertaken. Research work has been carried in bacteria isolated from cold region of Everest base camp to the thermophilic bacteria from hot spring. Similarly researches encompassing indigenous food and potential consequences of microbes associated with varieties of food have been studied. Numerous researches on microorganisms with detrimental effect on environment and the status of water and air quality have been well investigated.  Intending to promote joint research and mutual assistance CDM has signed memorandum of understanding with different hospitals, institute and research centers.

Journey of CDM began with limited resources and hardship but today the department is proud to have over 500 master’s students and five PhD students graduated. Graduates of CDM are teaching and doing research in different institutes and research centers in nation as well as international universities. Besides they are being employed in reputable positions in government organizations. CDM is looking forward to produce more competent microbiologists in future and serve the realm of microbiology.