URI student brings minister’s perspective to biotechnology

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Leader of Christ Gospel Church learning biomanufacturing at URI

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – April 20, 2007 – Ademola Jonah grew up in Lagos, Nigeria, where he followed a calling to become a minister. That calling led him to Christ Gospel Church in Providence three years ago. And now that same calling has taken him into the complex world of biotechnology.

“My pastoral work still comes first and foremost, but I was called by God to learn about biotechnology, and it will be up to Him to tell me whether to pursue a career in this field,” Jonah said.

Jonah is enrolled in the University of Rhode Island’s Biotechnology Manufacturing Program, a rigorous curriculum of biology, chemistry, mathematics and laboratory courses at URI’s Feinstein Providence Campus that begins with two semesters of full-time study followed by a summer internship at a biotechnology company. After completing the internship, most students go to work full time in the industry and complete their education as part-time students.

“Before I went for pastoral training back home in Nigeria, I was an engineer,” said Jonah, who resides in Providence. “So it’s not as big a change as you might think for me to now study biotechnology.”

In his pastoral role, Jonah enjoys counseling church members. “I pray for them and encourage them to go in the right direction,” he said. “I give them the motivation and inspiration they need to keep them going. It’s a full-time responsibility, so at times it’s difficult to combine my pastoral work with my class work, but God helps me through it.”

Jonah said that the time commitment for homework and reading is quite challenging in the URI program, but he believes it will help him with his pastoral work.

“My objective in this program is to bring what I learn in the classroom to benefit society,” he explained. “I’m most interested in learning about the proteins in the body that the body uses to cure itself. That’s one major reason I’m interested in biotechnology.”

Jonah has been impressed with the encouraging way that the URI instructors teach the biotechnology coursework.

“They don’t just lecture at you,” he said. “Instead, they encourage you to want to learn more on your own. They help you have a more curious mind when you go into the laboratory. They give you confidence by explaining how it all relates to everyday life; how it relates to your children and family and society; how it relates to the food you eat, the clothes you wear, and the interactions you have.”

As the semester comes to a close, Jonah is looking forward to his summer internship so he can apply what he has learned in the classroom to an industrial level.

“I’m excited about the internship, but mostly I’m excited to be learning about so many different things,” Ademola said. “I see God in every aspect of life. Even in biotechnology.”

URI News Bureau photos by Nora Lewis