• Burnes receives Japan Studies Institute Fellowship

    Posted: May 03, 2012

    Author: Betsy Compton

    The University of West Alabama’s Dr. Brian Burnes has been awarded a Japan Studies Institute (JSI) Fellowship by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) in support of his participation in the JSI to be held at San Diego State University in June.

    Burnes, who holds a doctorate from Georgia Institute of Technology, is an associate professor of biology in UWA’s College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. He says attending the annual institute, “Incorporating Japanese Studies into the Undergraduate Curriculum” will greatly assist him in the classroom as he seeks to provide a broader knowledge of science throughout the world to his students.

    “Our University serves a rural region rich in tradition, but poor in income. In my studies as a professor, I have become aware of the rapid development of Japanese science and technology in the past century, including many important discoveries made by Japanese scientists,” Burnes explained.

    Burnes says that classroom discussion of such discoveries often leader to broader discussions considering the country’s 16 Nobel Prize winners in science, and students become far more interested in the country’s work and research, always leaving him with the thought, “What is this country called Japan?”

    The Rome, Ga., native teaches nearly 400 students annually in his principles of biology course alone. The course covers topics in which comparisons between Japan and the U.S. are especially relevant, such as the environmental pressures of population density, balancing sustainable development with rapid industrial growth, maintaining clean air and water, and the use of nuclear energy in the only nation to suffer two atomic bomb attacks. His nutrition course will use case studies to compare Japanese and U.S. diets, especially seafood, and the effects on human health. In these and other courses, the discussion of specific topics will naturally broaden to the topics of culture and common interest to the peoples of Japan and the U.S.

    “I plan to use my experience at the Institute to offer a new course, Science in Japan and the U.S. The course will be a comparative study of Japanese and U.S. science. The course will be offered as an elective to undergraduate and online graduate students at UWA. Many of UWA’s online graduate students are practicing high school teachers from across the nation,” Burnes said.

    Upon returning from the Institute, Burnes will give a public seminar about the experience, emphasizing the culture of Japan. This, he says, will further UWA’s efforts of actively shaping the role of Alabama in the global economy. UWA has a thriving international studies program with students from more than 70 countries. An exchange program brings students from two Chinese universities to UWA, and Burnes hopes a similar exchange may be possible with Japanese students.

    “I want my experience to be beneficial for the Institute. As a university professor in the region, I can serve as a conduit of understanding, appreciation, and respect for Japan to a generation of young Americans,” Burnes said.
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