|Professor Byrns works to save lives|
|Written by Kelley Bowles, Staff Writer|
|Sunday, 17 February 2013 14:01|
Whether students know him from sitting in one of the four courses he teaches, seeing him bike around campus or cheering at an ISU basketball game, environmental health professor George Byrns’ story is anything but ordinary.
For 25 years, Byrns then worked for U.S. public health, where he worked under Indian health services with Indians and Alaskans. During this time, Byrns worked with the Navajo Tribe. The agency’s main purpose was to provide health care and work with places where clean water or proper sewer systems were not available. Byrns would also work with serious diseases such as the bubonic plague, which is still around today. He spent six years living in Alaska, and seven more years working in D.C. in environmental health services.
“It was interesting to work with a culture other than our own,” Byrns said.
In 1997, Byrns retired and decided he wanted a change.
“I always sort of thought I wanted to teach,” Byrns said.
He was encouraged by his previous co-workers and decided to go back to school full-time to receive his Ph.D. In the fall of 1999, Byrns started his teaching career here at ISU.
Aside from teaching four courses on environmental health, Byrns is also the adviser for the American Industrial Hygiene Association, an RSO on campus that works to maintain industrial hygiene. The program aims to make places like hospitals a safer environment.
When Byrns is not busy working at ISU, he has a few favorite pastimes.
“I spend entirely too much time playing video games and computer
games, but I use exercise equipment when I’m playing,” Byrns said.
Other than video games, Byrns and his wife enjoy biking on
Constitution Trail, which he thinks is one of the perks of the
neighborhood. Although Byrns is not a major sports fan, he does follow
the ISU basketball team.
He recently enjoyed watching ISU beat Bradley, and tries to go to games throughout the season.
If students don’t know Professor George Byrns, they might know of
Michael Byrns, his son who started teaching at ISU in 2011. Michael
Byrns is also in the environmental health program, and together he and
his father make a good team.
“It’s good to have a separate set of eyes, and he’s a much better researcher than I am,” Byrns said.
Byrns has his son to weave through his material and tell him when
his PowerPoint slides are a little out of date. He also has a daughter
who is currently living with her family in Las Vegas.
Since coming here in 1999, the professor says he enjoys the Normal
community and the change of pace from his previous career out west.
“I love the fact that there is a local farming movement here,” Byrns said.
It is much cheaper for Byrns to buy organic products in the local
area rather than a city, and he likes the environmentally friendly
Aside from the town itself, Byrns loves working with students here at ISU.
“What keeps me here is the students and the opportunity to work with a new group every year,” Byrns said.
That feeling is mutual with the students, who enjoy having him as a teacher.
“I enjoyed his teaching style. Byrns has a passion for what he
teaches and makes sure that students understand what he tells them,”
Maggie Ziemann, sophomore public relations major, said.
Ziemann took his general education course, HSC 156, in the fall of
2012. Byrns has gained popularity over the years and is well-liked by
students and faculty.
“I love the courses I’m teaching, and I can’t think of anything else I’d rather teach,” Byrns said.