Brethren faculty report on conference at N. Korean university




Robert Shank was one of the speakers at PUST international conference
Photo courtesy of Robert Shank
Robert Shank (center) was one of the speakers at the recent international conference at PUST, a university in Pyongyan, North Korea. Shank is dean of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. He and his wife, Linda, are teaching at PUST with sponsorship from the Church of the Brethren Global Mission and Service program.

Pyongyang University of Science and Technology in North Korea held its first International Conference on Science and Technology on Oct. 4-7 with 27 foreign and almost as many DPRK guests/speakers.

The conference opened with keynote speakers Nobel Laureate Peter Agree addressing "Aquaporins" and Lord David Alton essaying on "Education for Virtue." Parallel sessions were then held on 1) Computer/Information Technology, 2) Agriculture and Life Sciences, 3) International Finance/Management, and 4) Science Diplomacy and Environment, followed by a panel discussion of integrating educational training. I and my department DPRK partner co-chaired the Ag/Life Science session by alternating introduction of speaker/topics. My co-chair also presented on bacterial cellulose filters for research and industry. The conference closed with a day long tour of Pyongyang city attractions and the national apple research farm.
 
DPRK and foreign scientists and students had ample time to share and question together during coffee and meals since they were all housed and fed on campus. Among the presentations, there was much mutual admiration between students and speakers, especially when former astronaut David Helmers gave a side presentation of his four space missions to a packed room. From outer space he decided to devote the rest of his life to nourishing our planet's people, and presented his Baylor research on the etiology and physiology of malnutrition.

In other presentations, Paul McNamara, University of Illinois Agricultural Economics extensionist, reported on working models of technology transfer throughout the world and the importance of getting research results to the local producer. David Chang showed vivid photos of his MD Anderson team's ability to do reconstructive bone and tissue surgery on cancer patients. Chin Ok Lee from Rockefeller University showed how Digitalis (foxglove) affects the strength of the heartbeat in aging patients. A DPRK researcher presented his work on detection of avian influenza virus with Monoclonal antibodies. And my co-chair presented his work on bacterial cellulose nanofilters.

Our graduate students had many good questions for the speakers and my botany students were amazed that they had just studied Active Facilitated Transport among cells and completely understood the Nobel laureate's work on Aquaporins. Our DPRK administrative partners, our session co-chairman, students, and guest speakers all agreed that the conference was a huge success and should be repeated again next year.

Any professionals interested in getting on the rostrum for next year should contact me now. Our 16 graduate students and 34 undergraduate students have varied interests and we have open teaching positions in microbiology, tissue culture engineering, and Genomics. Teaching positions are available for 6 to 16 weeks starting with the March semester.
 
-- Robert Shank is dean of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology in North Korea. He and his wife, Linda, are teaching at PUST with sponsorship from the Church of the Brethren Global Mission and Service program. An additional reflection by Lord David Alton on the conference and history of PUST is at http://davidalton.net/2011/10/14/report-on-the-first-international-conference-to-be-held-at-
pyongyang-university-of-science-and-technology-and-how-the-university-came-into-being
.

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