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Superb scientist

Date Published: 07/31/2020 [Source]

James Burkhart is ending his distinguished career just as he began it 55 years ago with the blessing of Maurice O. Graff.

It was summer 1965 when Burkhart, an electronics technician fresh out of the U.S. Air Force, returned to his hometown for college. Physics professor Richard Blade asked the undergraduate Burkhart to teach a lab. That required approval from Provost Graff. After Burkhart agreed to a haircut, Graff approved the unusual arrangement and Burkhart's illustrious teaching career began. Now, Burkhart is receiving the distinguished alumni award named in Graff's honor.

After getting his bachelor's degree, Burkhart taught calculus-based physics while earning a master's and doctorate at UW-Milwaukee. Doctorate in hand, he became an assistant professor at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., in 1973. He quickly caught on to sign language at the country's only accredited college for the deaf.

But after four years of a nearly 150-mile daily commute, Burkhart moved his young family to the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs. There he fused a long, outstanding career of teaching, research and administration, along with a knack for high-quality measurements of radon before retiring in 2018.

Following extensive work with radon in his Colorado Springs lab, Burkhart built a radon chamber. The chamber was one of only two nationwide to certify radon testing devices for Environmental Protection Agency standards.

In 1995, the U.S.EPA named Burkhart director of the Western Regional Radon Training Center, in which he led instruction for countless radon measurement courses. His two-day classes prepared thousands of health and radon professionals, realtors, post office employees and others to pass a national exam to operate a radon enterprise, championing efforts to reduce radon-induced lung cancer.

"He has touched and inspired thousands of radon professionals with his classes, continuing education seminars and research presentations," says Dallas Jones, executive director of the American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists Inc. "He loves his students as much as he loves teaching them."