July 25th, 2024

Retired military scientist returns home from China

By Tim Kalinowski on July 25, 2017.


Retired DRDC Suffield military scientist John Cherwonogrodzky recently returned from an interesting teaching experience at Shaanxi Normal University in Xi’an, China.

Cherwonogrodzky was one of 15 international lecturers invited to spend nearly two weeks from July 3 to July 14 teaching Chinese students. Cherwonogrodzky spoke on “bio-threats” at the university’s College of Life Sciences.

“China is serious about investing in its youth, and these youth are serious about learning,” said Cherwonogrodzky. “I had total freedom to talk on whatever I wanted. There was no censorship, guidance or demands. Whatever I wanted, it was fine. I think it is because they invite so many professors each summer and they assume you know what you are doing when they bring you in.”

Cherwonogrodzky says unlike many of the academics brought in for this lecture series, he has tons of practical field experience and research backing up his conclusions on bio-threats such as viruses, bacteria, natural toxins and chemical agents. It was a perspective his students seemed to find refreshing.

“A lot of the professors they get talk about other peoples’ work, but I spoke to them about the work I actually did… So when I spoke about what the state of knowledge is, and where I believe it is different from their course textbooks, they really perked up.”

Besides having a jam-packed schedule of lectures over the two weeks he was in China, Cherwonogrodzky also enjoyed several local cultural opportunities.

“In terms of sightseeing, I think the Terracotta Army, (depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China), was jaw-dropping. It’s a 56 square kilometre city which had been buried there. It was amazing seeing the Terracotta soldiers which had been reassembled over the years,” he said.

Cherwonogrodzky also admits to being amazed by how well the Chinese have integrated modern technology into even very traditional industries.

“We went to buy some fruit, and here is this peasant lady with her big hat and rough, orange farmers’ coat. She pops out an iPad, and she is doing all these deals right there on the street with customers using these E-transfers through their phones. I asked my translator if I were to buy something, would she have change? And I was asked: ‘Why on earth would she carry change?'”

Cherwonogrodzky felt privileged to have been asked to share some of his knowledge in China.

“It was a very positive experience,” he confirmed.

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