Dr. Ray Burkett
Professor of Biology


M. A. & Ph.D., University of Kansas

B. A.,  Stephen F. Austin State University


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Welcome to my Professorís Page.  Click on brown areas for additional information about each subject.  (09/08/06)

In order to access your WebCT materials for any of the following courses, log on at: https://webct.southwest.tn.edu/webct/public/home.pl  If you are on campus, simply type webct for the URL in Internet Explorer.

The following courses have been or are being developed for web-assisted or online offering: Introduction to Biology I (BIOL 1010), Introduction to Biology II (BIOL 1020), General Biology I (BIOL 1110), General Biology II (BIOL 1120), (Prin of Anat & Phys I- BIOL 2010 & Prin of Anat & Phys II - BIOL 2020), and Natural Sciences (NSCI 1030 - 3 credit-hours and NSCI 1031 - 1 credit-hour lab). This interdisciplinary course is being expanded into a two-semester sequence (Environmental Science I  & II - NSCI 1110 and NSCI 1120), and will involve a number of Laboratory Exercises and Projects.  I have also taught a number of other courses (see Qualifications).  These courses are either web assisted (partially online), or completely online. Note: An on-campus laboratory is scheduled for Anatomy & Physiology courses, as well as Intro. Biology and General Biology.  All courses will follow a basic Grading Policy, and will include writing assignments, which should be checked for correct spelling and grammar.

Please write all papers using the American Psychological Association (APA) format; see: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handouts/research/r_apa.html for examples of citations of outside references.

In order to do well in any of the above courses, you must first understand science and biology. Each of the courses include information and concepts from many areas of science; Environmental Science also includes many concepts and applications from numerous other disciplines. In order to better understand anatomy and physiology, biology, or environmental science, one must understand certain concepts from chemistry, physical sciences, geography, social sciences, and logic. In addition, you will find that life experiences which enable relating to a particular topic, may vastly enhance your ability to learn and understand concepts and facts that pertain to each course. All of these courses contain an enormous amount of terms to memorize, facts to incorporate into understanding the 'big picture,' and many, sometimes very abstract concepts, that you will need to understand in order to succeed in your course of study. You should have learned the following information before graduating from High School K-12_Science Standards. Whether you succeed or fail will also depend upon how much time and effort you are willing to put into the course, how regularly you study, and how much attention you pay to details. 

In addition to classroom activities, numerous activities are available for each course on the Internet; links for these activities are found on each course syllabus. If you plan to enroll in an online or web-assisted course, you must first take the Online Orientation and fill out a Permit to Register for an Online Course: (http://ww2.southwest.tn.edu/orientation).  Please click and read: Online Resources for Dr. Burkett's Classes. Tennessee, like most states, has an online degree program, and you can now earn college degrees entirely online (http://webct.tn.regentsdegrees.org:8900).  

I want to help you become the very best that you can be, but you must realize that, ultimately, you are responsible for educating yourself. I cannot teach you a thing if you are not willing to put forth the effort to learn. We begin learning from the day that we are born (some people state that we learn even before our birth), and we should continue to learn for the rest of our lives, because things constantly change. It has been suggested that instead of thinking of K-12 as our period of formal learning (many of us go from K-16 or beyond), we should think of our education as K-100. My best advice to you is to spend every chance possible reading everything pertaining to your chosen field (and others) that you can get your hands on. Read and organize every bit of information that will help you. All fields of knowledge are interconnected and interrelated. Information that you learn in each course can be related to other courses and to various aspects of your life. Knowledge has connections to mind, body, and spirit; likewise, even your every thought and belief can cause profound internal chemical and physical modifications that may change you for better or worse. All science courses have numerous applications to everyday living, health, and to all life experiences. For example, see A&P clinical aspects. A good online resource for learning, critical thinking, test taking skills, managing time, overcoming anxiety, concept mapping, study techniques, and using the Internet can be found at the McGraw-Hill website: http://www.mhhe.com/EnvironmentalScience

Our nervous system can only detect a small percentage of that which makes up reality, and we can never completely know reality, but only our perception of it. Based upon observations of the material universe (which is the only thing that science can study) the following conclusions can be made: The universe has been constantly expanding since it began with a big bang approximately 13.7 billion years ago, and, according to estimates made in some of the latest books on cosmology, it will continue to expand for several billion more years. Our solar system, consisting of the sun, nine planets, and millions of asteroids (both within and outside the orbits of the planets) is now believed to have formed about 4.6 billion years ago from the collapse of a cloud of gas, dust, and ice. The earth is approximately 92 million miles from the sun (about 8 light minutes away), while the orbits of Neptune, Pluto, and the outer asteroids range into billions of miles from the sun. Since the launch of the Hubble telescope, we can now observe phenomena undreamed of a few years ago, including entire galaxies colliding (resulting in both destruction and creation of new stars, as well as production of organic chemicals). It is difficult to imagine the universe with a diameter of approximately 27.4 billion light-years; our own galaxy, the Milky Way galaxy (at 100,000 light years in diameter), is only a speck among billions of other galaxies. Even our local cluster of 26 galaxies is small compared to our supercluster of galaxies, which is about 110 million light-years in diameter. At 186,000 miles per second, light travels nearly 6 trillion miles per year; multiply that distance by the diameter of the universe (27.2 billion light years), and you have some major distance to travel {approximately 164 sextillion miles - 164, followed by 21 zeroes!}.  For an exciting daily view of some distant regions of the cosmos, visit http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/astropix.html.

Everything in the universe, including yourself, continuously changes. Since every breath you take and every thought you think changes your bodyís chemistry, nothing ever stays the same. However, from our perspective of a relatively short life-span, we tend to think of things as remaining static. The total amount of knowledge doubles in about 10 years now, and as computers improve our ability to communicate that knowledge to everyone who has access to the Internet, change will occur even faster. So, potentially, there will be new things to learn every day of your life. Our own solar system is believed to have formed about eight billion years ago, and we have evidence that life began to develop about four billion years ago. Our present view of the universe is quite different from the static universe (with the earth at the center) that was believed to exist about 3000 years ago. However, in the 6th century B.C., a man named Lao-Tzu wrote the Tao Te Ching, which declared that everything constantly changed.  The Tao (pronounced Dow), means "the way," which became a major system of thought in China.  The Chinese even developed an atomic theory long before atoms were "discovered" by the Western world.

Evidence of life on other planets at this time is incomplete or controversial, but with recent discoveries of other planetary systems, there is no reason not to believe that life has developed in perhaps billions of other locations. In terms of our own planet, we are familiar with most major forms of life, having just recently discovered new major forms at the bottom of the oceans (see Classification_of_organisms). However, we have only just begun to catalog the suspected millions of species of insects residing in the tropics. And, with increased use of antibiotics, we are discovering new forms of microbes nearly every month. In terms of creation, the process is a never-ending one; living and nonliving things continue to change, and a major function of science is to discover those changes and produce theories to help explain and understand those changes. In order to understand those changes we must understand the earth. We must be able to understand the earth in order to understand the environment and life.

The major reason I became a biology professor is that I have always enjoyed being outdoors (in the "real world"). Of course, I also enjoy a comfortable place to be in, away from extremes of cold, heat, rain, mosquitoes, etc. that one encounters in the outdoors. But one should experience the world as other living species do in order to appreciate the world that humankind has created. One of the best experiences that anyone could have as a child is to be involved in Scouting, which provides numerous opportunities for learning about all aspects of life, as well as development of character. My interests and experiences outdoors led me to want to learn everything that I could about the world and the universe. If you think fiction is strange, get into science (especially quantum physics and superstring theory). Every new discovery raises more questions that are waiting to be answered. One of the best things to bring with you to every class is your curiosity.   

Doing scientific research can be very exciting as well as tedious and sometimes disappointing. But it is almost always a challenge. I not only enjoy teaching science, but also like to "do" science, and I have been involved in research through Austin Peay State University from time to time.    See Strengths and Limitations of Science. The last step of the scientific method calls for a scientist to share new knowledge with the scientific community by publishing articles in scientific journals or books and by presenting the information at scientific meetings.  Scientists must first investigate what is already known about a subject by reviewing relevant literature. In scientific writing, information from  published sources are quoted, and references are listed in alphabetical order.  Many scientific journals use the following method to report information: "Enger and Smith (2002:67-69) outlined the scientific method...etc." Most journals do not include the page number, but some include other information, such as: "Burkett (Jour. Tn. Acad. Sci. 66(4):163) stated that....," in which the journal, volume, number, and page are given. Or, you may wish to make a statement or short quote, followed by (Burkett, 1991:161) within parentheses. If you quote more than one paper by Burkett published in 1991, you will need to list them as 1991a and 1991b in your Literature Cited section at the end of your report.  Be sure to give sources of all information in your reports.  Paraphrase any information that is not directly quoted, but give credit for the source, i.e., do not plagiarize. My research interests lie in the areas of ecology and herpetology (see Publications and http://www.cnah.org), and my current research involves revision of distribution records for Tennessee Reptiles.  Records on Tennessee Amphibians are on the Austin Peay State University website  (http://www.apsu.edu/amatlas).

In addition to studying scientific laws, Deepak Chopra, M. D., who has written many books of interest to anyone studying medicine or other aspects of science, has written two books dealing with spiritual laws.  These may help you as a student, as well as being of benefit to those of you who are parents. These are: These are: The Seven Spiritual Laws for Success, and The Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents. Spiritual laws are in accord with the major teachings of virtually all major religions as well as with those of science.  In addition to my interests in science, I am also working on a proposed course entitled Man as a Physical and Spiritual Being, which will examine relationships between Science and Religion.  What the discovery of evolutionary principles did for biology in the 19th century, the discovery of general and special relativity by Albert Einstein near the beginning of the 20th century, did for physics and modern astronomy.  Einstein realized that there was more to life than the physical, as illustrated by his statement concerning body and soul in his younger years.  I quote it here, in the original: 

"Korper und Seele sind nicht zwei verschiedende Dinge, sondern nur zwei verschiedende Arten, dasselbe Ding wahrzunehmen.  Entsprachend sind Physik und Psychologie nur zwei verschiedende unsere Erlebnisse auf dem Weg systematischen Denkens miteinander zu verknupfen."  

"Body and soul are not two separate things, but only two different ways of naming the same thing.  Similarly, physics and psychology are only two different attempts to link our experiences together by way of systematic thought."   Dukas, Helen and Banesh Hoffman, Ed.  1979.  Albert Einstein, The Human Side, New Glimpses From His Archives.  Princeton University Press

I moved to Memphis in 1972, shortly before Shelby State (now STCC) opened itís doors for the first classes. Before becoming a full-time Professor at Shelby State, I served as: Director of Transfer and General Studies and Associate Professor of Biology, Chairman of the Division of Arts and Sciences, and Head of the Department of Natural Sciences. Prior to that, I taught at South Texas Jr. College (Houston) for one year, and was a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Texas at Arlington and Assistant Professor of Biology at Texas Womanís University for five years. While in graduate school at the University of Kansas, I worked as both a teaching assistant and research assistant, and as an undergraduate at Stephen F. Austin State College, I worked as a research assistant and assistant curator of herpetology.  In addition to teaching, being a professor involves many other activities (see Activities).