Dr. Tantiana Burns Receives Evelyn Berry Teacher of the Year Award for Excellence and Innovation in Classroom Education

Posted by painewebmaster | 07/14/2016 06:00 AM

Dr. Tantiana Burns, Assistant Professor of Biology, received the Evelyn Berry Teacher of the Year Award for excellence in classroom education and having mentored students majoring in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). She has devoted much of her time to serving as a faculty mentor in undergraduate research focusing on bioremediation of Benzo-a-pyrene, a known carcinogen using an algal and fungal system at Paine College. Currently, Dr. Burns works with students on a project that analyzes soil samples from select locations in the Central Savannah River Area. She guides students in developing research protocols, gathering records and data, and recording outcomes. Undergraduate STEM research has been proven to motivate students to pursue careers in the STEM workforce and better prepare them for advanced studies.

The Evelyn Berry award was created to recognize faculty who have completed a minimum of three years of service to the College and have the ability to make material important and relevant to current life. .  The Evelyn Berry award comes with a cash gift. Dr. Burns motivates students to stay on the path to successfully completing STEM undergraduate degrees while challenging them to embrace research.    

Since receiving the award during Paine’s Commencement Convocation held in May 2016, many of her students have graduated and are now on the path to pursuing advanced degrees in STEM-related areas.    

Dr. Samuel Sullivan, President of Paine College, said, “Dr. Burns’ dedication to students and her ability to engage them in an interactive stimulating learning environment makes her stand out amongst world-class educators.”

Dr. Burns has been a full-time Biology instructor and mentor for students at Paine College since 2013. In addition to teaching classes and conducting research, she manages fellowships and internships for students who pursue experiences outside of the classroom and renders professional services on several committees at Paine. Furthermore, she serves on the College’s Honors, Scholarships and Awards Committee, selects students for academic scholarships, and coordinates the Annual Honors Day Program. She also serves on the Faculty Courtesies and Presidential Appeals Committees. 

Dr. Burns is the campus coordinator for the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program that is designed to increase the quality and quantity of students who successfully complete STEM baccalaureate degrees with a focus on increasing the number of students to academically qualify for graduate school.  

Her colleagues have commented that she is a naturally gifted teacher who is committed to excellence and student success. She spends much of her time during the summer mentoring and guiding high school students in various research areas. One of the summer research projects looked at the effect of Ethanol concentrations in Gasoline. Dr. Burns passes on her passion for curiosity to her students. She encourages them to embark upon the path of exploration and discovery in and out of the classroom. 

She said, “I want my students to develop a burning desire for research and exploration”. “Innovative teaching styles help students to stay motivated and interested in STEM fields. Every day, it is my hope that I have inspired students to aspire and motivated them to rise to levels of excellence. The most valuable amenity that a professor can offer to students is his/her time.” 

Dr. Maya Angelou’s quote, “nothing will work unless you do”, has undergirded Dr. Burns’ work ethics for many years. “I have often communicated to my students that if they want to succeed, they must do the work,” said Dr. Burns. “I am hopeful that they will integrate this concept into their work ethics and ongoing research.” 

Lastly, Dr. Burns stated, “I am honored that my peers have selected me to receive this prestigious award.”  “It is my wish that my students will continue to put in the work that is required to achieve high levels of excellence in advanced STEM-related studies and stay on the path to rewarding professions in the STEM workforce.” 

Dr. Burns earned her Bachelors of Science degree in Biology from South Carolina State University in 2002 and completed her doctoral studies in Toxicology from University of Georgia in 2008. She is the co-author of several scientific publications on toxicology. Her dissertation is titled: Fate of the Mycotoxin Fumonisin B1 during Alkaline Cooking of Cultured and Whole Kernel Corn. 

Dr. Burns is the daughter of Iris and Jeffrey Burns of Augusta, Georgia. 

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Story written by By Helene T. Carter.

For more information about STEM programs at Paine College, visit www.paine.edu, or contact the Office of Communications and Marketing at 706.396.7591. For additional inquiries regarding Dr. Burns’ research and publications, contact her at 706.495.2338 or email: Tburns@paine.edu.