John Janovy Jr. took a local pastor’s retirement advice to get up and out of the house every day.
Eight years into retirement, the 81-year-old former professor of biological sciences still heads to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln downtown campus nearly every weekday. At the Student Union, he sets aside an hour or more to write. That generates about two books a year. Then Janovy walks to an office he was allotted by the university after accepting a buyout and retiring in 2011.
Although he no longer teaches college courses, Janovy is still making educational contributions to his favorite field of study — parasitology. Tapping into five decades of teaching and research, Janovy helped update several editions of the textbook Foundations of Parasitology and is currently writing a chapter on the history of parasitology for an online textbook.
Last year, his “Africa Notes: Reflections of an Ecotourist” was published by the Center for Great Plains Studies. Janovy, who dabbles in watercolor painting, drew all of the pen-and-ink scientific illustrations for the book, as well as authored it after visiting the African continent twice with his wife Karen.
He's remained involved with the American Society of Parasitologists, serving as vice president of the international organization in 2013 and president in 2014. Janovy took on the title of senior editor for a 100th anniversary publication titled “A Century of Parasitology,” reviewing submissions from colleagues around the world, including Nobel Prize winner William Campbell.
“I’ve always been a writer in addition to all the other stuff,” said Janovy, who authored the Gideon Marshall Mystery Series about a geologist from a liberal arts university in Iowa. “This is really a five-book essay on scientific literacy."
Sharing his vast knowledge of parasitology with the public is one of his biggest passions. Janovy, who is the vice president of the Friends of the State Museum Board, has been collaborating nearly full-time since last February with the University of Nebraska State Museum on a parasitology exhibit. It's one of seven new exhibits that will be housed on the fourth floor of Morrill Hall. The multi-million-dollar renovation opens in February.
“He’s been a real asset to the fourth-floor project,” said Mandy Haase-Thomas, the museum’s chief communications officer. “John has been a remarkable resource in creating that content.”
Janovy, who was interim state museum director from 1984-86 and 1994-96, pored over his own parasite slide collection and the museum’s research photo collection in pursuit of images to enhance the new exhibit. He also reviewed 20 years of microscopic video he recorded while teaching field parasitology at Cedar Point Biological Station near Ogallala.
A large chunk of his time has been devoted to reviewing progress on an 8-foot touch-screen table being built by Northern Lights Productions of Boston. It will serve as the focal point of the exhibit and offers six work stations for visitors to engage in the field of parasitology.
With single and multi-player modes available, visitors can experiment with digital dissection, examine parasite life cycles, encounter parasites in their natural environment and classify them. “They’ll be able to sort them out competitively if they want to,” Janovy explained.
Added Haase-Thomas: “The strength of this thing is there are so many opportunities for coming together to learn science."
Additional exhibit components include audio/video sessions with parasitologists, a display showing what the museum collects and why, and parasite viewing through microscopes.
“You take 50 years of your professional experience and convert it into an activity that teaches that expertise to a broad range of people,” Janovy said. “That’s what natural museums do.”