Despite his modest appearance, Dr. Peter Kusalik has a dark secret: he desires to be a mad scientist from a horror movie. Instead, he'll have to settle for being the new University of Calgary chemistry department head.
Kusalik grew up on a farm near Taber and graduated from the University of Lethbridge with a bachelor of science. He left Canada to do his post-doctoral work at the Australian National University Research School of Chemistry, which was an eye–opening experience. When he returned, he accepted a position of assistant professor at Dalhousie University. He became a full professor 16 years later.
"One day, when I was at the Dalhousie University, I was doing a demonstration of what happens when you mix dry ice with water," said Kusalik. "I started dropping dry ice in a beaker, which produced a lot of smoke. A student told me I look like a mad scientist with all the smoke coming out of the beaker."
He moved to the U of C in September 2005 to study theoretical chemistry and how crystals grow at a molecular level. Kusalik's first plan as the new head of the chemistry department is not all smoke and mirrors. He hopes to review and implement the department's five-year plan this winter. Two of the department's short–term goals include the establishment of a chemistry graduate student society and resolving Chem 201/203 summer course issues for undergraduate students. He believes the five-year plan will make the chemistry department to one of the five best teaching departments in Canada.
"Researching and teaching are in this relationship where they affect each other, both good and bad, and you just can't have one without another," he said.