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He's done his research

There's a new face in University Hall
by Jodeen Litwin

For someone who's just moved into a new office on campus, Gary Kachanoski fits into his new surroundings quite comfortably.

On this mid-August day, the new vice-president (research) is busily typing away on his keyboard, hurrying to wrap things up. Finishing his work on the computer, he briskly walks out of his office to grab a coffee before continuing on with the morning. "I'm addicted," he says with a hearty laugh that lights up University Hall.

Settled back in his office with file folders scattered oil his desk—a telltale sign that he's still in a moving-in phase— Kachanoski explains his background and some of the goals that lie has set for himself in his new position.

"I have a strong researcher's perspective, and I intend to bring that frame of reference to my new role at the University of Alberta," says the former dean of the College of Graduate Studies and Research at the University of Saskatchewan. One way he plans to do this is by setting up a series of meetings with faculty members from various departments. "I want to listen to them. Find out what their goals and aspirations are in respect to research, what they want to accomplish in the near future, and what role they think my office can play in helping them do this," he says.

Kachanoski also wants to strengthen the public's understanding of the connection that exists between research and teaching at the U of A. "The linkage between students and teaching and research is critical for us to maintain," says Kachanoski, who is developing a number of communication programs to get this message out.

Kachanoski, who is an accomplished academic and the past president of the Canadian Society of Soil Science, intends to continue to conduct his own research while serving as the vicepresident (research). He still has an NSERC grant, which was renewed this year. "With a big increase," he says, smiling. His specialty is soil physics. Already anticipating the next question, Kachanoski explains that this is the study of soil physical properties and processes, including the movement of water and chemicals through the environment, mainly through soil. Kachanoski's work in the area of the movement of water and chemicals through agricultural and natural ecosystems is well regarded, and in 1997 he was named to the Canadian Conservation Hall of Fame.

While Kachanoski is talking about his research and his former role at the University of Saskatchewan it becomes evident that he is a strong supporter of students. "Working with students is great," he says. It's an involvement he plans to maintain. He will continue to supervise three of his graduate students who are finishing up their research at the University of Saskatchewan.

Family matters

Moving to Edmonton was a family affair, and the second big move that his family has experienced. The last one was in 1996 when they moved from Guelph, Ontario, where Kachanoski was the Chair of Land Resource Science at the University of Guelph, to Saskatoon.

Kachanoski has three children, one of whom—his daughter who is enrolled in arts—will be joining him on campus in the fall. It is obvious that Kachanoski's family is extremely important to him. "They are amazingly supportive," he says. And Kachanoski says spending time with them is one way he maintains a healthy balance in his life. Another way is by spending time at the family's rustic cabin, which is located in northern Saskatchewan and only accessible by boat."I go up there with my father and family. It's my sort of place to get away." And while there, he makes sure he goes fishing. "The people that you are with, being out on the lake, the natural setting ... it's just outstanding." He says one of his big accomplishments took place this spring when he took his father to the cabin and the two of them went fishing. He caught a 40-pound lake trout when I was guiding him. This is a lifetime fish. I mean, I have never caught one that big—doubt I ever will — so this was fantastic."

The interview is wrapping up, and Kachanoski pauses to take a sip of his coffee, which looks like it needs a refill. But before he heads to the coffee pot and then the next item on his agenda, Kachanoski makes it quite clear that he is happy to be in Edmonton and working at the University. He is, he says, eager to tackle his demanding schedule and to work hard to help guide the U of A on its path to be one of the world's best universities.

And now it's time for a refill.

Published Autumn 2001.

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