I was fortunate to be born and raised in St. Petersburg, Russia's former capital and a city of unparalleled charm and striking contrasts. Watch Sokurov's Russian Ark and then read Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment – you will get the idea. This city, known as the Northern Capital, Venice of the North, Northern Palmyra and, colloquially, as Piter, is famous for the grandeur of its Imperial past and for its innumerable monuments and cultural attractions. My childhood neighborhood, Vasil'evskiy Island, well-endowed with museums and historical buildings, is also home to three splendid mineral collections: in the Mining Institute (one of the largest collections in Europe), in the Russian Geological Institute (VSEGEI), and in the Department of Mineralogy at St. Petersburg State University. It took me a single visit to the Mining Institute Museum back in 1979 to get "hooked" on rocks and minerals for life. It was only natural, then, that I went to study geology at St. Petersburg State University after highschool. Choosing among the Departments was a no-brainer: minerals still had as much appeal to me as they'd had in the fifth grade. The Department of Mineralogy is one of the oldest Departments at the University and, which turned out particularly fortuitous for me, one of the centers of alkaline-rock research in the country. It's enough to say that the Department Head at the time was Aleksandr Kukharenko, the brain behind pyrope-based kimberlite exploration techniques. The University was a fantastic milieu for both learning and casual interaction. Many of the fabulous people that I met there have been my good friends, support and inspiration ever since. This, first and foremost, refers to my wife Katya, who also shares my penchant for alkaline rocks, sea, belles lettres and purple color. My mentors, Andrei Bulakh and Mikhail Evdokimov, not only communicated the "alkaline contagion" to me, but also made sure that this petrologically biased affection evolved into postsecondary degrees.
After graduating magna cum laude with a diploma (equivalent to an MSc degree) in mineralogy/ geochemistry in 1993, I joined the PhD program at the same Department and carried on for three more years as a full-time student and part-time instructor. My PhD thesis, entitled Perovskite-group Minerals from Alkaline Igneous Rocks of the Fennoscandian Shield, laid the way to many years of work on various fascinating rocks and minerals from the Kola Alkaline Province. The highlight of my short teaching carrier at StPSU was developing a senior undergrad course on The History of Lapidary Art, which covered the last 4,000 years of gemstone fashioning from Egyptian scarab amulets to concave facetting. From 1997 to 2000, I did my postdoctoral research on perovskites and associated minerals with Roger Mitchell, one of the world's leading kimberlite and carbonatite experts. In addition to looking down the microscope at the strangest rocks "you ever did see", I consulted for various exploration companies and did some sessional teaching.
In 2001, I joined the faculty of the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada. Our Department is an exceptional setting for instruction, interaction and research, both in terms of its work atmosphere and the resources available here. Manitoba, the midmost of the Canadian Provinces, boasts fabulous outdoors and some of the most interesting geology in the country.
Recent Awards and Recognitions:
• Communication Officer, International Mineralogical Association; for news and events, check out the IMA page on Facebook
• W.W. Hutchison Medal (2011), Geological Association of Canada
• Young Scientist Award (2005), Mineralogical Association of Canada
• Councillor (2005-2008), Mineralogical Association of Canada
• Certificate of Excellence in Teaching, University of Manitoba Teaching Services (2006)