Hello. I'm David Pink. I've collected some typical questions that people ask me and so, I'll print them here and answer them. To begin, I'm a Physicist and a faculty member in the Physics Department at St Francis Xavier University. My area of expertise is Theoretical Physics. This means that I make mathematical models of physical phenomena and do calculations.

Teach Physics – and I enjoy it very much. I've taught students from first year to graduate school. Generally I teach courses in quantum mechanics, electromagnetic theory and biophysics, but I have also taught courses in, for example, statistical mechanics, group theory, first-year Physics for non-physicists, solid state physics and mathematical physics. And, I do research.

I do Research in the area of Biophysics. I invent mathematical models of Biological Membranes and the molecules which interact with them. In the last two years I have been working on modelling the effects of electrostatic interactions between membranes and large biological molecules. Electrostatic interactions is one way in which biological systems (for example cells, bacteria and viruses) first experience their surroundings so it's important to understand their effects. Right now I'm modelling the interactions between membranes and (i) DNA, (ii) the protein, cytochrome c and (iii) bacterial peptidoglycan networks. I use computer simulation to model and study them.

The University pays for indirect costs. The direct costs are paid from grants that I receive from NSERC, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and other organizations. These grants pay the salaries of people who I employ and the costs of attending scientific meetings.

StFXU is an undergraduate university. So... I employ undergraduate students who work on the research projects. I consider this to be a very important part of my job as an educator. They work full-time during the summer, and part-time during the Academic year. Some of them make substantial contributions to the projects. They can become quite independent – and I encourage this. For their degree, they write a thesis about the research that they did.
I also employ Ms. Bonnie Quinn as Senior Research Associate. She writes computer programs and helps direct the students. I think that we have a productive, friendly research group.

This is something that I try to head off. I encourage them to think about a variety of careers - not simply aiming to become a university professor.

You're right. All my research programs are done in collaboration with friends at StFX and elsewhere. I work with people in Truro, Halifax, Montreal, Guelph, Lisbon, Munich, Wuerzburg and Moscow. I enjoy working and being with them - but I don't enjoy the journeys needed to get there!

Not really! Just because I enjoy it doesn't make it soft! In fact, it takes a fair bit of effort! I mean... it doesn't all just flow freely, you know! I have to think sometimes!
But I do have other research interests because I feel strongly that university researchers should try to do something for the society which pays their wages.
For example, I'm involved in a program with a colleague who works in Agriculture to model cows mooching around a pasture. Are you surprised by this? Don't be. He thinks that this work has potential applications to animal selection and breeding. I talked about this project on the CBC radio program, "Quirks and Quarks".
I also run a small Food Research Laboratory. Its mandate is to work with industry. Right now, it's working on trying to develop infrared spectroscopic techniques to characterize seafood. It also designs value-added products using local resources.
My work with the cows and the Food Lab reflect, in a small way, my philosophy that, in these times, many researchers should work on finding solutions to problems which concern our societies.

Well... public service-stuff. I was on the NSERC Council for six years. I was Group Chair of its Physics Committees which give out money to researchers. I've been on most standing NSERC committees, some many times, as well as on many ad hoc ones. I advised on TRIUMF, the accelerator facility at UBC in Vancouver. I advised on major materials research facilities.
Now, I'm on the Board of Directors of CFI, the Canada Foundation for Innovation. I'm also on the Management Committee of XEDC, the Enterprise Development Centre in Antigonish, which is concerned with stimulating economic growth. I was chair of the Physics Department long ago. I've been on the usual University Committees.
I give public talks and appear on panels. I get invited to conferences and research workshops to talk about my work.
In 1998 I gave talks at the Workshop on Polymers and Biologically Relevant Materials, the Second Munich Workshop on Proteins at Soft Interfaces, the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research Workshop on Bacterial Cell Walls and the Canadian Association of Physicists Congress.
People ask me to write reports on things that interest them.
If you want numbers, I've published about a hundred research papers, which actually isn't very much – some people have published a thousand!

You can frequently reach me by snailmail and, more quickly, via email (dpink@stfx.ca). But, please, no SPAM - it's not worth your while.


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