It is a tremendous honor to be here today for this award, and the fact that this occasion coincides with the celebration of MAC?s 50th anniversary makes it even more momentous for me. I must say that MAC Council chose ambush tactics for communicating this astounding news to me, as if they were making sure I would remember that day forever. I recall myself going through Pierrette?s memo with an agenda for the May Council meeting and, all of a sudden, seeing my name next to the line ?Young Scientist Award.? My most immediate reaction was that there ought to have been some sort of mix-up because I never win anything! Secondly, I thought to myself, MAC may be in need of many things (like volunteers, for example), but there certainly has never been any shortage of young talented people in this organization. As I was pondering on Pierrette?s memo, seeking, perhaps, an alternate meaning to the words ?The Young Scientist award will be awarded to,? Norman?s head poked through the doorway, and he asked, ?So, did you win anything lately?
As I came to realize that MAC was not pulling a practical joke on me, I also realized that this prestigious award is not as much recognition of my achievements, as a tribute to all the wonderful people that have supported and encouraged me, and all the magnificent places that have inspired me. I was fortunate to grow up in St. Petersburg, a city known for its rich and sustained academic traditions. Among its innumerable cultural attractions, St. Petersburg is home to three splendid mineral collections, two of which trace their origins to the Siberian exploits of Severgin, Archbishop Nil, and many others in the 1700s and 1800s. One day, my dad took me to the museum in the Mining Academy, one of the largest mineral collections in the world, and, as soon as I saw a 3000-pound malachite colossus from the Urals and a plate of Alaskan schist studded with almandine crystals, I was ?hooked.? I soon learnt that all minerals and rocks had a story to tell, but it is only a select caste of people who can understand their language (and I don?t mean the crystal healers). Thus, in grade 5, I decided I wanted to be nothing but a geologist.
My interest in Earth sciences grew, and the Department of Geology at St. Petersburg State University was a natural choice when I graduated from high school. At university, I met a number of fantastic people who would then have a defining influence on my choices in career and life. First and foremost, I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to my wife Katya for her love and support over the past sixteen years, and also for putting up with piles of journals and analytical data on our dining table, as well as my perpetual attachment to a laptop and frequent detachment from family activities and house chores because ?my grant proposal is due at the Office of Research Services tomorrow.? At the university, I also met my future advisors, Andrei Bulakh and Mikhail Evdokimov, who introduced me to the exotic realm of carbonatites, melilitolites, ijolites, and other alkaline rocks, whose correct pronunciation is as disputable as their genesis. My advisors generously shared their time and wisdom with me and made sure that my petrologically biased affection evolved into postsecondary degrees.
My first exposure to the western approach to 'doing science' took place in 1992 when I was on a student-exchange leave at the University of California - Berkeley. In this regard, I would like to acknowledge Rudy Wenk for teaching me the importance of cutting-edge analytical techniques and computer tools for petrologic and mineralogical research. Following my graduation in 1996, we moved to Thunder Bay, where I was offered a Post Doctoral Fellowship appointment with Roger Mitchell. Roger is such a towering figure in alkaline petrology that I accepted his invitation without hesitation. The two most important things I learnt from Roger were that every good petrologist also has to be a good mineralogist (and vice versa) and, secondly, that we should not discard any accessory minerals as insignificant. Every little speck of dust that we come across in a rock holds clues to how that rock has formed. I am immensely grateful to Roger for that. My work at Lakehead would not have been possible without the expertise of the staff of the Instrumentation Lab and, particularly, its director Allan MacKenzie. I must also say that Roger and Valerie, and Allan and Judy MacKenzie went out of their way to make us feel at home in Thunder Bay and reduce the culture shock. Since 2001, we have been calling Winnipeg home and, needless to say, the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Manitoba is the kind of work setting that would make any mineralogist happy. Everyone at U of M has been great, but I would particularly like to acknowledge Norman Halden and Frank Hawthorne for their mentorship and for guiding me through the ?painful? metamorphosis of passing from a post-doc to a university professor.
My research has always been collaborative, and I am indebted to all my collaborators, past and present, for their enthusiasm, insight, and patience. There is one name that I would like to single out and add to the ones I have already mentioned. It is that of the versatile carbonatitologist, my good friend and field companion Anatoly Zaitsev. About 30% of my published work has come out in The Canadian Mineralogist, which I honestly consider to be the most balanced, the most democratic, and the most aesthetic mineralogical journal in existence. None of it would have been possible without the dedicated efforts of Bob Martin, to whom I also extend my gratitude
Last, but not least, I would like to thank my three-year-old son Darian for teaching me that there is more to life than minerals and for his keen interest in my PowerPoint presentations. Thank you.
Anton R. Chakhmouradian