Sixteen months ago David Wishart, '83 BSc, had a tough choice to make. The young scientist had job offers from half a dozen universities impressed by his background in molecular biochemistry and eager to obtain his expertise in nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy.
Wishart, who obtained his graduate degrees at Yale University and was associated with the Protein Engineering Network of Centres of Excellence at the U of A as a postdoctoral fellow, agonized over the decision for weeks. There were very lucrative offers elsewhere—some American universities offering start-up grants of more than $1 million—but in the end he opted for the U of A, accepting an appointment in the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, where he holds the Bristol Myers Squibb Chair in Peptide Metabolism.
As much as anything it was a lifestyle choice. "I think Edmonton, and Alberta in general, is just one of the nicest places where you can live ... It's not as flashy as Toronto, or Vancouver, or New York City, but it's an affordable place, a pretty place, and it's accessible to some great recreational areas."
And Edmonton has always been "home." Wishart was born and raised in the Alberta capital. Both his parents are U of A grads (his dad, William Wishart, '56 BSc, '58 MSc, did his graduate degree just down the hall from David's current office in the Dentistry Pharmacy Centre), and they still live in Edmonton. Wishart and his wife were expecting their first child, and they wanted the child (born this January, a girl ) to grow up close to family.
A year after having accepted his U of A appointment, Wishart doesn't regret the choice. "Everything has turned up roses," he says, pointing in particular to the support he has received from the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research and a "minor miracle" that has provided a state-of-the-art spectrometer for his work. With the goodwill and support of a good many people on campus — he mentions the University's vice-president (research and external affairs), the vice-president (finance), and the Pharmacy dean — Wishart was able to "cobble together" enough money to purchase the console of an old spectrometer that had belonged to the Department of Biochemistry and combine it with a new super-conducting magnet to obtain a serviceable piece of equipment.
Another highlight, says Wishart, has been the "really first-rate" students and technicians he has worked with —"as good or better," he says, than you would find anywhere else.
"This has truly been an exceptional year," he says. "I'm sure I'll look back at it 20 years from now and say `God, I can't believe it really happened."'
Published Autumn 1996.