Meet Dominik Wujastyk!

28 September 2020

1. Where are you from and how did you end up in your field? 
I'm a Londoner by birth, but I grew up in Portugal, Sudan, Uganda and Malta, only returning to the UK for university.  As a teenager in Malta, I joined a philosophy group that drew its inspiration partly from Hinduism.  I became a vegetarian and began to teach myself Sanskrit.  I enjoyed it so much that back in the UK, after I finished a BSc in Physics, I applied to university to learn Sanskrit properly, turning my hobby into a full-time project.  In the 1970s, the government gave students grants to go to university (whaaa?).  I got a second undergraduate grant, and a university acceptance, so I went ahead.  After the Sanskrit BA, I went on to take a DPhil in Indian linguistics and then took a job as curator of Sanskrit manuscripts at the Wellcome Institute in London.  After some years, I won a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellowship at University College London, teaching and researching the history of medicine in South Asia.  Later still I moved to the International Institute of Asian Studies in Leiden and then the University of Vienna's renowned Department of Sanskrit, Tibetan and Buddhist Studies, where I taught and researched the history of medicine, yoga and Indian linguistics.
2. What is your current area of research? 
I am currently editing and translating a medieval Sanskrit treatise on alchemy and rejuvenation called "The Good Fortune of the Mercury King" (Rasendramangala).  Also, earlier this year I was awarded an SSHRC Insight Grant for a project to study a recently-discovered ninth-century Sanskrit manuscript of one of the main classical encyclopedias on Indian medicine.  The manuscript, which is in the Kaiser Library, Kathmandu, Nepal, is a thousand years older than any other published manuscript.  Even preliminary study shows us that the way this influential work was read in the first millennium was significantly different from its reception in later centuries and from nineteenth- and twentieth-century printed editions.  Thanks to the SSHRC grant, the U of A will be able to hire a post-doctoral research fellow to work on this project with me.
3. What are your hobbies?
Reading SF (only outsiders call it SciFi :-).  Listening to music (Bach to Bonamassa) and playing bass guitar in a blues/rock band.  Hacking Linux and TeX. 
4. What advice would you give incoming students?
You have stumbled into an intellectual sweet shop!  Think of university as a time to discover excitement in what you study.  Seize the moment to discover and explore subjects you love.  The greatest contribution to your future will be your personal enthusiasm for what you do.