Have you met Tom Chacko?

On July 1, Tom Chacko will step into his new role as acting chair in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.

Katie Willis - 14 June 2021

On July 1, Tom Chacko will become acting chair in the Department of Earth Atmospheric Sciences. Chacko is a metamorphic petrologist and a long-standing member of the department. In fact, earlier this year, Chacko was honoured for his remarkable 30-year academic career at the University of Alberta with one of the university’s highest honours, when he was named the 2020 University of Alberta Distinguished Professor. He is also part of the NSERC CREATE-funded Diamond Exploration Research and Training School (DERTS) housed within the Faculty of Science. 

Meet Tom Chacko. 

Tell us about the focus of your research program.

My research aims to understand how the Earth's continental crust, which is unique in the solar system, formed and developed early in the planet's history and how that might have contributed to making the planet suitable for life. The record of early Earth history is stored in rocks such as those found in the Canadian Shield. As such, my students and I do fieldwork in the shield (most commonly in the Northwest Territories) and then investigate the rock samples that we collect using the outstanding laboratory facilities that we have in our department for chemical and isotopic analysis.

What is your favourite course to teach?

Precambrian Geology (EAS 432).

What are the biggest strengths and opportunities that you see for the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences in the next year?

The biggest strength of our department is undoubtedly the quality of our faculty, staff and students. We have the opportunity to take some of the positive things that we learned about teaching, learning, and even research during this difficult COVID year and incorporate those into our 'normal' academic lives.

What is your first memory at the U of A?

My first memory of the U of A is flying to Edmonton in mid-February in 1989 for my job interview. Looking out the airplane window, all I could see were vast stretches of snow-covered and seemingly uninhabited prairie. The temperature never broke -20 °C during the four days that I spent at the U of A for the interview. All I could think was, ‘What am I getting myself into....?’ Thankfully, those very low expectations of what Edmonton and the U of A have to offer have been far exceeded.

What’s something that people might be surprised to learn about you?

They might be surprised to learn that I was born in the Black Hole of Calcutta, India. Actually, that's not entirely true. I was born a few miles away from the section of Calcutta sometimes referred to as the Black Hole and, after which (I believe) astronomical black holes were named.

Where is your favourite place on campus?

The Arts and Business Quad between Convocation Hall and the HUB Mall.

If you were enrolling in one course, program or degree right now, what would it be?

Hmm... maybe a course on the history and/or philosophy of science.

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

Don't limit your horizons and have more confidence in yourself.