Portrait of James Kalmakoff

Painting by granddaughter Gwynneth Woodman

I started out in life as a poet living in downtown Vancouver in 1959. This proved to be a difficult way to earn a living, so I tried becoming a journalist and enrolled at Carlton University in Ottawa. This didn’t work out so I took a job as a lab technician for a couple years. During this time I became seriously interested in Science and enrolled for a microbiology degree at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver and completed a PhD in 1968. After a postdoc at Berkeley, I joined the staff at the Microbiology Department, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand in 1969.

During my academic career, I published >100 scientific articles in molecular virology and was privileged to supervise some outstanding PhD students. I held the position of Associate Dean, Website & Communications, was convener of the Web Advisory Committee for the University corporate website and was the Director of the Centre for Gene Research for 12 years. After retiring in 2009 I became a director of a company that develops websites and publishes eBooks.

The dilemma for me was that although I was ‘good’ at science, I never consider myself a scientist — I was a poet at heart. Yet if I started publishing poems, I would have been excommunicated from Science as no longer being able to see the world objectively (not to be trusted) and the poets of the day would have shunned me because I was tainted by Science. So now at the age of 76 I have finally published some of my poems.

As an aside, there is the Tao Te Ching –  a compilation from several translations of the writings of  Lao Tsu  —  from a period in my life when such things were deeply important to me.

For more about me.