Greeting me with a warm smile and a welcoming handshake, Professor Ulrich Krull, UTM’s newly appointed interim vice-principal and interim vice-president, takes a seat behind his table.
Krull belongs to the Department of Chemical & Physical Sciences, where he generally focuses on biological and bioanalytical chemistry. He is a Fellow of the Chemical Institute of Canada, holds the AstraZeneca Chair in Biotechnology, and is one of the editors for the journal Analytica Chimica Acta. Krull also holds a black belt in judo, and has co-authored more than 60 books.
Krull completed his undergraduate, Masters, and Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Toronto St. George campus, and has been appointed as a faculty member by the university. He feels that he is very fortunate to be part of such an institution.
“It is an unusual trajectory for a faculty member to stay with one institution, but one of my mentors said, ‘Wouldn’t you like to work in the best institution in Canada? Why would you want to work in another institution? Why don’t you want to be in the best institution?’ So I was fortunate enough to be selected here.”
With a job that requires 40 percent of the faculty members’ time devoted to research, I wondered who his lab members were and what his lab focuses on.
“Our team typically consists of 12 to 15 people—a mixture of graduate students, people who have their Ph.D. and they are doing the equivalent of an internship, called the post-doctoral fellowship, [and] a few undergraduate students,” says Krull.
“And occasionally we have visitors—[my lab] has graduate students from China, a visitor faculty member from China, and a new faculty member coming from Iran. Our research focuses on an area called nanotechnology, and our goal is to build a new form of technology that is small enough to fit inside the living cell to watch the chemical communication processes happen in real time, and locate disease pathways and shut them down.”
His team also hopes to achieve something called theranostics—diagnostics coupled with therapy. Using this approach, they will be able to get into the living tissue and determine whether it is ready for treatment, deliver the treatment, and follow up to check whether it has been effective or not.
But how did Krull move from a background that focused on research and science to a role in administration?
He chuckled, and said, “If you can show you can do something, […] somebody is going to ask you to start doing it. My family’s motto has always been that if you have a position of responsibility where people look up to you for leadership, you have to step up.”
As the interim vice-principal of UTM, Krull is now responsible for all the tasks that the principal and the vice-president were, which also implies that he has the authority to restructure the campus and “ensure that the place is well-seated for the next principal.”
Krull has recently announced six open “town hall” events to allow the UTM community, especially students, to express their views and suggestions regarding the improvement of the campus. He is also planning to launch new programs after overcoming challenges such as accommodation and space.
“One of the things that I learnt is that if you are interested in life, you take on too much and find whatever fits,” says Krull, of balancing his research and administrative duties.
“I do not think I have a balance in my life, but I have something a lot of people do not have—a very flexible and forgiving family. They have always respected it and given time to do it and what I try to do is balance it all and give them time as well.”