John Archibald, professor

A day in the life

John Archibald, professor


This is where students get that feel for what it's really like to be a scientist.

Creating transformative moments

John Archibald did his undergraduate degree in Biology as well as his PhD in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology at Dal. Then, after a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of British Columbia, the Bridgewater, Nova Scotia native enjoyed a professional and personal homecoming by joining the Dal faculty in 2003.

Years later, Dr. Archibald can still recall a “transformative moment” that started him on a scientific path that’s taken him from one coast to the other and back again.

As a fourth-year honours undergraduate at Dal, Dr. Archibald was given the chance to take ownership of a research project. 

“This is where students get that feel for what it’s really like to be a scientist,” he says.

Once he got that feeling, a light bulb went on in Dr. Archibald’s brain that's been shining ever since.

“I hadn't really appreciated that the professors who were teaching me were actually researchers as well,” he says.

These days, Dr. Archibald teaches and researches as a professor and graduate coordinator in the Biochemistry & Molecular Biology program at Dal. His area of expertise is gene and genome evolution with a focus on marine microorganisms.

“We’re interested in the diversity of living beings that are completely invisible to the naked eye,” he says. “It’s an exciting field to be in.

“It’s not very often that people discover a brand new type of chimpanzee or other large animal, but people like me see this regularly in the field of microbial diversity.”

Dr. Archibald says it helps to study next to an ocean brimming with little life forms at a university whose strengths include marine biology, oceanography, computer science and working together across departments and faculties.

“We have a very vibrant community, and good things happen when you put bright people together in a really collaborative environment,” he says.

Dr. Archibald regularly invites students to be a part of that environment.

“”Researchers like myself will routinely hire students for summer projects,” he says. “Some of them, if they’re really keen, can get started right in their second year.”

Dr. Archibald’s goal is to give eager students the same sense of excitement and belonging he felt when Dal’s scientific community welcomed him as an undergraduate.

“That’s one of the parts I like the most–helping younger scientists make their way through the early stages of their careers.”