My family are in Ukraine: my father and brother live and work here, they are also engineers and scientists. I try to use even the smallest opportunity to visit my native land — in particular, I try to set out time for a visit to Ukraine in between scientific conferences in Europe.
During the Revolution of Dignity (the mass protest movement in 2013-2014 against corruption and in support of European direction in Ukraine's foreign policy) I was not able to be in the country, but my family took active part in these events. I found out all the news from them straight from the horse's mouth, earlier than the official sources, and sincerely supported the protests.
Freedom and democracy are the most important things that Ukrainians won on this journey. We still have a lot that we need to work on, but it is exactly these qualities which are the foundation without which it is impossible to build a modern progressive state. And on this path we must pay special attention to the development of science and investment in it.
We see this now in the case of other countries: South American states in the 20th century chose the agrarian direction of development and very quickly lost out to high-tech Japan and the USA, although at the beginning they showed rapid development.
When I decided to enter the chemistry faculty of Kyiv National University I was refused because of sight defects. I cannot distinguish all the colours, and when working on chemistry experiments this is often important. But my father suggested an alternative. So I entered Kyiv Polytechnic Institute (The National Technical University of Ukraine 'Ihor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute'), specialising in 'physico-chemical research of metallurgical processes': this is the chemistry of high temperatures.
One's alma mater is important for every academic, it has a significant effect on one's evolution and future path. Therefore, I am sincerely grateful for my teachers and research advisors, in particular the docent Viktor Morozov and Professor Volodymyr Lavrenko. The works of Grygorii Samsonov, who was effectively the founder of the field in which I now work, also made a great impression on me.
The Ukrainian school of materials science was very strong. For example, alongside Volodymyr Lavrenko I wrote the first monograph in the world on the corrosion of high-temperature ceramics. For this work we received the Ivan Frantsevych prize from the National Academy of Sciences in 1992. That same year the book was translated into English and published in Germany. Ukrainian materials engineering, as a science, was recognised across the whole world.
Bright and interesting, chemistry became the love of my life. And so my future path as a student, doctoral candidate and academic was decided
Science has interested me since childhood. My father is a mechanical engineer, he worked in the Institute for Problems of Strength at the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. I liked to listen to his stories, and with time to help in experiments, spend time in the laboratory. Once I had begun to study chemistry in school, however, I understood that it was this that interested me most of all.
I memorised what my teachers said without even looking at a textbook, I was fascinated by experiments, and subsequently I joined the chemistry club at what was then the Palace of Pioneers. Despite our young age, we worked there under Serhii Mikhailovskyi's leadership with high temperatures and dangerous compounds, and conducted many interesting experiments.
Therefore if I were to choose an object which personifies Ukraine and a link with one's roots, these for me would be my department at Kyiv Polytechnic Institute .
We have many resources and opportunities for taking science to the cutting edge — especially in my field of material chemistry. For example, did you know that Ukraine has one of the largest supplies of titanium in the world, which is the leading material in aeronautical engineering and many high-tech areas of industry?
And, of course, we have a significant intellectual potential. Now the most important thing is to protect and develop our scientific community, and moreover not to limit it to strictly Ukrainian scientific circles. Our specialists should freely communicate with colleagues abroad, actively participate in conferences, read and be published in international professional publications. I hope that my work will also aid in developing these important processes.
Living abroad for a long time, I have not lost the connection to my native land and have always felt myself to be a Ukrainian
Therefore, in the early years of independence, when a young country should have progressed along the path of development and consolidation, progress in research rather predictably came to hold. However, step by step Ukrainian scientists are making progress in research and doing all that is possible to represent our science properly on a global level.
We are showing significant progress in the area of IT and computer technologies. With the field of chemistry and nanotechnologies, however, it is all a little more difficult. Apart from talented specialists, these fields demand complex material provision. For example, electron microscopes and spectrometers can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
New opportunities for collaboration with European universities are opening up now for Ukrainian scientists, for obtaining grants for complex projects and high-tech equipment. Therefore, it is extremely important not to limit the internal scientific community, to establish active communication and exchange experience with colleagues abroad. On my end, at Drexel University we are actively collaborating with Sumy University and Kyiv Materials Research Centre. They supply us with materials and are developing some equipment designs.
Science is about the future, but it also demands significant resources and efforts in the present. It always works for the long term
One's alma mater is the base, the foundation, which cultivates new generations of scientists. For me this is symbolic, and I still look back on my years of study at Kyiv Polytechnic Institute with gratitude and warmth