For Olga Trichtchenko to become an assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Western University was perhaps a forgone conclusion. The daughter of two physicists and sister of a mathematician, she grew up intrigued by the logic that governed her family’s disciplines. Having grown up in Russia, where children are often encouraged to pursue studies in math and science, Trichtchenko’s mother actually steered her towards studying music, but to no avail. Instead, when it came time for Trichtchenko to choose her path in academia, she began in physics. Her path then veered into graduate studies in applied mathematics as she sought to learn more about the theoretical foundations of physics. “Physics is way of comprehending the world around you, whereas applied math gave me a stronger language and background with which to understand the physical applications,” says Trichtchenko.
And the physical applications were numerous – after finishing her PhD, Trichtchenko held postdoctoral positions in Seattle, Rhode Island, London (England), and Toronto, often interspersed with semester-long research fellowships. “I got really good at containing my entire life within a single suitcase!” laughs Trichtchenko. “The upside to all the moving was that I was exposed to several different fields of research, like aerospace engineering and fluid modelling, which is my area of focus now” she explains; “and although I never followed my mum’s advice to become a professional musician, I still take opera singing lessons and I’ve even performed a few times!”
Her faculty position in Western Science is Trichtchenko’s first since finishing postdoctoral studies; as she settles into her new position she is looking to build her research group and begin supervising graduate students. “It’s great to be back in physics,” she says, “all that time in math made me miss some of the bigger-picture issues that we can investigate as physicists.” Growing up near Moscow and having lived in large cities like Montreal and Toronto has given Trichtchenko an appreciation for London’s small-town feel. “Being able to walk to work, for once, is so refreshing!” exclaims Trichtchenko.