I was born in Moscow, Russia, and lived there until May of 1994. Those were certainly some eventful years, however my most vivid memories from that time do not revolve around the fall of the Soviet Union but are instead centered around my deep-seated disapproval of nap time at kindergarten. To this day, I hate when people tell me what to do, especially when I’m sleepy.
In 1994, my family and I moved to Wako, Japan (the outskirts of Tokyo) where my dad (a physicist) worked at the particle accelerator facility at RIKEN institute. Although I attended a typical public Japanese school, parents of a substantial fraction of my childhood friends were associated with the RIKEN (see footnote 1 below). Thus, at the time I had grown to believe that becoming a scientist is simply something that you do when you “grow up.” Indeed, this had nothing to do with my own career choice and I am keenly aware that other jobs do exist (e.g. one can also become a musician - see below).
Upon graduating from Japanese elementary school, I attended a Russian embassy-based school and studied martial arts (Go-ju-ryu Karate). It was fun. Some years later, we once again packed up and moved to Northern California, where I met my wife on the day we arrived.
During my sophomore year as an undergraduate (see footnote 2 below) at UC Santa Cruz, I met Greg Laughlin at a departmental party and we began working together on the Solar System’s long-term dynamical evolution. Around the same time, our rock band, The Seventh Season, came out with a second record and we spent numerous fun-filled nights playing gigs (often in some lonely bar in the middle of nowhere) supporting the CD. It was a total blast and someday I will document all the crazy stuff that happened during the shows.
Upon graduating from UCSC, my wife and I moved to SoCal and I started grad school in the Planetary Science department at Caltech. Together with Dave Stevenson and Mike Brown, we worked on understanding the interior structure of hot Jupiters and the early dynamical evolution of the outer Solar System. It was a lot of fun. What made grad school even better was a 6-week long trip to Nice, France where I worked with Alessandro “Morby” Morbidelli. A couple weeks after I defended my thesis, my daughter was born.
I returned to Nice for four months after leaving Caltech and subsequently was a postdoc at the Institute for Theory and Computation at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. During the summer of 2014, I returned to Caltech as an assistant professor of planetary science.
When I’m not working on science, I enjoy training at the Pasadena Martial Arts Academy, running, hiking, making music, snowboarding, surfing, flying remote control airplanes, and hanging out with my family. Additionally, I enjoy traveling, camping and drinking coffee. I also have a (very smart) cat and a (pretty dumb) dog.
Footnote 1. When I was about 10 years old, I had a good friend named Dmitry. Dmitry’s dad did something black-hole related and was kind of a famous guy within his circles. But the coolest thing about Dmitry’s dad was that he took us to Disney Land in Tokyo and went on all the rides, including “Space Mountain”. Oh, and his last name was Shakura. So yeah, my mind was totally blown when I finally realized in grad school that the guy responsible for the alpha prescription of accretion disks took me to Disney Land!!! In retrospect, I should have asked him to tell me more about astrophysical disk evolution during that trip...
Footnote 2. I initially applied to UCSC as some sort of an engineering major. However, on the first day of classes I went to an office at the base of campus to pick up some form and met a guy who spoke very slowly and quasi-coherently. Anyway, he convinced me to switch my major to astrophysics because he thought it was “dope”. Take away message: the best advice may come from a complete stranger who will later have no recollection of giving said advice.