by Anna Bratulic
Physics is full of problems. Some are easy enough to be worked out in
the time it takes to complete an exam, but others are conundrums that
continue to stump scholars.
Physics graduate and math enthusiast Igor Khavkine has done his share
of the first kind with a great deal of success, and hopes to move on to
the others in the near future.
Since beginning university, Khavkine entered the William Lowell Putnam
math competition, a test administered by the Mathematical Association
of America, with some 2,500 participants from Canada and the U.S. He finished
among the top 300 over the past two years. He also sat for the Canadian
Association of Physicists Prize exams and finished in the top 10 in the
last two years.
Khavkine says that he has always had an aptitude for handling abstract
scientific ideas. His father, who also has a degree in physics, stoked
his curiosity by answering his more advanced questions when regular classes
didn’t prove challenging enough. A little luck in growing up in an
intellectually nurturing environment doesn’t hurt, he says. “I
think many smart people get turned off by math and physics because of
bad experiences in high school or CEGEP.”
As he bids Concordia’s Physics Department farewell, the Moscow native
says that he’ll be combining his two passions in his graduate studies.
“I’ve always had a really hard time choosing the career path
between math and physics, so I thought that by focusing on mathematical
physics I wouldn’t have to make that choice any more.”
Khavkine has decided to explore the field of developing mathematical models
to explain the physical world. He is deciding between calculating the
entropy, or amount of disorder, in black holes, a field otherwise known
as black hole thermodynamics, or studying quantum information theory,
which deals with computers based on quantum mechanical theories.
