“Listen to your professors when they talk about things that aren’t homework related. Pay attention.”
A quick Google search of Vassili (Vasya) Vorotnikov yields hundreds of links to stories, articles and photos about his incredible rock-climbing career. He has been climbing since he was a young boy (age 9) in Moscow and has really made a mark for himself. Today he is considered one of the top climbers in New England and the U.S.
Having achieved such a high level of proficiency in one endeavor might suffice for most people, but not for Vasya. Originally, he chose to attend UNH because of its proximity to his NH home and some of his favorite climbing areas. However, since arriving here UNH has “exceeded” his expectations. Having to pay a substantial portion of his own tuition at UNH, Vasya says that he wanted to get a running start from the very first day. He did this by asking questions and paying attention.
“Two friends and a professor” – no this isn’t the title of a new TV sitcom, it’s who Vasya credits with influencing him most at UNH. One of his friends, David, told Vasya from the very beginning that it’s not so much about what school you attend but more about what you do when you are at school. He encouraged Vasya to take advantage of every opportunity. Another friend, Morgan, has challenged Vasya to go “beyond doing just what you have to” leading to several scholarship and work/collaboration opportunities. As a matter of fact, Morgan was the one who forwarded Vasya an email sent to physics majors advertising a programming job with Professor Charles Smith. Vasya applied and got the job. This isn’t your typical college job, he’s not doing homework for other classes, no, Vasya has developed software using Fortran (programming language) that collects and analyzes satellite data about solar winds. The software looks for discontinuities or “shocks” and can be used to predict magnetic storms, which can be very detrimental to power and telecommunications. Despite not being a physics major, Vasya has continued to collaborate with Dr. Smith, resulting in prestigious publications and presentations.
Over the summer Vasya will travel to Spain (outside Madrid) on an International Research Opportunity (IROP) grant to study bio-fuels – more specifically cellulosic ethanol and bio-diesel. Being a chemical engineering major this research is right up his ally. When asked about his interest in bio-fuels, Vasya talks about making his mark on the world by figuring out efficient and cost-effective ways to mass produce bio-fuels. However, he admits to a bit of selfishness when it comes to protecting the natural areas where he loves to climb.
In the future Vasya has his sights set on a Ph.D. in chemical engineering. You might have heard of some of the places he’s thinking of applying: Cal-Berkeley, MIT, and Dartmouth. Before that happens Vasya has to graduate, which is just fine with him because he loves that his courses are getting harder: “The harder the courses get the more fun they get. It’s really fun when it all comes together.”