Spotlight on Natural Sciences Alumni: Gennady Vonorov

Name: Gennady Vonorov
Age: 26
Occupation: Apprenticed Scientist i.e. Graduate Student
Education: B.S. in Physics and B.S. in Mathematics, University of Rochester, 2008; M.S. and M.A. in Physics, Yale University; PhD (Physics), Yale, forthcoming.
Current city/state of residence: New Haven, CT
Family: Currently engaged to another UR alum.

When and how did you choose your major?

I started out college intent on majoring in engineering. Coming out of high school, my favorite subjects were math and physics. Engineering seemed like a natural extension of these interests. However, freshman year, I found my math and physics courses a great deal more engaging. In a physics course, taught by Dr. Eberly, we were assigned the book In Search of Schrodinger’s Cat, by John Gribbin. This book, and Dr. Eberly’s class, left me with many more questions than answers. From then on, I have been hooked on physics and it’s natural language, mathematics.

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?

After graduation, I started a job with Epic Systems, which is an electronic medical records software company. I knew I wanted to try working at a “real” job before I committed to a PhD. I was unsure of what I wanted to do outside of science, and Epic kind of fell into my lap. My best friend, also a senior at UR at the time, was hired by Epic, and he recommended me for the job as well.


What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

Currently, I am a graduate student at Yale University studying theoretical particle physics. Before starting on this path, I worked for a year at a software company. The company went above and beyond to keep their employees happy. However, I did not find my work very captivating. I applied to PhD programs in physics with the knowledge that it really was the correct path for me. Graduate school is hard (you work twice as much for half as much pay), so I was glad to have the experience of working for a private company before embarking on this path.

What skills, tools, or knowledge from your major have been most useful to you since graduation?

As a graduate student in theoretical physics, I use concrete skills acquired in both my math and physics majors on a daily basis. If anything, a third major in computer science would have been immensely useful as well. The courses in both of my majors, beyond transferring specific knowledge and skills, trained me to hone my intuition and think rigorously about problems. This training would have been helpful in any field I could have gone into. I would wholeheartedly recommend either of my two majors to anyone wanting to improve their critical thinking skills.

How do you balance your work and personal life?

The simple answer is that I don’t really balance my work and personal life. I have honestly found this aspect of life a great deal more challenging than anything else post-college.

Where would you like to be in five years?

Currently, I am in my third year of graduate school and engaged to my best friend. So, extrapolating, I would like to go by Dr. Voronov and be happily married. Hopefully, I will also be in a post-doc position in a new fun and exciting place.

What advice do you have for current students?

Challenge yourself to the fullest extent possible, be it academically, socially or in any other innumerable possibilities. I found, due in large part to the faculty and my peers, that UR was a deeply supportive place. After college, life will be challenging, so learn how to be challenged while in a supportive environment.