SigmaFaculty 2015

Many of our staff were lucky enough to have been to similar camps while growing up; it was such an inspiring experience that we wanted to make it possible for the younger generation around us as well. As a result we created SigmaCamp.

Meet our SigmaCamp 2015 faculty!

Sasha Abanov

Assoc. professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Deputy Director of the Simons Center for Geometry and Physics, Stony Brook University, NY

Sasha Abanov is an associate professor of physics at Stony Brook University and a deputy director of the Simons Center for Geometry and Physics. His research is in theoretical condensed matter physics and in mathematical physics. He is mainly interested in systems whose properties are defined by the laws of quantum physics. Some examples of such systems are superfluids, superconductors and Quantum Hall effect systems. Sasha enjoys teaching physics and mathematics at different levels. He has a lot of experience in teaching school students in various summer camps and math circles.


Victoria Bershadsky

Financial/Administrative Coordinator

Victoria has a degree in Economics and Art History. She worked with numerous cultural organizations and was involved in various history, art, and anthropology programs. Victoria still spends a lot of time on arts and history. At SigmaCamp Victoria wants to show a different angle of life by opening up the world beyond science.


Anya Cartwright

Art Teacher, SchoolNova, "Running With Color" Art studio

Anya Cartwright is currently working as an Art teacher at SchoolNova, as well as at "Running With Colors" Art studio. Her education, work background  and present projects include photography, computer graphics and illustration. Anya's special interests include alternative photographic processes, micro photography and studio photography, concept art, ceramics and woodwork. A special place in Anya's heart belongs to wildlife. She loves hiking, birdwatching and interacting with animals. As a hobby, Anya and her husband Peter are working together on compilation of wildflower and fungi field-guides through watercolor illustration, micro photography and Peter's writing.


Luda Diatchenko

Professor, Department of Anesthesia, School of Medicine; Department of Dentistry; McGill University

Luda Diatchenko is a Canada Excellence Research Chair in Human Pain Genetics. She investigates the psychological, molecular, cellular, and genetic pathways that mediate both acute and persistent pain states. The primary goal is to identify the critical elements of human genetic variability contributing to pain sensitivity and pathophysiological pain states that will enable individualized treatments and therapies. She loves to travel and make friends.


Sergei Dubovsky

Assistant Professor of Physics, Center for Cosmology and Particle Physics, Physics Department, New York University.

Sergei is a theoretical physicist working at the interface of cosmology, particle physics and string theory.


Pavel Etingof

Professor, Department of Mathematics, MIT

Pavel does research in algebra and mathematical physics and teaches mathematics at MIT. He also runs MIT-PRIMES , an all-year high school math research program at MIT Math, and has run the mathematical section of RSI, for several years. Pavel has supervised dozens of math research projects by high school students.


Oksana Ivashkevych

Control Engineer, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Stony Brook University, NY

Oksana is a physicist by training, graduate of Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. She now works as control engineer at Brookhaven National Lab. She designs and builds control system for the beam-lines at the new state of the art third generation synchrotron facility (NSLS2) to be operational in 2015. Oksana also teaches math at School Nova. At Sigma Camp, Oksana will teach the SemiLab “Microcontroller Programming for Young Inventors”.


Konstantin Khrapko

Professor, Biology Department, Northeastern University, Boston, MA

Konstantin Khrapko is a molecular biologist interested in mitochondria and mitochondrial DNA, especially in relation to why we age. He uses PCR amplification from single molecules to study mutations in mitochondrial DNA. Mitochondria within a cell in fact behave as a population of individuals, and studies of the dynamics of this population helps to understand why and how mutations in mtDNA accumulate in our cells as we age and how they affect health and disease. Konstantin is also interested in the mechanism that cause mutations. As a hobby, he uses mtDNA sequences to explore the structure of ancient pre-human populations to explain how humans emerged form their predecessors. Konstantin's passions are travel, photography and hiking.


Alexander Kirillov

Professor, Department of Mathematics, Stony Brook University, NY

Alexander Kirillov is a professor in the Math Department of Stony Brook University. His research is in representation theory, quantum invariants of knots and low-dimensional manifolds, and Topological Field Theory. He has been working with high school children, teaching math circles and gifted classes, since his own high school graduation. In addition to math, he also enjoys hiking, volleyball, and robotics - he is the coach of Islandbots robotics club.


Olga Kravchenko

Département de Mathématiques, Université Lyon 1, France

After getting her PhD in mathematics at MIT Olga moved to France. She has tenure at Lyon University. She thinks that the most beautiful mathematics lies in interactions of different fields. Olga looks for patterns and connections between algebra and geometry. Recently she became interested in algebraic aspects of knot theory, beautiful and multifaceted subject.


Marina Kreydina

SigmaCamp Associate Director

Marina Kreydina has a degree in Physical Education and Sports Management. Nowadays she is engaged in medical business management. Marina loves specialized summer camps and has been a staff member of a number of them. She was at Sigma Camp in 2013 and 2014 and is returning this summer.


Mark Lukin

Research Assistant Professor, Pharmacology Department, Stony Brook University, NY

The focus of Mark Lukin's scientific interest are nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) - the molecules responsible for storage and transfer of hereditary information in living organisms. How does DNA get copied? What happens when DNA molecules breaks? To answer these, as well as many other questions, Mark needs to prepare artificial (modified) nucleic acids and their building blocks, the crazy compounds that normally do not exist in nature. The only way obtain them is to do a chemical synthesis, the thing Mark likes the most. Besides that, Mark loves music, history, Greek philosophy, and science fiction. When he was young, he loved to do simple but spectacular chemical experiments. Recently, he realized he still loves to do that. He plans to do some of those experiments in SigmaCamp 2015 with our campers.


Lilianne R. Mujica-Parodi

Director of the Laboratory for Computational Neurodiagnostics, Associate Professor in Stony Brook University's Department of Biomedical Engineering, and Associate Neuroscientist at the A. A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging (Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School).

Lilianne's research looks at brain circuits from an engineering perspective, with a focus on psychiatric and neurological diseases that occur when the networks in our brains fail to work properly. As a hobby, she likes to befriend wild animals (this picture was taken in Australia, with a young kangaroo).


Nikita Nekrasov

Professor at Simons Center for Geometry and Physics, Stony Brook University, NY

Nikita Nekrasov was born in Moscow, Russia. He studied at Moscow Physical-Technical Institute, and later at Princeton University, where he received his PhD in physics. He worked at the Institute des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques in France, before coming to Stony Brook University where he works as a professor at Simons Center for Geometry and Physics. His research lies at the intersection of theoretical high energy physics and mathematics.


Boris Podobedov

Physicist, Photon Sciences Directorate, Brookhaven National Laboratory, NY

Boris got his PhD from the Stanford University Department of Applied Physics. His expertise is to design, build and operate large particle accelerators. These are mostly used as research tools for high energy physics, or serve as light sources, that provide powerful X-ray beams to the researches from many different fields of science. At Brookhaven Lab he contributed to numerous accelerator upgrades and provided accelerator physics support to the presently operating National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS). He was also heavily involved in the R&D work towards the Brookhaven future light source, NSLS-II, which we are currently commissioning. As you might guess, his job has a lot to do with all aspects of electricity and magnetism, and this is exactly the topic of the Semilab he is teaching at SigmaCamp. For fun he enjoys playing ping-pong, running, and, of course, fishing.


Marina Polonskaia

Director of SchoolNova Weekend Academic Enrichment Program

Theoretical biophysicist by training, Marina Polonskaia came to US and made a sharp turn in her career: she became a molecular biologist. After working in this field for 11 years (Chicago, Boston, Stony Brook), she made another sharp turn and became a Director of an academic enrichment program at Stony Brook. The program is known to many children in and around Stony Brook as SchoolNova. While in high school Marina herself was a student of a similar program as well as a student of Krasnoyarsk Summer School for gifted children in Russia. She returned to that summer school as a counselor and lecturer while in undergraduate and graduate school, and continues to travel to teach in Siberia almost every summer since 2006 (apparently she loves to travel). Marina is a faculty of SigmaCamp from its inception and once again she is happy to spend a week among interesting and talented people working in the camp.


Tatiana Portnaya

Tatiana got her PhD in Differential topology from Voronezh State University at 2004.  She believes that no matter what your interests are, math is an essential skill for higher-order thinking. Tatiana love to challenge her students with mind-simulating problems and taught them  to analyze the problem, be creative and not blindly follow the standard methods. And she can give you an airplane ride if you need one.


Tatiana Pyatina

Material Scientist, Sustainable Energy Technologies Department, Brookhaven National Laboratory

Tatiana Pyatina was born in Moscow, Russia. She studied at Moscow Mendeleev Chemical Institute, and later at the California Institute of Technology, where she has got her PhD in environmental engineering and chemical engineering. She worked for ten years in France for Schlumberger Inc. developing materials for oil industry. She now works for Brookhaven National Laboratory researching materials for geothermal energy production.


Yuri Salkinder

Managing Director, Electronic Trading Technology, Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Yuri Salkinder’s career spanned academia, telecommunications and financial technology. Yuri started in research in human-computer interaction, then moved on to help create software development tools for Voice response systems. He participated in creation of some standards in wireless messaging. Nowadays Yuri is dealing with messaging of another kind – the one that fuels electronic financial markets. Yuri loves art, music, movies and good math puzzles. Yuri was a member of Sigma Camp staff in 2013 and 2014 and is returning this summer.


Helmut H. Strey

Director of the Laboratory for Micro- and Nanotechnologies ( and Associate Professor in the Biomedical Engineering Department at Stony Brook University.

Helmut Strey is a Biophysicist who is interested in developing micro- and nanotechnologies for applications in basic and applied research.  Specifically, his lab is working on 1) microfluidic techniques for single-cell cancer genomics, 2) study of DNA dynamics in confined geometries to understand how gene regulation works, 3) developing wireless biosensors for home sleep studies.  Helmut received the Dillon medal for research in Polymer Physics from the American Physical Society in 2003.  He recently converted to Bayesianism and is passionate about making things, Soccer and Table Tennis.


Alexei Tkachenko

Theory & Computation, Brookhaven National Laboratory, NY

Alexei Tkachenko is a theoretical physicist at Brookhaven National Laboratory working on nanoscience and in the field called soft condensed matter. He studies problems that range from from living matter (DNA, proteins, membranes) to nanoparticles, plastics and even sand. He also teaches physics at School Nova. At SigmaCamp, Alexei, together with Tanya Zaliznyak, is responsible for the tastiest of all the semilabs, called "Cooking and Science.


Tanya Tcherevik

Junior Instructor Coordinator

Tanya Tcherevik teaches Russian at SchoolNova, and she enjoys working in a multi-cultural environment where a collective of talented teachers and scientists created an atmosphere that is stimulating, encouraging, and adaptive to the varied needs and interests of our students. Last year Tanya organized the Junior Instructor challenge at the SigmaCamp. We discovered many motivated, enthusiastic, and dedicated young instructors who helped make the program a big success. Tanya is looking forward to work with all of you to build on that success this year and deliver an unforgettable learning experience to Sigma campers.


Vyacheslav (Slava) Yurchenko

Assistant Professor, Department of Biology and Ecology, University of Ostrava, Czech Republic

Slava Yurchenko is a molecular biologist by education, training and the way of thinking. After spending several years in some of the best universities in the United States, he has recently established his own laboratory in the Czech Republic. His group is tackling some of the fundamental questions of life, such as evolution of eukaryotes. He is also involved in research on parasites and their relationships with the host. Slava is a faculty of SigmaCamp from its very beginning 3 years ago.


Tatiana Yurchenko

Technical Project Manager with strong mathematical background

During her years as a Computer Science student in Moscow Tatiana Yurchenko learned what a powerful tool a computer could be in scientific research. But it is never smarter than the person who programs it. Later, working in financial industry, Tatiana discovered that the best world currency is information, and it is important to know how to protect it. Her interest in cryptography and her love for a company of interesting and never-sleeping people led her to Sigma.


Igor Zaliznyak

Physicist, Neutron Scattering, Brookhaven National Laboratory, NY

Igor Zaliznyak is a Physicist at Brookhaven National Laboratory. He uses scattering of neutron particles to study microscopic magnetism in various materials, searching to discover and understand such properties that would lead to future technological advances. In his everyday professional activity, various aspects of Physics and Mathematics, many of which are already taught in high school, are used in a quest to understand how the nature works. Igor is eager to share his passion for science and enthusiasm for experimentation with students, introducing them to various aspects of Physics and Math that are used in his everyday research. Igor firmly believes that physical and mathematical knowledge and erudition acquired at school age, on par with arts and literature, makes for a unique individual, and provides solid foundation for everybody's success in his/her future life. In his free time, Igor likes to read popular Math and Science books and solve problems, puzzles and brain teasers. He also taught 9th and 10th grade Math at School Nova.


Tatiana Zaliznyak

Pharmacology Department, Stony Brook University, NY

Tanya Zaliznyak is a research scientist in the pharmacology department at Stony Brook University. Her scientific interest lies in the field of structural biology and molecular modeling. She loves to use her knowledge of physics, chemistry and biology in the kitchen, creating tasty dishes that satisfy her passion for cooking.



Elena Yakubovskaya

Research Scientist, Pharmacology Department, Stony Brook University, NY
SigmaCamp Director

Lena is a molecular biologist. The primary subject of her interest is  the protein-DNA interactions and Lena has studied many of them using such state-of-the-art techniques as X-rays diffraction, electron microscopy, various spectroscopic methods. However, during her work, Lena came to a conclusion that even the most sophisticated device does not make you smarter: Despite the stunning technological progress, humans’ own brain still is their most powerful tool. The thing Lena likes the most is the company of intellectual like-minded people. Lena and her friends got together every summer to talk about science, art and music. Then they realized that their group would be incomplete without a young generation, so they invited motivated and talented kids to join their company, which they called SIGMA.