Utah State University doctoral student Nikolay Tkachenko was named “Outstanding Graduate Student of the Year” by the Utah chapter of the American Chemical Society. He was among eight chemistry professionals, educators and students honored in a Nov. 3 ceremony held at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi, Utah.
The recognition comes as no surprise to Tkachenko’s faculty mentor, Professor Alexander Boldyrev.
“In addition to his brilliant research and hard work, Nikolay is the most organized scholar I’ve ever met,” says Boldyrev, R. Gaurth Hansen Professor in USU’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. “This quality is one of the reasons he has published, to date, 41 peer-reviewed papers in major journals during his undergraduate and graduate student career.”
This is high praise coming from Boldyrev, who has mentored top USU graduate students, including five scholars named USU Robins Award Graduate Student Researchers of the Year, as well as recent recipients of prestigious postdoctoral fellowships at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Tkachenko, who began his graduate studies at Utah State in August 2018, has earned a number of accolades at the university, college and departmental levels. He was recently honored at the USU College of Science’s 2022 Fall Convocation as the recipient of the Claude E. ZoBell Scholarship. In recent years, he’s received the Stephen Bialkowski Award in Environmental Chemistry (2020), the Early Research Progress in Chemistry Award (2020) and the Marjorie H. Gardner Teaching Award (2019) for outstanding work as a teaching assistant.
Beyond USU, Tkachenko received the British Petroleum Scholarship Award in 2017 and in 2016. In 2016, he was awarded the First Degree Diploma of the VII International Natural Sciences Tournament for individual competition, and the First Degree Diploma of the International Forum of Young Scientists “Science Game” for team competition.
Tkachenko was selected for a summer internship at Los Alamos National Lab in 2020, during which he established an ongoing research collaboration in quantum chemistry on quantum computers with lab personnel.
“Starting with my LANL internship, I was developing new techniques for reducing complexity of quantum chemistry calculations on quantum computers,” he says.
Boldyrev says Tkachenko's collaboration with LANL has led, so far, to six published papers, with the USU doctoral scholar as lead author on articles in ArXiv (under review in PRX Quantum) and ACS Catalysis, and as second author on papers published in Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling, The Journal of Physical Chemistry A and Organometallics.
“These are extraordinary accomplishments for a doctoral student,” Boldyrev says.
Tkachenko’s current pursuits include use of machine learning and artificial intelligence for development atomistic potentials in varied molecules, clusters and materials.
A native of Novosibirsk, Russia, Tkachenko completed undergraduate studies in fundamental and applied chemistry at Novosibirsk State University, which, incidentally, is Boldyrev’s alma mater, in 2018. He and his wife, Anastasiia, a USU doctoral student in computer science, enjoy board games, gardening and cooking, as well as biking and hiking.
“We wrote our names in the book on Mendon Peak,” Tkachenko says.
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