March 2011

A Tribute to My Grandfather: Lev I. Bolotin

My grandfather and I

My grandfather and I

Dedushka L’ova (that is how we called him, however his full name was Lev Iosifovich Bolotin or L.I.) was a real experimental physicist. He was my maternal grandfather and he worked in a very exciting place – Laboratory number 1 in the Ukrainian Physical-Technical Institute (UFTI) in Kharkov, Ukraine. My grandmother (who was an engineer her self and worked at the institute as well) used to tell us that he had “golden hands”. He could fixed anything around the house and come up with very neat contraptions. He often asked me to help him (or maybe I volunteered to do so). He also loved to ask me interesting questions and he always smiled when he did so. He had 4 granddaughters (no grandsons yet he has 7 grand-grand sons and one granddaughter) and all of us pursued technical careers in mathematics or science fields. My sister claims that she didn’t as she studied sociology but she ended up being an expert in Statistic that in my view is a very technical field. She works with huge data-sets doing statistically driven research. I wonder how much our passions and confidence in our abilities stems from our upbringing. Dedushka L’ova passed away on March 26, 1989 (the day of elections in the Ukraine), yet his influence on my life hasn’t ended… It is very lucky to have grandparents and parents who believe in you and want to support you in pursuing your dreams. I keep wondering how lucky and unusual it was to have parents and grandparents who were scientists and engineers and who were so supportive of me as a girl who wanted to study science (or medicine – as my father hoped as my paternal grandmother was a pediatrician).

Many kids I met in Canada and in the United States do not have parents who are scientists. Moreover, as many adults in the West do not understand or appreciate science (even though they use its products all the time), science becomes a foreign subject to the students. Unfortunately it often remains foreign to the students for their entire lives.  This makes me think how important the influence of a science teacher is. A good science teacher is something we all have to hope to have in our schools. I have been very lucky here in Vancouver with my kids’ science teachers. Point Grey Mini School has an amazing science teacher – Mr. John Procyk. I do not know how he does it, but I know that his positive influence on the students is unbelievably strong. The students love science in many ways thanks to him (I hope to do a study with him – trying to understand what I as teacher educator can learn from John). Physics and mathematics teachers at U-Hill who teach my older son are also amazing teachers. These people make a huge difference in our kids’ future. I wish the teachers I try to help educate will follow in their foot steps.

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