Postdoc profile: Dmitri Kotchetkov contributes to major nuclear physics experiment
Note: In honor of National Postdoc Appreciation Week, Sept. 17-21, we're spotlighting postdoctoral fellows on the Ohio University campus. A postdoctoral scholar ("postdoc") is an individual holding a doctoral degree who is engaged in a temporary period of mentored research and/or scholarly training for the purpose of acquiring the professional skills needed to pursue a career path of his or her choosing.
By Jessica Salerno
Sept. 20, 2012
Ohio University's involvement with the PHENIX experiment, which investigates high-energy collisions of heavy ions and protons, attracted Dmitri Kotchetkov to a postdoctoral position in physics here three years ago. He had previously worked on PHENIX at the University of California, where he received his Ph.D. in 2005.
Kotchetkov is an experimental physicist who conducts research on strong interactions among quarks and gluons, which are constituents of matter. More than 70 academic and research institutions from different countries are involved with PHENIX, which stands for the "Pioneering High-Energy Nuclear Interaction eXperiment."
"My accomplishment would be contributing results of my research to continuing development of quantum chromodynamics, a comprehensive theory that studies the strong interactions," he said.
While at Ohio University, he has enjoyed the chance to pursue his own ideas and interests through the postdoctoral fellowship.
"As a scientist, especially an experimental scientist, you value independence most. To conduct and design your own project is an opportunity that you certainly cherish," he said.
Kotchetkov says the postdoctoral position will help him further his career through the development of his technical skills in computer programming and in mechanical and electrical engineering. His responsibilities include traveling to the Brookhaven National Lab in New York to work with the detectors used in the experiments.
"I have to work on designing the novel physics detectors, building those detectors, commissioning, maintenance, repairs, writing software programs and doing statistical analysis of large data recorded by the detectors," he said.
Postdocs benefit universities because the positions often are focused on advancing research, he noted. Kotchetkov's work supports the research program of Justin Frantz, an assistant professor of physics responsible for both teaching and research. He added that he is able to give his own unique perspective when graduate or undergraduate students ask for help.
Kotchetkov expects to conclude his postdoctoral position in the next few months. He's considering career choices such as high-tech and engineering industries, as well as a position in academia.
"I would like to keep close ties to the technologies and expertise that I gained here," he said. "I think for me it's more about interest and opportunities and eventually independence, too."