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Honors Tutorial College

Faculty Spotlight: Alexei Davydov

Alisa Warren | Apr 3, 2016
Dr. Alexei Davydov lectures a class on April 1, 2016 in Morton Hall 219.
Dr. Alexei Davydov lectures a class on April 1, 2016 in Morton Hall 219.

Dr. Alexei Davydov will serve as the Director of Studies of mathematics at the Ohio University Honors Tutorial College. Although he is a well-traveled mathematician with an impressive repertoire of published research, Davydov is a soft-spoken scholar.

The way he talks about his algebraic research is like a woodworking hobbyist sharing his craft, lacking boastfulness, with a patient eagerness to explain the process he considers therapeutic.

“It’s all personal how your brain functions and I imagine people create little puzzles — take one big puzzle and break it into small puzzles,” he explained problems, while smirking, perhaps aware of how most don’t view mathematics in this way. “I guess, that’s what I do. And then you can see how you solve them.”

The subject of Algebra enthralled Davydov since he was an undergraduate student in Russia, which led him to teaching and research careers in Moscow, Australia and Germany from 1990 to 2009. His first stint at teaching in the United States was at the University of New Hampshire, before accepting a job at Ohio University in 2012.

So far, he describes his transition into the HTC program as rewarding. He enjoys interacting with highly capable students who are eager to learn with “no strings attached,” he said.

“The size is new to me,” Davydov said. “It is kind of like supervising master’s students, but it’s new because of how it’s a selective group of students. They are all interested in learning — you don’t really have to supervise them because the intuition is already there; instead, you just have to find the subjects which are of most interest to them.”

Aware of the fact that this love for math does not come natural to everyone, he tried to explain that innate human curiosity is. He added that the widespread lack of fondness in mathematics might have been tainted by an injection of negativity by others: such as various teachers one may have had in his or her life.

He explained that anyone who loves Sudoku puzzles has the ability to love math and the same goes for computer games that incorporate patterns and algorithms.

“Almost inevitably, you were frightened at some stage of your life by someone,” Davydov said. “You had this fear, perhaps pushed onto you, by some teacher who himself was afraid of the subject, and delivered the message that mathematics is difficult.”

He explained that this is the opposite of who he wants to be as an educator. In fact, it is his hope that his students can look at math with the same passionate wonder and curiosity as he does, while staying in tune with what they do and don’t understand.

“But sometimes I believe I can get carried away, and I just enjoy the process myself,” he admitted, laughing.

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