Profile of a Professor: Dr. Timur Akhunov, visiting, mathematics

Emily Cherkauskas, Staff Writer

Dr. Timur Akhunov is Wilkes University’s newest visiting professor in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science.

Born and raised in the former Soviet Union, Akhunov is proud to call himself an American mathematician of Russian descent. With his parents loving the outdoors, his earliest memories include making handmade rafts and having campfires.

At the age of 3, Akhunov wanted to be a driver of a Belorussian truck named MAZ with three windshield wipers. Since then, he explained, he has enjoyed intellectual pursuits. He moved to the United States to study business in college, where he fell in love with American education and found his passion for academic work.

“After I spent half my life in the U.S., I swore an oath of citizenship at the battlefields of Gettysburg on the 165th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address,” Akhunov said.

Akhunov went on to earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree from SUNY Buffalo. He then went on to receive an MS and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.

As a visiting professor, Akhunov has had research fellowships at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, and positions at the University of Rochester, University of Binghamton and the College of New Jersey.

At Wilkes, Akhunov plans to help the mathematics community. He teaches various sections of calculus and serves as a helping hand for math students. His strongest need is to provide insight as well as the most effective tools for incoming students who are struggling with mathematics.

“The key skill is developing critical thinking—thinking of mathematics as a human language that requires reasoning beyond calculator button-pushing,” Akhunov said.

Akhunov also works in his research program to use techniques of modern calculus to get a better understanding of various phenomena such as water waves and black holes. He also aims to continue his research in wave propagation.

For Akhunov, becoming a mathematician was inspired by two important factors. The first was the welcoming community he found in the mathematics field, explaining how he found a sense of belonging even early on, where he always found someone he “clicked” with.

During his time at Wilkes, Akhunov has found that feeling, pointing out how friendly the students and faculty are, something he is grateful for and will not take for granted.

The second factor was the satisfaction of working with the many aspects of mathematics.

“Learning mathematics and later doing research in it is very similar to climbing a mountain,” Akhunov explained. “You sweat, you try different paths and fail 99 percent of the time, but the views are breathtaking and the journey beautiful.”

For this reason, he finds the “aha moments” of students to be very special.

“Seeing a student focus, struggle, take ownership of a task, and then achieve a sense of mastery is wonderful,” Akhunov said.

When he is not spending his time in the classroom, Akhunov enjoys taking his young daughter Lilia traveling, hiking, and going to public lectures, conferences and music events. Akhunov has also taken Lilia to the Sordoni Art Gallery, who “enjoys modern art as much as the outlets.”

Akhunov also enjoys skiing, volunteering with Ski Patrol and working as an instructor at Montage Mountain.

Aside from the friendly community he has found at Wilkes, Akhunov has another important reason as to why this area is special to him: nature. He explained that after living in Scranton for a few years, he has found solace with the scenery outside of the metropolis. He enjoys taking a walk along the Susquehanna River almost every week.

“I have fallen in love with the beautiful nature, the relatively central location in the northeast of the U.S., and incredibly nice and generous people,” Akhunov explained.

As a mathematician, Akhunov takes time with the thoroughness in his work and dedication to the field.

“A process of teaching and scholarship for me is an act of endless adaptation,” Akhunov said. “I learned to teach from so many teachers and colleagues and I continue to learn.”