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Personal Bio

At around lunchtime on May 13, 1980 a small town of Albertin in the middle of Belarussian flatland saw a brand new Russian Jew emerge into a lighted hospital room. This very ordinary occurrence opens the first chapter of my story. My recollection of the next six years of my life has now become a haze blended with all sorts of wonderful dreams I can no longer separate from reality, so an honest thing to do would be to skip over this period. Maybe a bit more even, let's say, to fourth grade. That year (it was 1990) I left my home in warm swampy Minsk to discover a new temporary life in the southern outskirts of Siberia in a small town called Beryozoviy (translated as Birchtown), which we reached after a ten day ride on the Trans-Siberian Railroad. This train ride was one of the best experiences of my theretofore relatively uneventful life...

A year later we returned. By that time, I was in fifth grade and had changed schools so many times that people guessed that my dad was in the military. They guessed wrong: he was a free-spirited Civil Engineer. For several more years my life progressed with some minor adventures, until my family after some deliberation decided that Motherland was not a good mother to us, and we should therefore be adopted by another far far away called America where vodka grows on trees and all men are created equal. To be fair, most people were equal in the former Soviet Union as well, but this equality was mostly in misery and also excluded all kinds of distinguished and often indistinguishable minorities like the Jews. And so, on January 14, 1994 we boarded a plane in the Minsk airport that would take us to the land of the free, and up we went above the snow and the lights and then down into more snow and more lights in O'Hare Int'l Airport, Chicago, some thirteen hours later.

A few months after arriving in Chicago, I finished Tolstoy's War and Peace, and a few months after that I graduated from a pre-High School. When I began High School, I could not in my wildest imaginations have predicted the path I would choose years later, when I would step through the doors of the Northwestern School of Engineering building as a Computer Engineering major. Back then, driven by fate, school requirements, and ambition, I found myself taking my first programming class. At this time I still aspired to become a medic, and my choices of classwork were primarily results of pragmatism and ignorance of the life-critical skill of weaseling out of requirements. Unfortunately, this skill evades me even now.

My High School years flew by. Somewhere along the way I decided that a stellar career as a doctor was not for me, and instead I would do better in the role a typical Russian Jewish immigrant plays: that of a Computer Programmer. But as I was never fond of cliches, I figured that being called an "Engineer" would help my reputation, and I'd get a nice Liberal Arts education along the way. Hence my Computer Engineering major. An Economics minor came out almost spontaneously, as I've been taking Economics classes all along during my undergraduate career at Northwestern, and in the end it was just a matter of declaring it. Interestingly, somehow I always enjoyed Economics without being driven towards Investment Banking. Maybe it has something to do with having no desire to work endless hours during the best years of my life without being compensated very much (relatively speaking) for it. So the minor was sufficient, and a major, officially at least, was of little added value.

When the summer of my Junior year of college rolled along, I departed for an internship at Visteon, a Detroit-based car parts manufacturer that was spun-off by Ford a few years earlier. I had two goals in mind for that summer. The first was to get a full-time job offer from Visteon in the coming September. The second was to gain the type of experience I would need to get a full-time job offer elsewhere. Graduate school figured nowhere in my thoughts at this time. And then, suddenly, something clicked. A part of it may have been the Economy going berzerk. Or maybe it was the fact that I had done quite well academically and have grown more fond of it than what lay beneath the cover of the industry. Whatever the reason, the seed was planted that summer, and by the time I completed my final application to Graduate School in December of 2001, I was confident that I would invest time in at least a Masters. Today, I am reasonably certain that I will stay for a Ph.D.

...I once asked a few of my Graduate student friends at Northwestern why they decided to go back to school for a Ph.D. Their initial blabber could not conceal the simple truth: they did not know. They eventually conceded this truth, and yet I persisted, feeling that there must be a reason for such a drastic step. One of them revealed suddently that his father was a professor. So it was almost expected for him. And the others? There was some strong force driving them as well, not as apparent, but no less powerful. Education for the sake of education. It may very well be culture, for I can think of no other tenable explanation for this phenomenon. Or it may be some sort of a gut feeling, like the one that drove a village boy named Lomonosov to become an appraised Russian scholar (not as well known outside of Russia, unfortunately). As a Graduate student at the University of Michigan, I pondered this question: why did I go on? The pecuniary prospects certainly played little role, since one would likely do far better in that respect with an MBA. And so the question remains, and the only answer I can give is wholly inadequate: it feels right. Well, I guess I'll just go with that and see where it takes me.

I am happily married to Polina Vorobeychik, and have 3 kids, Avital, Joshua (Yasha), and Eli.

2009 Yevgeniy Vorobeychik