PSD Spotlight: Alex Filatov

September 16, 2020

September 2020

Alex Filatov

PSD’s September spotlight is Alex Filatov, PhD, Director of X-ray Diffraction Facilities, Department of Chemistry. Alex has been with UChicago for six years.

Alex was nominated for the "Bridge Builder Award." A bridge-builder is a staff person who maintains strong relationships across teams, promoting collaboration and transparency to achieve the best outcome. This individual is someone that others look up to. They are consistently reliable and dedicated to their unit.

A member of the PSD community had this to say: “Firstly, while many in this position would limit themselves to only one instrument directly, Alex has actively sought out new instrumentation and has worked collaboratively with a number of groups to gain new capabilities for the Division. Secondly, Alex is also an incredible collaborator for many different groups in the department. I know that he has personally helped my group extensively through his connections at Argonne. His extremely helpful and collaborative nature make him ideal for this award.”

We interviewed Alex about his interests and experiences below.

Where are you from?

I was born in the southwest part of Russia (not too far from the border with Ukraine and Belarus) where I grew up until my college age. I then passed an entrance exam to get into a highly competitive chemistry program in the Moscow State University in Moscow, Russia, where I obtained my master’s degree in Chemistry. I then moved to Albany, NY, to pursue my PhD in Chemistry, and this is where I found my first professional work afterwards. I spent a decade there and I like to call upstate New York my U.S. hometown. I also love Chicago! So, I guess I have quite a few places I tend to call my home.

What do you enjoy about being a part of the PSD community?

It is a tough question to answer in a few words, but probably the very first thing that comes to mind is the people around me — students, postdocs, staff, and faculty. PSD is a melting pot of so many interesting, intelligent, unique personalities that work nicely together. Even when times are hard, or work is tedious, or research is not going in the right direction, being greeted with friendly faces and encouraging voices always lifts me up!

Tell us a bit about you. 

I’m a doer. I know I have to learn how to stop once in a while, but I simply love doing things. I love trying new things. I also love being in nature settings like hiking mountains, camping, fishing, whitewater rafting, and kayaking. Currently, I am trying to learn how to play a guitar a little bit.

Who inspires you?

I’m getting inspired by everyone around me at this particular moment of life. I am always amazed by what people can do and how high they can reach when they really want something and work really hard for it! And I know that I can always find something to learn from anyone.

What is the most interesting thing that you are working on right now?

Just by the nature of my work, I concurrently work with many researchers who are working on a variety of projects, like improvements of lithium batteries, solar panels materials, catalysis, new synthetic pharmaceuticals, you name it. Such a variety of seemingly unrelated fields is a very challenging but definitely rewarding and satisfying part of my daily work.

What does diversity and inclusion mean to you?

Diversity and inclusion means being open-minded and receptive to all and everyone. We are only as strong as our shared community. A strong community is based on everyone being receptive to other opinions and perspectives regardless of their respective backgrounds.

Who would you most like to swap places with for a day and why?

Albert Einstein on the day when, as it is rumored, he burnt his unpublished results with the comments that the human race is not ready for such knowledge yet. I would love to see if that is true and, if so, what was on that piece of paper.

What have you seen lately that made you smile?

During COVID, I’ve had a chance to spend more time with family and my two daughters. They make me smile!

Who had the most influence on you growing up?

I would say it is the community of people surrounding me when I was in middle and high school, growing up in the middle of the USSR collapse and a fight for a newborn country to survive through the tough, hungry times.

What three words best describe you?

Reliable, easy-going (in one word!), passionate

If they made a movie about your life, what genre would it be and who would play you?

It must be a comedy, possibly a little dark and a little sarcastic in places, but mostly funny!

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