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Global Columbus: Bogdan Pavlov

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Born in: Kyiv, Ukraine (the city also is spelled Kiev, which is the Russian spelling, but Ukrainians prefer Kyiv, which is the official spelling)

Age: 26

Primary language: Ukrainian

Title: Systems integration engineer at Cummins Inc.

Education: I attended middle and high schools in Kyiv and got a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from Czech Technical University in Prague. I got a master’s in aeronautics and astronautics from Purdue.

Family: I’m single. My father and sister are in Kyiv, my mom lives in Florida, and my brother and his family in Saskatchewan (Canada).

Hobbies: I usually work when I’m not at work. I’m kind of slow and try to do my job well, which is not a good combination. I also like photography. A lot of people have used my photos as their background photos on Facebook. I also like to play soccer and run, and I completed the Mill Race Marathon, although I ran only about 13 miles and walked the rest. I finished it in time, but just under the limit. I haven’t had a TV since I started college, but I’ve not really missed it. It makes going to the movies with my girlfriend, who also works at Cummins, all the more special. On the weekends we also hang out with friends, go shopping or to dinner. On Tuesdays at 6 p.m. we go to the Toastmaster club together at the United Way Center.

How did you come to live in Columbus?

After two years at Czech Technical University, I participated in a student exchange with Union College in Schenectady, N.Y. I really wanted to come to the U.S. and see what it’s like. I worked on a hydrogen engine and enjoyed working in the lab, troubleshooting and investigating, and I asked my professor how I could do more of that, and he suggested going to grad school. I finished my undergrad in Prague and then applied to grad schools in the U.S. Purdue was at the top of my list, and I got admitted.

I initially wanted to work in the aerospace industry, and American companies are further along in technology than elsewhere, but when I applied, I did not have a green card yet, and all of them said to apply again once I have that. Cummins offered me a job even though I was still in the process of getting a green card, and I thought it was too risky for me to wait. I always joke that I used to want to work on things that are light and fast, and now I’m working with things that are heavy and slow.

Tell me about your work.

My expertise is in fluid dynamics and thermodynamics, and I work in a research and technology group, in advanced systems integration, and we mostly develop engines about five years before production. We start by looking at the engine architecture then the components, and then we develop more details before doing testing and modeling work. I’ve mostly worked on midrange engines, but also in heavy-duty.

What do you like best about your job?

We can develop and decide on future technologies. That’s not something that everybody at Cummins can do. Because of the nature of our work, we are looking at technologies before everyone else. Also, I work with a lot of smart people, so I can learn a lot from them, and it’s nice to work with a good team.

What were some of your first impressions of the U.S.?

I flew into New York City, and when I saw all the skyscrapers I couldn’t believe that I was there. I took a bus to Schenectady and arrived at night. I stood in the middle of this relatively small town, and the bus station was closed. I ended up asking people where Union College was and found a local bus that took me there. I noticed that cars were very large compared to Europe. And at the college, even though it was days before classes began, all the buildings were running their air conditioners. My English wasn’t very good at the time, but people were very approachable, and I felt very welcomed.

What were some of the most difficult things to adjust to?

The academic world is very competitive, and you have to be attentive. It took a lot more effort for me to have good grades here than in Prague. I also had to adjust to not being able to walk everywhere. I learned that even though your destination may be within walking distance, you may not be able to walk there for safety reasons because lots of streets lacked sidewalks. I also struggled to adjust to Mexican food, which is very spicy, and Americans like to eat it a lot. I also haven’t gotten used to salad dressing, which seems rather sour and acidic to me.

How have people reacted to you in Columbus?

Overall people have been very friendly here. My accent triggers a lot of questions. I do appreciate the welcoming atmosphere in Columbus. I haven’t had any problems. A lot of people in this city, especially at work, are from somewhere else, whether it’s another city, state or country. Many of my friends also are international, so my background doesn’t stand out that much.

What do you miss most about Kyiv?

I miss my family and friends, soccer and food, especially borscht (a beet or tomato soup) and varenyky (stuffed dumpling). I also miss being in the capital of a country, which both Kyiv and Prague are, because capitals bring resources and opportunities, such as cultural events.

What advice do you have for newcomers to Columbus?

It’s very important to be involved in social activities outside of work. Work is a good place to meet people, but few things can be as effective as volunteering or joining social clubs, such as Toastmaster. Getting involved in church or sports, even just pickup games, also helps. These activities take time but, in the long run, are very rewarding. I’ve also found that traveling helps and staying in touch with friends. It’s important and refreshing to see your friends’ perspective on your life.

You might think that you might not like a small town, but your friends might tell you why they might like you in a small town.

What’s your favorite place to visit and why?

Prague. I might like that city even more than Kyiv, maybe because I spent my student years there. It’s a very beautiful city with lots of history and a special atmosphere, very cheerful and accepting. It’s not too big to be impersonal, but not too small to have to miss out on things that you would not have in a small city. I also still have friends there.

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