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Masha Sosonkina ('97)

Alumna Masha Sosonkina

Masha Sosonkina
Professor, Computational Modeling and Simulation Engineering
Old Dominion University
Class of ’97

My motto in life is "perceive, think, act", which enables me to make informed decisions, learn something new in every situation, and to be responsible for my actions. This extends to both my personal and professional life. 

This motto also succinctly bridges my exposure to horizons of places, cultures, and people. I had to learn to make my own decisions coming to the United States from the collectivist mindset of ex-Soviet Union. First, I decided to pursue graduate studies, selecting Virginia Tech from the three schools that offered me admission. My friends in California knew that Virginia Tech was a good engineering school. This had tipped the scale for me to come to Blacksburg in 1993. And I never regretted it. Studying was tough but I was learning many interesting things and all my professors were understanding and kind.

I try to imitate their approach with my own students now. As long as you work efficiently, are willing to learn, have curiosity, and do things you promise to do, a good student-teacher relationship may be established and education goals accomplished.

I am now teaching almost on the same latitude as Blacksburg, just in a more maritime climate of Norfolk, Virginia, where my employer, Old Dominion University (ODU), is located. I've been here for nine years already, which, albeit short or average by academia standards, is the longest I've worked in one place. Before ODU, I was a scientist with the Ames Laboratory of the Department of Energy and a professor at the University of Minnesota Duluth.    

How did the department equip you for the ‘real world’?

In a sense, the department was the real-world for me: I was working and studying there full time with enough salary to take care of myself and still save some. I am grateful to the department faculty and peers that were kind to forgive my mistakes and that I had ample opportunities for do-overs. There were much fewer opportunities to rectify mistakes once I've left the department.

What does being a Virginia Tech alumna mean to you?

Most of all it's a sense of belonging to a good school with a solid education. It is also fun to be a part of the Virginia Tech community. Once I met a fellow Virginia Tech alumnus, a mechanical engineer, next to a waterfall of a French Caribbean island Guadeloupe.  Each of us was wearing a garment with a Virginia Tech logo for easy recognition.

What is your fondest memory of your time in the department?

Outside of usual milestones of a Ph.D. degree, my fondest memory was working in teams on a human computer interaction course project. I had an opportunity to see how other students, who had different backgrounds and already worked in industry, approached project design and management. We interacted a lot in informal settings and completed the project tasks with humor and ease. Finally, everyone laughed when I complained that I didn't know how to use ‘MacWord’.