On The Record
Jan 14, 2009 | 3541 views | 0 0 comments | 47 47 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Vasily Kolchenko is as dedicated to his biological research as he is to his music, and the results speak for themselves. The New York City College of Technology (City Tech) assistant professor is both an expert in the growing field of bioinformatics and an award-winning songwriter and performer.

"Bioinformatics," Dr. Kolchenko explains, "is about expanding the understanding of complex systems, such as molecular structures and the foundations of life, through computer processing of relevant information.

"Twenty years ago the field did not exist," he continues. "It started with the Human Genome Project, which produced an avalanche of data and required urgent development of special computer tools for data storage and analysis. Bioinformatics allows us to find solutions to the ultimate mystery of life."

Kolchenko, who resides in Bay Ridge, embodies the connection between science, mathematics, and music; he holds a doctorate in physiology and a medical degree from Kiev Medical University, in addition to a master's degree in mathematics from Kiev State University and an associate degree in music from Kiev College of Culture and Education.

Awarded the title of Laureate of the 2007 International Bulat Okudzhava Song Competition (named for the Russian equivalent of America's Bob Dylan), he is equally adept at playing guitar and singing poetry (his own and others') as he is at researching, writing about and teaching bioinformatics.

Kiev-born Kolchenko, who has been a musician since childhood, has more than 100 songs and three CDs to his credit. The Bay Ridge resident has performed at several city venues, including Brooklyn Public Library branches in Gravesend, Homecrest and Brighton Beach.

How did Kolchenko move from music to biosensors and biology in general? After earning his MD degree, says Kolchenko, "I headed the diagnostics lab at Kiev Institute of Cardiovascular Surgery, where my mentor was Nikolay Amosov. He was a famous surgeon, writer and scientist interested in computer modeling of complex systems, from cells to the human body, as well as the mind and society. He motivated me to earn a master of science degree in math."

In 1994, Kolchenko moved to the U.S. Two years later he joined City Tech, first as an adjunct and eventually as a tenure-track assistant professor. Along the way he has taught courses in anatomy and physiology, general biology, human biology and pathophysiology in addition to bioinformatics.

Kolchenko has always been passionate about education, and for ten years he penned a column in Moscow's pedagogical paper, First of September (traditionally the first day of school in Russia). Particularly rewarding for Kolchenko was his participation in the 9th and 10th Conferences on Student-centered Education and Collaborative Learning, held in Moscow.

"In 2005 I presented a seminar called 'Online Culture in Education: American Experience,' and in 2006 a seminar titled 'Education through Collaboration (Pedagogy of Collaboration) in the Western Practice,'" he says.

Kolchenko, whose songs may be heard here, regularly performs on the City Tech campus.

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