SM: Let’s start with a bit of your history. Where do you come from?
AK: I am from the former Soviet Union. I was born and raised in Moscow and immigrated to the United States in 1990. have lived here ever since.
SM: Did you come here for college?
AK: I had my PhD when I arrived here. I worked as a visiting professor at Texas A&M for a couple of years. My wife, Julia, and I established an engineering consulting company in 1992 and have been in business together for some time.
SM: What is your PhD in?
AK: It is in physics and mathematics, although I was primarily doing physics.
SM: Tell me about Reasoning Mind. What was the genesis of the company?
AK: The initial idea was different from what it has morphed into. It all goes back to family history.
My family, including our young son, arrived in the States in 1990. All of our education occurred in the former Soviet Union while our son had all of his education here in the United States, including kindergarten.
Through his eyes we have seen some issues with education. We expected the highest quality and wanted to give our son the best education. We noticed some things that were cause for concern. He was a pretty talented kid and school was not a problem for him, but generating his interest in something like mathematics and science was not a strength of his school. We tried different schools. In his first eight years of schooling he attended seven different schools.
We only physically moved once. We started out living in College Station when I was a visiting professor at Texas A&M. Once I started petroleum engineering consulting we moved to Houston. We had to go to different schools because we were looking for a better place. We were hopeful of finding a place where he could flourish.
We got to the point where a teacher called us at home early in the school year to request a parent teacher conference. She told us that we needed to pull him out and put him in a private school because she said, “There is nothing I can teach him.”
That was in fifth grade. He finally ended up in a very good private school. Even in the private school, one of the best in Houston, his math teachers did not succeed in getting him interested in the subject. He was the number one student in his pre-algebra class but he was bored with math and he did not have a concept of what he was doing. It did not make sense to him. He was taught math in disconnected, mechanical ways.
One day we got a letter in the mail suggesting we send him to a summer math camp. He was entering eighth grade so we convinced him it would be a good thing for him to try. He went to this summer math camp, which was a very extensive camp on one of the East Coast college campuses. It was organized and managed by a group of post-docs and grad students from the best colleges in the country such as MIT, Harvard and Princeton. Professors from those colleges would come and spend some time with the kids to get them excited about mathematics.
Our son discovered that being a part of this community was extremely interesting and rewarding. Suddenly he found a community that he believed he belongs to. After five weeks he returned to Houston a completely changed person. All he could talk about and dream about was mathematics and wanted to pursue a career as a mathematician.