February 2009

Brothers’ careers flow in parallel, then converge

Don’t get the idea that he and his brother, Alexandre, are clones, Daniel Tartakovsky says – even if each has a master’s degree in applied mathematics, a doctorate in hydrology and models fluid flow and reactive transport in porous media.

“From afar it might look like we’re doing the same thing, but closer examination would reveal otherwise,” says Daniel, 39, a faculty member at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). Alexandre, 36, a researcher at DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), focuses on computational fluid dynamics and pore-scale modeling. Daniel works on uncertainty quantification and stochastic modeling. Nonetheless, Daniel adds, Alexandre “does a little bit of that too, and I do a little bit of what he does,” so the brothers collaborate frequently.

The Tartakovskys grew up in the Volga River city of Kazan, part of the former Soviet Union, and attended Kazan State University. Daniel earned a master’s degree in applied mathematics and fluid mechanics in 1991. Alexandre received the same degree in 1994. By then Daniel was working on a doctorate at the University of Arizona in Tucson, studying under noted hydrologist Shlomo Neuman. Alexandre, meanwhile, took up sociology.

“It was a short-term deviation from the path Daniel established,” Alexandre says. He was fascinated by the social transformations in Russia after the fall of communism. “I just couldn’t resist entering this field. But then I found there was very little science and a lot of (departmental) politics.”

He adds, “I liked what Daniel was doing in Arizona and I wished to continue my career in science.” When Neuman had a spot for a doctoral student, Alexandre was ready to apply.

Daniel was a researcher at DOE’s Los Alamos National Laboratory before moving to UCSD’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering in 2005. Alexandre started at the Idaho National Laboratory before joining PNNL in 2004. Last summer a third Tartakovsky joined him there: his wife, Guzel.

Her field? Hydrology, of course.