Born and raised in Saint Petersburg, Russia, David Blekhman moved to the United States in 1995. During his first year in the U.S., he worked as a carpet cutter and learned the English language. While dressed as a tradesman with a knife and measuring tape on his belt, David shared with customers that he would be starting graduate school within the next year. Most would smile and nod in disbelief.
Having already earned Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in thermal physics and engineering from St. Petersburg State Polytechnic University in Russia, David began his doctoral studies in the fall of 1996 at The State University of New York at Buffalo. By the time he graduated in 2002 with a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering, David was focused on becoming a professor.
His first job was at Grand Valley State University in Michigan and, in 2007, he moved to California State University, Los Angeles, where he currently serves as a Professor of Technology, among many other titles. In 2011, David was awarded his first Fulbright grant to teach and conduct fuel cell and hydrogen research in Saint Petersburg, Russia, and he went on to be selected as a Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Alternative Energy Technology at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, in 2019. David delivered his Fulbright inaugural lecture on Nov. 8, 2019, and attended the 2019 Nobel Prize Ceremony, both highlights of his experience through the Swedish Fulbright program.
Let’s get to know David!
- What does Phi Kappa Phi mean to you?
In addition to the internal feeling of success, being invited to join Phi Kappa Phi is an external reaffirmation of achievement. But certainly on a deeper level, it is an organization of people who work hard and are driven by their internal leadership toward higher goals.
- How do you define success?
I have been truly enjoying developing the Sustainable Energy and Transportation program through new classes, research projects, and collaboration with colleagues and industry. Being able to set challenging goals and accomplish most of them brings a great feeling of achievement.
- Where do you usually go when you have time off?
When I get sufficient time off, I like to travel back to my country home in the suburbs of Saint Petersburg. It stirs up the carefree memories of my childhood, riding a bicycle through the woods or to the lake. Saint Petersburg, of course, is one of the most beautiful and history rich cities in the world.
- Who has impressed you most with what they’ve accomplished?
Stephen Hawking has impressed me with what he has been able to accomplish despite his physical challenges in life. He was a brilliant scientist with the inspirational will of not giving up.
- What is one of the most interesting vacations you’ve taken?
One of the more interesting vacations I have been on was a trip to Paris that I won in a raffle at a conference. It was a trip for two for five days, with all expenses paid, to discover the mysteries and historic sites from "The Da Vinci Code" movie.
- What’s the hardest lesson you’ve learned?
One of the hardest lessons I have learned is that the best and worst human qualities appear in the most challenging circumstances.
- What’s your dream car?
A Lamborghini, of course. My friend used to have a poster of one on his wall when I was a teenager.
- What do you regret not doing or starting when you were younger?
When I was younger, I stopped training after four years of judo. During those years, I learned perseverance and staying focused when needed. However, I regret not continuing for a few more years.
- Who is your hero?
My parents and grandfathers. My parents survived the WWII evacuation when they were only three years old and both of my grandfathers fought against the Nazis.
- What’s your favorite drink?
A glass of water from a hydrogen car. My students and I have recently developed a device that collects exhaust water from a fuel cell car. On a hot muggy night, however, a mojito would sound pretty refreshing.
To learn more about David and connect, visit his member profile within the Phi Kappa Phi online community here.
The ΦΚΦ Member Spotlight gives members the opportunity to share more about themselves and how they have benefited from membership in the Society, and is a great way for members to learn about each other and connect with others who have common interests and goals.
Would you like to be featured, or is there someone you would like see in the spotlight? If so, email Jamie Chapman, membership director, at email@example.com. Be sure to include basic information for nomination.