Lyudmila’s Story

Born in Novosibirsk, USSR, Lyudmila Shemyakina has been surrounded by physicists, mathematicians and biologists her entire life. “Growing up, a typical dinner discussion included updates on the latest advances in computer science, and a report on which electron cooling techniques were currently preferred by the international physics community.” It was when she started taking high school biology classes that Lyudmila found her stride and became an active participant in these scientific round tables.

Lyudmila graduated from Geneva Community High School in Geneva, Illinois, and went on to study biology at Washington University in St. Louis.   The more she tutored at various public schools in the city, the more she discovered “the empowerment students derive from knowing science and mathematics.”  At the same time, she was struck by the fact that many students “received too little support and training in the sciences because there are not enough teachers dedicated to these tasks.”  Lyudmila’s awareness of the shortage of quality science teachers in inner-city schools attracted her to Brown University’s program, with its focus on social justice and urban education, and has fueled her decision to teach in an urban high school upon graduation.

As a student teacher, Lyudmila also became aware that “being a young, progressive teacher at a large, urban school can be a lonely experience.” She feels that being a Knowles Fellow will help her “remain idealistic, driven and optimistic about my goals for myself and my students.”

Using forks, mashed potatoes and napkins, I taught my family about genomes, invasive plants and viruses. The dining room served as my first teaching experience, and my parents were the first eager students.