Engineering technology grad finds opportunity at every turn, from Moscow to Jerusalem to San Marcos
San Marcos feels like home to Dmitri Kabakov. But then, so does Russia. And so does Israel. He just knows how to find his niche in any place.
“Friends and family are what’s important,” he says. “I measure my life by the number of people in it, by how many people I know personally. I don’t care how many people know about me.”
Many in the Texas State community have come to know the easygoing engineer because of his achievements, from setting track and field records to coauthoring papers with faculty. With his joie de vivre and his insatiable curiosity, it’s easy to understand why Kabakov has been so successful.
Kabakov grew up in Moscow, Russia. He and his family immigrated to Israel while he was in high school, but he took the move in stride and excelled in his new home. The Israeli Ministry of Education recognized him as Outstanding High School Graduate of the Year. He also made the Israeli national track team.
After high school, Kabakov served a year in the Israeli Defense Forces before selecting a university. Though he was accepted into the Technion, Israel’s prestigious technology institute, Kabakov searched abroad for opportunities.
“Why Texas State? Honestly? The website and the name,” Kabakov says. “I wanted a warm place, nice people.”
Determined to find a way to attend Texas State, Kabakov wrote “like a thousand e-mails” to staff at the school and eventually was awarded a full track scholarship. With the scholarship settled, he got on a plane, left home and came to San Marcos sight unseen.
The Track Star
“I wanted to put as much as possible into those five years of NCAA eligibility,” Kabakov says. He focused on finishing both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree within his five-year window of opportunity.
“I took as many hours as I could manage, so I was taking 19 hours during my junior and senior years,” Kabakov says, in addition to his athletics training, his on-campus job and his leadership roles in two student organizations. “If the opportunity is available, you should take it. I just slept four or five hours per day.”
His determination paid off. Not only did he finish both degrees in five years, he also set the Israeli national record in heptathlon during his track career at Texas State.
“There are great coaches here, like Galina Bukharina and Adam Hudson,” Kabakov says of the head track coach and an assistant. “Being a part of the Texas State track and field team and competing for the university was one of my most valuable experiences here.”
Bukharina, who won a bronze medal with the Soviet Union in the 400-meter relay at the 1968 Olympics and has coached several successful Olympians in her career, counts Kabakov among her blessings as well.
“Dima is the type of person who, if you ask him, will do anything for you, happily,” says Bukharina. “He practiced 10 times more than he had to. That’s how he is. If he’s going to do something, he does it with all his heart.”
Kabakov also poured his efforts into academics. His hard work attracted the attention of Dr. Jitendra Tate, an assistant professor of manufacturing engineering who oversees the Ingram School of Engineering’s Composites and Plastics Lab.
“Dr. Tate saw I was OK in his class, mechanics of materials. He asked me if I wanted to work for him. He paid more than the on-campus job I already had,” he says, “so I worked for him.”
As an undergraduate research assistant in the CPL, Kabakov developed the website, the procedures manual and safety training for students using the new lab. He worked on research with faculty and entered national contests, including the University Research Symposium and Ultra Light Bridge Contest, both held annually by the Society for the Advancement of Process and Manufacturing Engineering. Once he started graduate school, he also instructed undergraduate labs.
“Dmitri is an exceptional student,” Tate says. “In his three years working for me, he published three conference articles and two journal articles with me. He presented research at three conferences. He was also instrumental in maintaining, improving and running the day-to-day activities of the lab.”
Kabakov’s published articles feature research into applications of nanocomposites and nanomodified composite materials, from vehicle components to aircraft interiors. His research earned him awards and scholarships from the university and professional engineering organizations.
“No matter what he is doing, easy or complicated, he will do it with passion and dedication. He will always try to do things better than before, and he’s always ready to work on new challenges,” says Dr. Tate.
The Dream Job
Through James Mulhall, another student in the engineering technology graduate program, Kabakov acquired a “dream job” before he completed his master’s thesis.
“I sought out Dima for the position,” Mulhall says. ‘”He is a very intelligent, hard-working and honest individual. I was impressed with him from our first class meeting and gained respect for him the more I knew him.”
As a field support engineer for NSTAR Global Services, Kabakov now travels the country installing and tuning semiconductor manufacturing equipment for Tokyo Electron America.
“It’s a dream job for a guy like me,” Kabakov says. “I don’t want to settle in one place. This job is 100 percent travel, and I really love traveling.”
While Kabakov keeps San Marcos as his home base, he gets to travel extensively even when he’s off the job. He uses the hotel and rental car points he accrues on business trips for accommodations when he’s off, wherever he’s off.
“I am very glad that I went to Texas State,” Kabakov say. “What was cool about this place is that I was able to do everything I wanted to do. And what I’ve done, anyone can do it.
“I believe that Texas State and San Marcos are the only school and location which allowed me to do so many things. This university rewards hard work and initiative. I do not believe that I am a special or did something outstanding; I was just enjoying my college life.”