A Tribute to Dr. Chernov

By on August 26, 2014
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I knew Dr. Chernov by reputation as I entered his MA 486 (math statistics) class in spring 2014. From what I had been told by former students, I was in for something of a mathematical revelation. Dr. Chernov had a following even amongst us undergraduates. His courses were legendary, his teaching regarded as masterful, and his mind was revered by all. And yet, the soft-spoken man in the front of class gave me reason for pause; he did not seem to be the powerhouse, which rumor had led me to believe he was.

Little did I know what I was in for.

Promptly at 10:10 on Monday Jan. 6, 2014, Dr. Chernov’s MA 486 class began. His first words to the class, “Welcome to Statistics,” were pure foreshadowing. From those words of invitation, Dr. Chernov seemed to become my personal ambassador to the foreign land of higher math. Over the course of the semester, I learned statistics from a true master of the discipline. Dr. Chernov’s engaging teaching felt like narration: he told the story of statistics, the probabilistic thinking that lead to its inception, and the subject’s major developments over time. His teaching style was elegant and refined by his sharp, experienced, analytical, and exacting mind.

Three times a week, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I had the pleasure of this course. I was transfixed by Chernov’s intuition with numbers as he developed the major concepts of statistics before my eyes. Never before had I felt such wonder in a class. There is only one proper English word that describes the intellectual presence Dr. Chernov exuded both in and out of the classroom. That word is genius. Dr. Chernov was regarded as the expert, esteemed by students and faculty members alike.

It is nothing short of tragedy that the UAB community has lost one of it is most esteemed members. Nikolai Chernov passed away on Thursday August 7, as a result of cancer.

In Dr. Chernov’s passing, the world has lost one of its great minds. Chernov leaves behind a wife and two sons; their loss must be deep, and my heart goes out to them. As for his UAB family, his students have lost their master teacher and mentor, fellow faculty members have lost their colleague and friend, and the University at large has lost one of its great professors. More globally and, perhaps, most tragically, in the wake of his passing, the worldwide pace of discovery has slowed. Dr. Chernov’s passing will leave a void on the 4th floor of Campbell Hall. Personally and professionally, Chernov’s impact on the developments in both the field of mathematical physics and on the development of the mathematics program at UAB, can not be overstated.

And yet, perhaps, the most beautiful thing about a life spent in academia is that it allows a part of one’s self to live on forever. The legacy left by Dr. Chernov, both to those he taught and knew personally and also to the untold more who cite and benefit from his work, now and in the future, will remain alive.

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