KEYWORDS: Irina G. Goryacheva, Russia, mechanical engineering, tribology, contact mechanics.
SHE THOUGHT IT
Russian academician, researcher, and teacher, Irina G. Goryacheva, is one of the most successful engineers and one of very few women in this field, as engineering is often labelled an “unfeminine” profession. She is outstanding because she has made great contributions to the scientific fields of engineering, specifically in tribology. She is an expert in contact mechanics, meaning the inquiry into solids in contact with each other. This is the study of surfaces moving and the interaction between them, and includes the science of friction, wear, and lubrication. Tribology, as a special branch of mechanical engineering, importantly contributes to solving industrial problems and improving a variety of devices and products for everyday use.
Irina is Doctor of Science, professor at the Moscow Institute of Physical Technology, and a full member of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS). She is the only woman until today in the divisional leadership of the Department of Energetics, Machinery, Mechanics, and Control Processes of the RAS. She is an author of more than 150 scientific articles, five monographs, and the mind behind many discoveries.
Irina G. Goryacheva was born Irina Georgievna Mitkevich on 30 May in 1947, in a large city in the Ural Mountains region, called Ekaterinburg. When she was two years old, she and her family moved to the town Nizhniy Novgorod near the Volga River, but later moved to Tolyatti, near Samara, especially because her parents got career opportunities there¹ (p. 213). When Irina was young, she liked mathematics, physics and chemistry, the most of all subjects at her school. She was also very active in school competitions and very often won. As she recalls: “I learnt more than what was in the school programme from the books in mathematics that my parents bought me. I liked to try solving the tough problems and I was happy when I succeeded”¹ (p. 213).
In 1965, Irina got a degree from school in Tolyatti with a gold medal and decided to apply for one of the top universities in Russia, the Moscow State University, where competition to enrol was stiff. She was worried but undoubtedly qualified for it: “There was a very strong competition, 13 candidates for one place. All of us had to pass four exams: two in mathematics (in written and oral forms), one in physics, and one in Russian composition. Based on my results, I was accepted”¹ (p. 214). She was one of the most enthusiastic students, very engaged and driven to get practical experiences even during her studies.
Irina G. Goryacheva graduated in 1970 with honours from the Mechanics and Mathematics Faculty of the Lomonosov Moscow State University with major in Plasticity Theory.² After finishing the programme, she decided to go for post-graduate education and she was honoured to work under supervision of notable professor Lev A. Galin, specialist in mechanics. She admired him: “His first book in contact mechanics, published in 1953, was translated into English in 1961, and it was on the desk of most scientists in the field. I was fortunate to be his student and do my PhD thesis under his supervision”¹ (p. 214).
In 1988, she earned her PhD on ‘Contact problems in tribology’ and was awarded the scientific degree of Doctor of Physical and Mathematical Sciences.² Soon after, she was selected for a position of the Head of the Tribology Laboratory of the Institute and at the same time started a professorship at the Moscow Institute of Physical Technology.¹ (p.214) Irina is specialised in contact mechanics, the study of solids in contact with each other.
During her research, she developed the theory of interaction of elastic and viscoelastic bodies in the presence of adhesion forces of different nature. She investigated the combined influence of physical, geometric, and mechanical properties of the surface layers on friction and wear². These studies helped to improve and develop nanotechnologies. Furthermore, she proposed the methods of the mechanics of contact interaction and failure, in a way that was useful for a variety of analyses of the process of formation of contact defects on railway wheels and tracks.¹ Another interesting study she conducted was a model of the wear of a fibrous composite material which was used to optimise the structure of carbon-carbon composites used in brake discs, in order to increase their wear resistance on braking.
In the other words, she made a huge contribution to tribology and a good example is ”the interaction of car tires with the surface of the road and the interaction of train wheels with the surface of the track.”¹ (p. 215) Her work was most valuable for railway companies, the tire industry, machine construction companies, and other relevant industries so that they could wisely choose the most convenient material for their products and appropriate surface treatments.¹ (p. 215).
She married Alexander Goryachev in 1972, when they were both working on their doctoral studies at the Moscow State University. He is specialised in mathematics and is a professor at the Moscow State Engineering Physics Institute, which was founded in 1942 by Igor Kurchatov who is widely known as the director of the Soviet atomic bomb project. In 1972, their only daughter named Ekaterina was born and she followed her parents’ path, but in the field of biology. She earned her PhD in the field of biophysics which opened the door for her to the Shemyakin and Ovchinnikov Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry.¹ Regardless all difficulties raising a child in the former USSR, Irina and Aleksander who are both dedicated scientists, did a great job.
Her scientific achievements have been recognised not only in Russia, but also internationally as she received an International Gold Medal in Tribology, under the auspices of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in the United Kingdom.¹ (p. 216) Currently she combines research work and teaching as a professor in the Department of Controllable and Gyroscopic Systems of the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology and as a professor in the Department of Plasticity Theory of Lomonosov Moscow State University.² In 2011, she was elected a president of the Russian National Committee in Theoretical and Applied Mechanics where they organise conferences in mechanics in Russia and connect with other organisations like IUTAM¹ (p. 215). She is also the Chair of the Scientific Council in Tribology of the RAS which is also responsible for international relations and building connections abroad. Irina G. Goryacheva has a very bustling professional and personal everyday agenda, being a highly active member of many organisations and possessing important positions in most of them. For many young people and especially women interested in a science career, Irina is a role model and a person to look up to. She reached a position in Russian society that few do, is a great teacher and advisor for students, and her scientific contribution has a valuable meaning for science in general.
SHE SAID IT
In the former Soviet Union, scientists were at a high-level position in the society. Young people felt that it was very important to get high-level education, and then to work in universities or research institutes. There was a strong competition between them and a strong desire to become a scientist or a good engineer to work at industrial development. Now young people choose to work in financial institutions, where the salary is much higher than in research institutes.
Hargittai, Magdolna, (2015), Women Scientists: Reflection, Challenges, and Breaking Boundaries, New York, Oxford University Press. (p. 216).
When my daughter was young, my parents helped me very much in bringing her up. They lived in Kaliningrad near the Baltic Sea, and every summer we moved there for our vacations. My daughter started to go to kindergarten when she was three years old. The director of my institute helped me to get the place for her.
Hargittai, Magdolna, (2015), Women Scientists: Reflection, Challenges, and Breaking Boundaries, New York, Oxford University Press. (p. 215).
THEY SAID IT
For clearness in expressing the basic concepts, as well as for her rigor in applying these concepts to overcome problems in engineering, Academician Goryacheva is a shining example of the academic teacher and researcher. Her contribution to science and engineering and her outstanding service, not only to Russian Science, but also to Science worldwide, makes ker a worthy recipient of the world’s highest award in tribology, the Tribology Gold Medal.
The laudation of her recent award from the London Institute of Mechanical Engineers.
For young people who are interested in a science career, Irina Goryacheva can be a role model. She reached a position in Russian society that few do, either men or women. She has been a good teacher and advisor for students, and she has produced outstanding results in her chosen “unfeminine” field.
Hargittai Magdolna in Women Scientists: Reflection, Challenges, and Breaking Boundaries, New York, Oxford University Press. (p. 216).
PRIZES, ACHIEVEMENTS, HONOURS
1979: became a Lenin Komsomol Prize Laureate in the field of science and engineering
2005: awarded the National Prize ‘Olympia’ for Public Recognition of the Achievements of Russian Women in the category of ‘Scientific Activity’
2007: awarded with the Prize of the Government of the Russian Federation in the field of science and engineering
2009: Tribology Gold Medal and certificate at the UK Embassy in Moscow.
- Hargittai, Magdolna, (2015), Women Scientists: Reflection, Challenges, and Breaking Boundaries, New York, Oxford University Press.
- “Irina Georgiyevna Goryacheva (on her birthday)”, in the Journal of Applied Mathematics and Mechanics, 81 (2017), p. 165 – 172, <https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jappmathmech.2017.08.009> (last accessed 26 Jan. 2018).