On December 28, 2020, the NC State community lost a valued member of the pack. Dr. Dmitri Zaykin was an international alumnus of the class of 1999, earning his Ph.D. in Biomathematics.
Dr. Zaykin, born and raised in Russia, completed a master’s-equivalent degree in biology and population genetics from Far Eastern State University in Vladivostok. He initially came to the U.S. in 1993 as a visiting scientist but later applied for a Ph.D. to earn a degree in Biomathematics. He graduated with his Ph.D. from NC State in 1999.
After graduation, he held various research positions at North Carolina State University’s Statistics Department and at GlaxoSmithKline (then known as GlaxoWellcome) before joining the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) in 2004. At NIEHS, Dr. Zaykin was a leader in the development of methods for studying environmental health and published over 100 peer-reviewed journal articles that focus on the roles of genetic and environmental susceptibility factors in human disease.
To honor his memory, Dr. Zaykin’s family has requested that family, friends, and former colleagues make a donation to the International Student Support Fund. To make a donation, please select the International Student Support Fund (middle option), and under ‘additional options,’ select ‘honor, memory or support information’ and add “Zaykin” as Honoree Name.
Giving Back to NC State
The impetus for his family’s generous gesture is based on a personal story. When Dr. Zaykin first arrived in the U.S. from Russia in 1993, he did not have enough money to purchase a ticket all the way from Vladivostok to Raleigh — he could get only as far as Seattle. Once he arrived at the Seattle airport, he approached a fellow traveler, explained his situation, and asked for $300 for a flight to Raleigh. The complete stranger generously loaned him the money which Dr. Zaykin paid back after getting his first few paychecks. This wonderful story about the willingness of strangers to help one another inspired his friends and family to do something similar by supporting international students who may face short-term financial hardships while here in the U.S.
Donations to the International Student Support Fund provide current international NC State students with emergency assistance. Since they are not eligible for many of the resources available to U.S. citizens, the International Student Support Fund is crucial to ensure that international students can continue to make their tremendous contributions to research and teaching at NC State.
Dr. Dahlia Nielsen, Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, met Dr. Zaykin in 1995. They completed their graduate studies and walked across the stage together during graduation in 1999. Afterward, they both got jobs working at GlaxoWellcome. She described Dr. Zaykin as “an extremely bright yet humble and funny person who had an incredible intuitive understanding of complex concepts and really enjoyed what he was doing.” She recalled a particular situation where Dr. Bruce Weir, their graduate advisor, told Dmitri that he could only use three of his publications for his graduate dissertation. While many of their fellow students struggled to even have three published papers, Dmitri already had about 16. “He defined himself as an academic intellectual person, yet he was so down to earth. And if you ever had a programming question, you went to Dmitri,” said Dr. Nielsen.
When he wasn’t working on his dissertation, Dr. Nielsen recalls Dmitri trying to teach himself how to ride a bike. He got into several accidents by running into the parking gates around campus but poked fun at himself by keeping a tally of “bike: 3 – Russian: 0”.
Dr. Zaykin left long-lasting memories for his family, friends, and academic research community.
To make a contribution to the International Student Support Fund in Dr. Zaykin’s memory, click here. Please select the International Student Support Fund (middle option), and under ‘additional options,’ select ‘honor, memory or support information’ and add “Zaykin” as Honoree Name.