AUBG Professor in Mathematics and Physics Veselin Filev: ‘I really enjoy teaching here’
Veselin Filev is one of the newest professors working at AUBG. Interested in Mathematics since he was in the kindergarten, he found his passion for Physics in middle school. Professor Filev obtained his PhD from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and is currently a researcher and quantitative analyst. Read our interview with him to learn more about his impressive educational background and research career.
What are the three most interesting things the AUBG community should know about you?
Well, that’s a difficult question. Let’s try not to be too serious. So, I like singing and I can play the guitar a little bit. But the main thing is that I love Physics and I really like teaching.
If you have to describe your personality with one word, what would it be and why?
In one word… That would be dedicated. Why? Because it takes a lot of dedication to pursue and achieve my goals in science.
When did you first become interested in Mathematics and Physics?
When I was in the kindergarten. It’s my grandfather and my mother who provoked my interest in Math. So, I started to like Mathematics very early in my life. I started to like Physics in middle school.
What is your academic background and experience obtaining a PhD from the University of Southern Carolina in Los Angeles?
I did my undergraduate in Physics at Sofia University. While I was going through the admission process for the PhD program at USC, I did my Master’s. At that time, it was possible to do a Master’s from scratch if you have taken extended courses during your Bachelor. So, I took extended courses for the first four years at Sofia University and after that I did my Master’s in Mathematical Physics in a year.
I did my PhD in String Theory at the University of Southern California. At first it was difficult for me to accustom to the time pressure typical for the American educational system. In the Bulgarian system, on a given exam the students would have a few but difficult problems. Unlike the American system, which relies on numerous easy problems but for a limited amount of time. So, it took me a little bit of time to adjust to it. And, also, when you pursue graduate studies in the USA, you actually have to take a lot of courses. You have to re-take some courses that you have already taken during your Bachelor or Master’s years. In addition to that the first two years were very stressful due to the piles of homework one had to do. There were two days per week in which I didn’t sleep at all to be able to submit my work on time. And that would be not trivial problems. But that was the case only in the first two years of my life as a PhD student. After that, everything fell into places and I had more time for research.
What was your first work position you have had? How has your career developed since then?
I was offered a post-doc position at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. I received a grant from the Irish Government. So, I moved to Dublin. My wife stayed in the Unites States. Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies is a nice small theoretical institute. It’s the cousin of Princeton institute– they were established roughly at the same time and had linked history. Just like there is Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies, there is Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. It’s interesting that Schrodinger, one of the inventers of Quantum Mechanics, was the first director of the institute. It was created for him. It is also interesting that de Valera, the person who was essentially responsible for the Irish revolution, established the Institute. And, to this day, the professors at this Institute are appointed by the President, not by a commission. Well, there is a commission also. I was a post-doc for a total of eight years. I was a post-doc at Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies for two years. Then, I received Marie Curie fellowship and I moved to Munich to work at the Max Plank Institute for Physics. I was there for about two years. After that I returned to the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies for another three years. After the end of my post-doc, I moved to Bulgaria and started doing consulting for the IT sector mainly Quantitative Finance and Machine Learning. At the same time, I was offered a position at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.
Why did you decide to become a professor and what led you to AUBG?
The main reason to become a professor was that I missed teaching. As I mentioned, most of my income comes from other sources – from the industry, from the IT sector. Of course, everyone likes being paid for what they do. But, it’s mostly because I really enjoy teaching here. Most of the mathematics professors at AUBG are linked to the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and they invited me to join the AUBG faculty as an adjunct professor. I really missed teaching, especially according to the American system. So, I accepted and I am very happy that now I am here.
What are some of your teaching and research interests?
At AUBG, I have taught Statistics, Mathematics, and Physics. I have taught Statistics, Finite Math, and Mechanics and Thermodynamics. This semester I am teaching Mathematics and Physics only. My research is in the area of String Theory. I am also interested in Monte Carlo Simulations and Matrix Models. I am employed at the Academy of Sciences. It is indirectly connected to AUBG in the sense that some of the professors are also there and I talk to them about research. I would be happy if a motivated student emerges, willing to do research in math or physics. I haven’t directly applied my research in string theory to AUBG. I hope that would change. But I supervised a student last year who wrote a senior thesis in machine learning closely related to my work in the industry.
What professional moments and students achievements make you feel accomplished?
That would be some of my papers. There are some results through the years that I am happy about and satisfied with. I was also happy with the AUBG faculty evaluations’ results, it seemed that many students enjoyed the way I taught the classes. The student I supervised was already very knowledgeable. So I am happy for him, but I wouldn’t say that I contributed to his achievements so much. But I am glad that he is applying for some Master’s positions in the States.
How can you describe your typical workday at AUBG?
I would normally drop-off my son at school in the morning and then drive straight to Blagoevgrad. I live in Sofia. I would arrive early and go to the bakery for breakfast and then wait for the classes to begin. I would teach my first class and then if I have time I would have lunch before my next class. At the end of the school day, I would drive back to Sofia.
If teaching was not your profession, what would have been?
Teaching is not my profession. Teaching is something I do because I like and because it’s part of my profession. I am a researcher and quantitative analyst. I hope teaching will become my main profession later in life. But, for now it is not. I love teaching and I really enjoy it.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I enjoy going to the mountains. When I have time, I enjoy playing the guitar a little bit. I enjoy watching movies with my son. And, I enjoyed going to a restaurant before the pandemic. Of course, I like reading books.
What is your advice to the AUBG students?
I would like to appeal to the students to take more Math, STEM classes, essentially. Some of the people, that I work with in the industry, graduated from this university and half of them were Business majors. Now, they work in the IT sector. While you are still young, you should focus on difficult and challenging subjects and take the time to learn some hard science. It doesn’t have to become your profession, but it will pay off in one way or another. You will always be able to take the benefits of it. The appeal is “Take more Math and Physics courses!”