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Nathan Brewer And Ekaterina Rybkina

Ekaterina Rybkina discusses her research experience as the 2023 Elizabeth & Emerson Pugh Young Scholar in Residence

Established by IEEE Heritage Circle Members Elizabeth and Emerson Pugh, the Pugh Young Scholar in Residence program provides research experience for scholars studying the history of technology and engineering.  Awarded a stipend of $5,000, Pugh Young Scholars in Residence spend two months working at the IEEE History Center in Piscataway, NJ, USA on a project connected to their area of interest. Scholars gain access to experts in their field as well as History Center personnel and support staff who can assist them in meeting their research goals.

For young historians, the ability to research a field of interest is thrilling, but the opportunity to do that while visiting geographic sites of importance in a particular field as well as meet professional heroes takes things to another level entirely.  Such was the experience for Dr. Ekaterina Rybkina, 2023 Elizabeth & Emerson Pugh Young Scholar in Residence at the IEEE History Center.  And for Dr. Rybkina, who earned her PhD on the history of radio enthusiasts and communications in the early Soviet Union from the European University Institute in Florence, Italy in 2020 and is currently a lecturer at Friedrich–Alexander–Universität Erlangen–Nürnberg in Germany, the chance to stay there was of particular importance. 

As part of her Young Scholar in Residence experience, “I explored aspects of the development of radio technologies that I hadn’t touched upon in my dissertation, such as international contacts of Soviet engineers in the 1920s and 1930s, and also collected interesting sources and traced the fates of some of the engineers who emigrated to the U.S. before or immediately after the Russian Revolution in 1917–1923,” she said.

Dr. Rybkina was also excited to visit several historic sites she learned about from her sources.  For example, “I would never have believed that I’d be staying in a house not far from Edison’s research laboratory or taking pictures inside the former RCA Victor building in Camden, NJ, USA, which is one of the most important locations for a topic I’m currently writing about,” she said.  “Finding yourself in the places you read and write about gives you much inspiration.”

Michael Geselowitz, senior director of the IEEE History Center, Dr. Emerson Pugh, and Dr. Ekaterina Rybkina

At the same time, she said, “it was an honor for me to meet Dr. Emerson Pugh in person and thank him for sponsoring this in-residence fellowship.  We had lunch with his family members and close friends and discussed current developments in communication technologies and AI.”

The experience supported her future goals as well.  “At the History Center’s library and archive, I found materials for my next research project on the history of telegraph communications in the Caucasus,” she noted, “and I also prepared the syllabus for the History of Technology course I’m currently teaching in Germany.”

An Invaluable Opportunity

Based on the IEEE History Center’s proximity to and connection with Rutgers University, “Ekaterina was able to interact with historians of Russia and of technology, both at Rutgers as well as at our History Center, and she was also able to access relevant documents at the nearby Hagley Museum & Library in New Castle, DE,” said Michael Geselowitz, senior director of the IEEE History Center.  “Ekaterina’s subsequent sharing of her knowledge of telecommunication history in eastern Europe — often not well-known in the West — helped to stimulate ideas for public outreach among our History Center staff, making for a very successful year all around.”

“I very much appreciate the efforts of the entire IEEE History Center team – including Michael Geselowitz, Robert Colburn, Daniel Mitchell, Nathan Brewer, Alexander Magoun, and Mary Ann Hellrigel — to make my stay as comfortable and productive as possible,” shared a grateful Dr. Rybkina.  “The IEEE History Center’s location made it especially convenient to travel in the area to explore archival collections and libraries, and the new professional connections I made, which cannot always be established at conferences, were invaluable.”

“My stay at IEEE—short yet rich in content— was a great impetus for my further research activities,” Dr. Rybkina confirmed.  Thanks to the opportunity to be an Elizabeth & Emerson Pugh Young Scholar in Residence at the IEEE History Center, she concluded, “I had a positive experience doing archival research in the U.S. and would like to repeat it in the future.” For more information on The Elizabeth & Emerson Pugh Young Scholar in Residence at the IEEE History Center, visit www.ieee.org/about/history-center/internship.html.

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