PROFiles: Professor Vatche Sahakian

Professor Vatche Sahakian has been working in the department of physics at Harvey Mudd College since 2003. He is interested in theoretical physics, including topics such as string theory and cosmology. He is known for his brilliant sense of humor and his challenging physics classes.


Q: What is your funniest experience at Mudd?

A: I always have nightmares about showing up to class without pants.

Q: What is your spirit animal?

A: What the hell is that?

Q: If you were an animal, what animal would you be?

A: Strange question. I like cats and dogs a lot. I probably like cats a little bit more than dogs. Cats, I certainly identify with and that’s probably because I’ve had cats all the time.

What’s the strangest talent you have?

Strangest talent…very interesting. I can draw a dog with the word dog. Let me show you. (pictured above)

Q: What is your favorite movie?

A: There’s one that I like a lot but my wife made me feel bad about liking it. I’m forgetting it. It’s a Brazilian movie. Unlike Trump let me give reliable information — I’ll look it up. It’s called “Central Station”. So the reason my wife made fun of me is it’s a very sentimental movie and you’re supposed to be crying throughout the movie. I am certainly a big fan of Star Trek and I’ve seen all of them including all the episodes and I used to have a phaser, but it was confiscated. So science fiction movies I like, generally. I was not too much into Star Wars. I am a big fan of Charlie Chaplin. The greatest movie of all time to me is probably “Modern Times” by Chaplin. A more modern one that I like is “Airplane!.” If you have not seen it, you have to see it. It is hilarious! Time to dig into the illegal archive of student movies online.

Q: What is your star sign?

Cancer…Wait is this a dating game? — I’m married.

Q: What inspires your style choices? What is your fashion sense?

A: My wife tells me what to wear and I wear it basically. Okay, let’s put it this way: I like clothing to be simple and you don’t have to think about it. Before my strategy was to have a bunch of pairs of pants that were identical and a few shirts that were mostly identical – mostly gray things. Since I got married, my wife is trying to change me unsuccessfully. One way she changes me is she buys the clothes I wear and she turns my old clothes into rags. So now I wear more colorful things but I am trying to fight it. But basically my attitude is whatever is on the table in the morning, I wear it.

Q: Has the color changed your life?

I don’t think so. At some point I had an argument with my wife because I saw a bunch of shirts that all looked different and I spent more than 30 seconds picking which one I should wear and I thought, “That’s it, I’m wasting my life.” I think we’ve settled now on two or three colors. It’s a good compromise.

Q: How long have you been married now?

Five years. My daughter is five years old. She is often as sarcastic as I am, one thing I have definitely given to her. She said to me [recently]: ‘I want to drive a motorcycle’ and I told her ‘no.’ She said ‘well practically by the time I’m going to drive the motorcycle you’ll probably be dead so you can’t say anything about it.’ I said ‘how about Julie?’, my wife, and [my daughter] said ‘she will be dead too.’ And I asked ‘who will be dead first?’ and she said ‘you’ll go first.’

Q: How did you meet your wife?

A: I have two brothers who live in LA and my older brother was nagging me often about when I was supposed to get married. What you have to do is go on an online dating website. I have very particular interests in life that do not overlap with 90 percent of the population, so it was unlikely that I find a partner by just roaming around on the streets. Of course I told him that’s bullshit. I refused to do it for a long time, for years probably. Eventually he said why don’t you go on and I will pay one month for you and if you do not find anything in one month I will never start nagging you again. So I did register with and it was totally uninteresting as expected. Except the last day of the month when my subscription was ending, I did see someone who looked interesting. She was a philosophy professor, and I thought yes let’s send an email and she said let’s meet. So we met in Downtown Claremont. On the first meeting I think we met at a restaurant on Foothill, and we ended up talking for about four or five hours. It was quite strange because immediately on the first meeting I knew that, okay, I found someone. After a month or so I told her why don’t you move in with me and she said no. And then I said fine and after a while we spent an entire day at my place. So, I told her why don’t you move in for practical matters and then she said yes. After a few weeks I proposed and I think within three months we were married already. I’m efficient. I don’t like wasting time.

If you enjoyed this article check out the video we filmed of Professor Sahakian reading tweets from the Twitter account @VatcheSays on our Facebook:




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