Rochester Local Section President and Russian Scientist Filipp Ignatovich Shares Impact of War in Ukraine
David Lang, Senior Director, Global Policy & Affairs
For Filipp Ignatovich, Ph.D., seeing the world through a different lens has always been a goal. In the most literal sense, his work as vice president of IOL product development at Clerio Vision, a Rochester, N.Y.-based start-up, has allowed him to explore Laser Induced Refractive Index Change (LIRIC) as an alternative to LASIK surgery. His research specifically concentrates on the development of a re-writeable intraocular lens and an associated surgical system to improve the outcomes of cataract surgery.
Beyond his day-to-day responsibilities, Ignatovich also serves as the current president of Optica’s Rochester Section, where he focuses on drawing in diverse perspectives from his colleagues in optics and photonics. He seeks out new ideas through initiatives like “Tuesday Tech Talks,” one of the section’s most popular activities.
“Serving on such an organization is the primary way to meet other people and expand your professional network,” said Ignatovich. “We also are looking to collaborate with other chapters, such as the New England Chapter for example.”
This spirit of community connection acts as a guiding influence for his approach to life, so he, like many of his colleagues, watched in utter disbelief when his native Russia advanced on Ukraine earlier this year.
“It’s absolutely disgusting what Russia started,” he shared. “When I listen to Putin’s speeches, he’s branding anyone who disagrees as scum and traitors and introducing new repressive laws that criminalize an antiwar stance. Russia is on a straight path to go back into the repressive Soviet past.”
Ignatovich spent many of his formative years in Russia, earning an M.S. in physics from Moscow State University. He emigrated to the U.S. more than 20 years ago, when he joined the University of Rochester’s Institute of Optics Ph.D. program. His mother still resides in Russia, along with extended family, and he also has a cousin and aunt in Ukraine who are seeking refuge in shelters during the active state of war.
“It was quite surreal, communicating with my cousin in a bomb shelter,” Ignatovich remarked. “Luckily, my cousin’s daughter was on vacation in Italy when the war started, so she was able to join her daughter there. We were able to use a GoFundMe fundraiser to help cover her travel and to support her during her initial time in Italy.”
As for his mother, Ignatovich (and his younger brother who lives in New Jersey) have been helping to support her financially over the years, sending her a monthly stipend. With the financial sanctions imposed against Russia, he had to identify a new way to get her the money she needs to live.
“In Russia, social security is minuscule, and it barely covers her monthly utilities and medicine expenses, leaving little else even for food,” he shared. “She has savings for three months and figuring out how to send her money to ensure she can survive was another thing I needed to tackle.”
While Ignatovich and his immediate family feel mostly protected in the U.S., he cannot help but worry about what might become of his mother and extended family.
“It’s nice to be safe here, but at the same time, I’m really worried about my family in Russia and Ukraine,” Ignatovich remarked. An added concern is his disapproval of the war. “I don’t think I’ll be able to travel to Russia again.”
With so much at stake, many in the optics and photonics community have reached out to Ignatovich to try an offer their help. In fact, he has received numerous questions on ways in which his peers, colleagues, and friends can support Ukrainians and Russians like his mother, who are victims of this conflict. He points them to a list of resources he helped to compile, and overall, he recommends finding reputable organizations and supporting their efforts.
“Everyone wants to help,” he said. “People want to send financial help and put together and send packages, but honestly, I think a more effective way is to give financial assistance to the organizations on the ground.”
For more information on Optica’s efforts in support of Ukraine and how you can help, visit our dedicated website.