Born in the Former Soviet Union, Michael recalls that his father died when he was young, leaving his mother as a single mother, working as a physicist and struggling to make ends meet. Some days they did not have enough money for food.
Life in Russia at this time was very difficult, and Mrs Kornienko saw that engineers were poorly paid with no opportunities or prospects for promotion. She and her father were physicists, and her late husband worked in micro-electronic engineering, but they saw no rewards from their hard work. She decided to take the bold step of immigrating to Israel because she wanted her only son to have a better life with more opportunities.
Arriving in Israel in 1999 at the age of 12, Michael found it a struggle to learn Hebrew in High School but found that he was ahead of his peers in mathematics, physics and science. After graduating he did his compulsory military service in the logistics corps, where he became an officer and a teacher.
Those teaching skills became very useful after the army when Michael needed to fund his studies for his university entrance examinations. The preparatory course was expensive but he was able to work as a maths tutor in order to fund his studies in English and Hebrew. After a few attempts at taking the examinations, he managed to get a high enough grade point average to gain acceptance to the Technion course that he had chosen: electrical engineering.
At the start of the first semester, Michael’s intention was to continue working to fund his degree. He continued to tutor students in maths and he also worked as a demonstrator at the Haifa Science Museum, sharing his love of science with visiting groups of children. However, it soon became apparent that he could not earn enough money to cover his tuition and living costs without taking away from his academic work.
Just as Michael was reaching this realization, the Technion admissions department had started talking to the directors of the new Moshal Scholarship Program, which had opened in Israel one year earlier. They recommended Michael for a full scholarship, and connected him with the support network that would help him through his degree.
“The careers advisors at Moshal have been amazingly helpful. They advised me on writing my resume and they send me messages about every relevant job opening. In my fifth year, I was fortunate to be taken on as a part-time employee at Intel. I currently work there two days a week while I am working on finishing my degree.”
Michael is paying it forward by offering free maths tutoring to five first year students at the Technion. “I am very grateful for the support that was given to me, and I am keen to make a difference to my community by helping others in whatever way I can.”
The same motivation has led Michael to consider joining the multi-disciplinary research program at the university, to help develop micro-electronic delivery mechanisms for cancer treatment. “I am interested in working on this project, although it is not directly relevant to my degree results, because I want to use my skills to make life better for cancer patients.”
“Microchips play a crucial part in every aspect of the modern world, and it is very exciting to be at the cutting edge of hi-tech research. Once I finish my degree, my ambition is to play a part in developing new technology that will enhance people’s lives. At the same time, I hope to earn enough to support my mother in her old age and to establish a family that can live comfortably without worrying about where our next meal is coming from.”