Most recently, the results of the 2018 competition for Russian Science Foundation funding have been announced. The grants are awarded as a part of the section “Young scientists carrying out independent research” of the Presidential Program on research projects conducted by leading scientists including the young ones.
The competition is aimed at helping young research scientists and PhDs of no more than 33 years old, working in the leading Russian research institutes and universities and carrying out a scientific project, by themselves or with a group of under- or postgraduate students.
Seven MEPhI projects were funded, of which five are those of the LaPlas Institute young scientists.
The competition laureate, young scientists of the Plasma Physics Department at the LaPlas Instutute of MEPhI, Stepan Krat told us about what inspired him to become a scientist and what is so interesting about a young scientist’s life.
– Tell us about your project.
– The theme of my project is «Methods of diagnostics of lithium coatings on different substrates”. In a nutshell, lithium is very important for solving the issue of controlled thermonuclear fusion considered the energetics of future, that is why so many lithium-centered research projects are needed. Any research requires diagnostics methods. For instant, if an object weight is to be found out, it is necessary to develop scales; if such scales cannot be developed, a way for measuring the object by some indirect methods has to be found. Same story here. We need to develop methods of lithium coating diagnostics (composition, thickness and other parameters) that is not an easy thing to do because of lithium chemical activity, low atomic number and other specific features. I suggested several potential methods of lithium coating diagnostics having drawn the attention of the competition experts, and I was eventually funded for further research.
– How do you estimate the contribution of your project to solving the controlled thermonuclear fusion issue?
— My project is related to developing means of measurement and thus possibly has quite a large application area in solving the controlled thermonuclear fusion issue. I would like not to make any statements about its contribution in whole, but neither I, nor my colleagues worldwide doubt the importance of my research.
– Is there any advices you would like to give to a young researcher willing to participate in such a competition for the first time? Do you have any scheme, a rational way for boosting your chances to win?
— Of course, there is such a way. First, you need to know the criteria. They are well-known in scientific community, you can ask competition winners if needed. More specifically, you need not only to come up with a good project idea, but to elaborate on it. Be sure to apply for the competition months in advance, not a week. Second, scientific basis is required. Third, you must be an attractive candidate for the Science Foundation, i.e you are published in credible scientific journals (I highly recommend to publish your papers in journals with impact-factor of more than one). It is also necessary to have a portfolio that can be created by leading school students’ scientific projects and students’ diploma theses. Do not forget that projects with high economic viability are ranked higher than others.
– Why did you choose the science path for your life?
– I can’t say exactly, it was a long way. I was at the 5th grade when I first thought about it – I have always been interested in physics and mathematics. While studying in the Pre-university of MEPhI, I got my first scientific works and made the final decision. However, it has always been scientific altruism driving me farther and farther, not only my personal disposition. There will always be enthusiasts pushing the science over the borders of knowledge.
– What is so interesting about a young scientist’s life?
— The science me and my colleagues are engaged in represents the fundamental good benefiting the humankind. Besides, there are no typical tasks in research fundamental science. Even though we stand on the shoulders of giants and develop something already discovered, the necessity to find brand new solutions makes us fear no routine. Finally, I consider my work a hobby I’m paid for, not something I’m obliged to do.
– There is high interest for science as profession, school students, freshmen and sophomores are interested in particular. What could you advise them in starting a career, becoming a successful professional?
— It is always better to start small. Many scientific groups in MEPhI are interested in motivated students no matter what their course or level of training are. First of all, I would recommend to join an active scientific group meeting one’s interests. While participating in the group activity, one can start obtaining basic practical engineering skills, such as design drawing, computer board soldering, the programming basics understanding, etc. It is important to get as many skills as possible as one will definitely need it in the future. That’s when one can start carrying out theory and practical research.