Following the successful launch of the third SwissMAP Master Class, we decided to sit down with three of our current Master Class Students: Vladislav Guskov (VG), Tatiana Tikhonovskaia (TT) and Ilya Losev (IL) and talk about their studies and plans for the future.
What initially attracted you to the SwissMAP Master Class?
(VG) A couple of things. First, it is a unique programme with outstanding lecturers. Second, it was a personal challenge. I came from physics and my mathematical education was not that advanced. So, I wanted to change it.
(TT) I first heard about this programme from my friend who participated in a previous SwissMAP Master Class three years ago. When I found out about this year’s programme I was very interested in the subjects and I also wanted to change from where I was studying.
(IL) In my previous University in St Petersburg, I studied complex analysis where I learnt about statistical mechanics. I found this Master Class interesting as it offered great insight into modern research in this area.
Was the level and content as you expected?
(VG) Even better than I expected. All the topics were introduced from scratch. This approach serves people with a different background and I could easily catch up.
(TT) Perhaps there are less courses than I had thought there would be. As for the content, I was initially afraid that my level of mathematics would not be enough. After the first semester exams, I realized that there is nothing you can’t do if you attend all the classes and practices.
(IL) Yes, I expected the highest top level education. In terms of content, some parts were unexpected as some courses were more geometric. Being less familiar with geometry and algebra for me it was very interesting to discover other areas.
What have you so far found most challenging?
(VG) The work on a master project. There is a lot of independent work: a supervisor gives you hints how to tackle a problem but still you need to go through many research articles on your own and come up with ideas for your problem. I think this approach is a good one at this point because it helps to understand if research in mathematics is your thing or not.
(TT) I think the most challenging thing was the exam session because it is quite different from Russia. I was expecting all exams to be written but I had only one written and 3 orals. I was particularly nervous because my previous experience of exams was very different.
(IL) Probably courses that require some concepts from geometry and algebra that I do not know much about. It made it harder to follow.
And the most enjoyable?
(VG) People, of course. The interaction with professors and classmates was the most enjoyable and valuable part.
(TT) I think people are the best thing at University. Both lecturers and students, it is really pleasant to be amongst people who are really interested in mathematics.
(IL) To see how my background in complex analysis could help to solve really beautiful problems.
Can you cite one special moment?
(VG) I’d like to mention special attitude of Prof. Anton Alexeev. Besides well prepared lectures on Quantum Mechanics, he also devoted a lot of his own time to be present at exercises sessions and our student seminar helping out with solving problems and giving valuable comments. That is really appreciated.
(TT) I thought I knew quite a lot about the Quantum Mechanics lectures as I had already studied the subject before but it was great to find out that there is so much more in this field than I thought.
(IL) For me, it was surprising to see that in many of the courses in the end, professors were able to prove their own theorems. This is not always the case in other universities, especially at master level.
How did you find the structure of the course?
(VG) All courses were well balanced: 2/3 theory and 1/3 exercises which I think is a really good proportion. Moreover, we had opportunities to participate in the conferences organized by SwissMAP. The organization of both the conferences and the educational process was the best in my experience.
(TT) One hour seems to be very little time for the practice, I feel there could be more time.
(IL) I think it was well organized because some courses require some background and this background was provided before. Like for example for quantum information theory, quantum mechanics was explained to us before.
What is your research area of interest?
(VG) Generally speaking, it is statistical physics and things around it. At the moment I am working on Bethe Ansatz with application to the Heisenberg spin chain. I am also very interested in random growth models and Schramm-Loewner evolution.
(TT) In Geneva I started working on Statistical Physics but I expected something a bit different from what I am doing...
(IL) Statistical mechanics.
Has the Master Class helped to define or confirm your research area of interest? (VG) Yes, indeed. The Master Class helped me understand that my interests align more with a mathematical approach to solving problems. Before the programme, my aim was to develop mathematical skills but still continue with research in physics. Now I am quite certain that research in mathematics is the way to go.
(TT) Although I am enjoying Statistical Physics, I think for my PhD I will do something different.
(IL) It has helped me to confirm that statistical mechanics is the area that really interests me.
And what about influenced any decision(s) concerning your future plans? If so, how?
(VG) Truth is, this programme made major adjustments in my plans. Due to the course by Stanislav Smirnov and Amanda Turner last semester I got to know a beautiful area of Schramm-Loewner evolution and random growth models and now I am going to do a PhD in this subject.
(TT) For me it’s a difficult question because I am going to change fields...
(IL) It has helped me to confirm that Statistical mechanics is what I want to do in the future.
What are your current & future plans?
(VG) I am going to Stockholm to start my PhD at KTH with Fredrik Viklund. Our first project will address Schramm-Loewner evolution and I look forward to it.
(TT) I’m going to stay in the University of Geneva in Antons Alekseev’s Group.
(IL) I want to continue with research. After the Master Class, I will return to St Petersburg to finish my Master’s there, because the programme there is for two years. After that, I will certainly continue with a PhD.