“For as long as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed mathematics”
Interview with Sergei Nikiforov, finalist of the KNRTU-KAI “Candidates Pool” competition.
Check out the interview with the first-year postgraduate student, Assistant Professor at the Department for Laser Technologies of the Faculty of Physics and Mathematics, the finalist of the “Candidates Pool: The Future of the University” program.
— Let's travel back in time: what were your hobbies as a schoolchild?
— My dad taught me to play chess when I was a child. I took part in many competitions, and even earned a Second Category. Nowadays, wherever I work, I take a chessboard with me to play with my colleagues.
As a smart kid, I had also a passion for mathematics. Director of Zainsk secondary school №2, one of the best in the city, Tamara Viktorovna Bikkinina taught me mathematics. We had many math classes at school, but I really enjoyed it. I personally think that chess and mathematics complement each other in some way.
— Did you immediately enter KAI after secondary school graduation?
— Yes, I successfully passed the exams and entered the Faculty of Physics and Mathematics. Sometimes it was not that easy to study at the university, but it was worth it for sure.
During my third year of study at KAI, I had a desire to put my knowledge into practice.
So, after a successful internship at the “Spartak” factory, I got a job there as a business process specialist. The factory management team wanted to automate production planning and they did not know how to do it, and in a month, I wrote a program that plans production for six months in advance. This program, in fact, replaced an entire department that was engaged in production planning. After this experience, I can definitely say that mathematics has a practical significance after all.
— How did you become interested in the current subject of your scientific research work?
— During my studies for a master’s degree, I was trained to model the processes associated with additive technologies. Now I am engaged in mathematical modeling of additive processes in an acoustic field – the subject related to my PhD thesis. KNRTU-KAI has developed 3D printing technologies: DMD, SLM ... But each time, to find the optimal parameters, operators have to test out different settings for each material, waste a lot of resources and time. Yes, there are programs that can simulate risks. However, they do not take into account many fundamental factors: latent heat, phase transitions and warping. These processes are essential for a comprehensive description of the parameters with which we want to print out things with elastic-plastic properties. In the laboratories, we are developing programs that can calculate this. In addition, we want to describe not only the additive technologies themselves, but also apply an acoustic field on them - ultrasound.
— How are they related?
— Nowadays, ultrasound is used everywhere. For example, in an ice cream production. The ice cream that we buy at supermarkets - we cannot make at home, because during an ice-cream production, the crystal lattice of the ice cream vibrates with the help of ultrasound, and therefore the structure of the product becomes homogeneous.
— Have you ever thought that in your first year of study you would be engaged in additive technologies?
— According to our education system, a person at the age of 18 must have a clear vision of what he wants to do in life. However, honestly, that is not how it works. I think that even at the age of 30 I will ask myself “Am I in the right place?” Nevertheless, I must admit for now I am pretty happy with my subject.
While obtaining a bachelor’s degree, I worked as an engineer at the Department for Special Mathematics, and then I began working as an engineer at the Department of Laser Technologies: I helped to complete state assignments and wrote articles on research topics there. These publications helped me to win the Potanin Foundation scholarship.
— Why are you interested in the “Candidates Pool” competition?
— One of the main reasons is the monthly payment to the winners of the competition. This is a very significant allowance for young scientists, graduates, and Associate Professors. This is the motivation so that we are not distracted by the part-time jobs, tutoring, and teaching in other places. Hence, with this allowance, I can spend my whole time at the university, doing what I really love.
Moreover, the participants of the “Candidates pool” program can directly influence the university’s administration. I think that many people want to contribute their ideas in order to make improvements at the university. After seven years of study, I can clearly see a huge number of pros and cons. To my mind, many things are needed to be changed and improved.
For example, for us, scientists who spend all day at the university, it is necessary to organize a special place for rest. Specifically, our Department is located at the 8th building, it would be appropriate, instead of a vacant lot there, to build a park with trees, benches, paths! Sometimes we just need a place to clear our heads from constant work behind the walls.
— Have ever had a desire to work at another university to see their involvement in scientific work?
— I have many friends from other Kazan universities, and I can say that we are, if not better, certainly on the same level as Kazan Federal University. The difference is that at KFU there are mostly scholars, whereas at KAI - practitioners. I want my achievements, ideas to gain some practical significance and be in demand in Tatarstan, in Russia, in the whole world. We have a very good university. Here we can implement our ideas!
— Why should graduate students participate in the “Candidates Pool” program?
— If you are a graduate student who loves scientific work and the university overall, then why not become a part of a team that can transform the university and bring something new, modern, innovative to it?!
— What qualities should a young scientist have?
— In my opinion, he should have three qualities: the first one– the never-ending curiosity, the second one – a fire in his/ her eyes, the last but not least – hard work. Obviously, you need to love what you do.
Research Advisor, Head of the Department of Laser Technologies, Rector of KNRTU-KAI Albert Gilmutdinov:
— Sergei Nikiforov is engaged in a very relevant topic within our department: he is developing a new direction of science – laser-acoustic additive technologies. Nowadays the additive technologies are one of the most promising and rapidly developing areas in modern engineering. And within this direction, he develops a very promising topic – when 3D printing of complex things is carried out in correctly selected acoustic fields. We call it laser-acoustic additive technologies.
Sergei is a very talented, capable young man. It is important that he is not only a good scholar, but also – a good experimentalist. Moreover, he has an educational potential. I have no doubt that he is the perfect candidate for “Candidates pool” competition.
- Ksenia Ivanova, press service of KNRTU-KAI