Statement by MIPT Alumnus (01/1995)
The Physics Student
I believe that having read my materials, you
got a good idea of me . I think, it is no use to claim here my
advantages, but I would still like to write a few words of Moscow
Institute of Physics and Technology ( MIPT ), where I study, before I
set forth my goals and reasons for applying to Harvard.
MIPT is the best educational institution of the former Soviet Union in physics ( it is not boasting, it is a valid generalization of many facts ). It provides adequate preparation comparable to US standards, independent study being emphasized. I hope that you have already met with MIPT students and they confirmed its reputation. If so, I would like you to consider me as an applicant from MIPT, not from somewhere in Russia.
As regards my interests in science, I know more about elementary particle physics and I find it more attractive than any other branch of physics ( and at MIPT I study in the group specializing in high energy physics ). Of course, it is too vague, but I don't want to put myself in the position of Buridan's donkey and try to choose somehow one of many topics, equally interesting to me at present. I would be glad to work on string theory, or supersymmetry theories, or, maybe, on their application to cosmology. And it would give me pleasure to search for Higgs or Z' bosons, or sparticles. All problems in this field attract me. On the whole, what to do is a less important question to me than how to do it, and I don't think it is a fault of mine. I plan to choose the topic of my future work later, as I come to know better both the subject and the faculty of the Department.
Of course, the main purpose of my longed-for studies at Harvard is getting adequate education to enter on a career in physics. I feel, and, I hope, you will be able to believe me, judging from my supporting materials, that this is a field I can be good in (although the last real successes I achieved in the field date back to my high-school years, when I was among the winners of some Byelorussia and USSR competitions on physics, and, maybe, are not relevant to my promise as scientist ). In the course of communication with many people working in science I got some idea of this work and I would be glad to engage in it myself. I like more and, I believe, I am more suited for research than for instruction. Although I have no serious experience in the former and only a slight acquaintance with the latter ( I used to work as a teacher in correspondence courses for prospective MIPT students and helped organize contests on physics and mathematics among high-school students ), I have the impression ( maybe, I am wrong ) that there exists a remarkable contrast between the enthralling nature of a researcher's work and the monotony of the work of teacher. In spite of my bias towards research career I understand the value of teaching assistant's experience and will be very grateful if you offer me such opportunity to continue my education ( although a fellowship or an assistantship in research still looks preferable to me ).
In all things I appreciate completeness and perfection. Probably that is why I like mathematics and prefer theory to experimental physics. Nevertheless, the difference doesn't seem very radical to me, and I would ask you not to deny my application further consideration if you find me not qualified for admission to specialization in theory.
Upon receiving the Ph.D. degree in physics I plan to get a job in a US research institution. It is probably easier said than done, but the development of SSC, LIGO or space programs and the immense research expenditures of US universities let me hope that this goal is attainable. And, I think, a Harvard degree could be of much help in my search for employment. I am sure that will and vigor can overcome the difficulties I may face, seeking such a job in the USA, which one cannot say of an analogous situation in Russia.
My second reason to apply to your university is my desire to join the community of outstanding people, a part of which Harvard faculty and student body are. At MIPT I have mixed with the brightest students and some of the best scientists of the former USSR. I can well see that contacts with such people are the best way of intellectual development, which is, in my opinion, indispensable to real professional perfection. Harvard is a famous place of concentration of the most prominent and creative people. Anyone who has something to do with physics can't help noticing how many great names and achievements are connected with Harvard. I am sure that contacts with the brilliant people of your current staff could make the most valuable part of my education.
Stating my goals and reasons for applying to Harvard, I can't fail to mention my firm intention to escape from Russia. Collapse of the economy and rapid decay of science in this country ( I am afraid, astrology is the only natural science the Russian public sees any sense in ) puts in danger the completion of my education and makes it quite impossible for me to find a job on graduation that would suit my interests and abilities. And for me it is not so difficult to endure any material hardships as my rejection of Soviet mentality and way of life ( Shakespeare's 66th sonnet is not a bit exaggerated picture of today's Russia ).
In my opinion, this personal motive is an advantage of mine: it is a strong incentive to take most seriously my would-be studies at Harvard. However, I don't want you to consider this aim of mine to be the main one: I am applying to the best US universities, not just to the USA (which would have been much more simple and sure ).
In conclusion I must say that I would regard my being admitted to Harvard not only as a great honor and success but more as a high responsibility and beginning of hard work. I don't know whether I shall have this honor but if I do, I will spare no pains to justify it.
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