Azelle Murzabekova

Specialization: Physics. Internship: MIT, USA.

A while ago, when Azelle still lived in Almaty, she achieved some success in sports and ballroom dancing. But moving to Astana made her a talk-show host on student radio and a boxing fan. But all of this entertainment is just one side of Azelle.  And the other? This 21 year-old future physicist has already won the grant for the internship in one of the five most prestigious universities in the world, and started at the University of Illinois.

How did you get interested in physics?
My interest in physics did not come yesterday, it started while I was still at school. I almost never had difficulties with any subjects, but in the 7th grade I got my first “D” in physics. Since then, I tried to understand this subject better and, in the end, fell in love with it. Studying physics is a neverending process, which personally brings me joy. And I must confess sometimes suffering. 🙂

How was your internship?
I trained with Professor Nuh Gedik. His group is engaged in ultrafast laser spectroscopy — a method of studying various materials. I studied the structure of perovskite — it is a relatively rare mineral from which solar panels are made. I independently conducted 4 experiments and completely immersed in the life of the experimental physicist. I also processed the experimental data myself. Sometimes I was ashamed to admit that I did not know something or do not know how to do something, and this was a plus — I worked things out for myself. Once I was instructed to write computer code in a language that I did not know. I wrote it in one day. My supervisor was surprised for a long time.

What were the results?
Long before my arrival in the States, Professor Gedik warned me that it would be difficult to make a complete project in 3 months, given that I had no experience. Therefore, my main task was to get this experience fast. By the time I arrived, new samples of perovskite had been delivered and I was instructed to conduct experiments on them. As a result, I collected enough data to publish a scientific article. But we still have to analyze these data.

What was interesting outside the lab?
Every week I attended a mini-conference and several lectures at MIT. To visit a University of this standing seemed to me an unattainable dream. And as for the fact that I got to work in one of the best experimental groups, I never dreamed of it. But dreams come true. I will remember my favorite bands’ concerts for a long time – Radiohead and Arctic Monkeys, which I went to. I remember listening to all the Radiohead albums before the second round of the internship contest, and then, thanks to winning, I was able to hear them live. I also saw real whales and sharks!  I had a busy summer: in addition to working in the laboratory, I managed to visit many historical places in Boston and neighboring cities.

As usual we ask: “What’s next, Azelle”?
The internship helped me to determine the field of physics that I want to study – solid state physics. I used to be interested in computational astrophysics. Secondly, the Professor gave me a good recommendation, and this is very important when applying for a doctorate. And because of my summer internship, I got into the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which is considered to be the top university in the study of condensed matter physics. Third, I met leading professors from MIT and Harvard. And I believed in herself. I never thought I could handle this amount of work in a short time, but I could.

While studying in the States what will you do in your leisure time?
I love to watch documentaries about sharks and whales, it’s soothing. I love listening to music, sometimes writing reviews of albums (but less than I used to) and like a typical millennial watch a lot of TV shows.

18.10.20, Stories

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