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These profiles are written by students who interned at Perm State University – Faculty of Physics, Perm, Russia, in the summer of 2017 through the Summer Internship Programme.

Photo credit : Udeepa Sashith Meepegama

Udeepa Meepagama

Second year undergraduate, MPhys Physics, Balliol College

Udeepa is happy to reply to emails if you want to find out more about this internship. While still a student, Udeepa's email address can be found on the global Oxford address list.

Work Projects

The Perm State University Theoretical Physics Internship provided group lectures on various topics in Physics that we have not yet been presented with. For the first three weeks we were lectured on ‘Fluid Dynamics’ and ‘ Introduction to the theory of Ferromagnetism’. These two topics were the foundation to our learning, the first being taught in the morning and the latter taught in the afternoon, the setting being in a small classroom with a tutor. The material covered built upon the existing knowledge we had from our second year of physics at Oxford and was material that we would cover in our third year. For the remaining two weeks we were given more freedom and had the choice of four special topics; I personally chose to attend lectures on ‘Anomalous diffusion’ and ‘Application of group theory for practical problems of continuous media mechanics’.

The first special topic was a carry on from the previously taught ‘Fluid dynamics’, however the latter of the special topics introduce a new area of physics/mathematics that in Oxford we had not been introduced to. It showed new methods in solving problems we had learnt beforehand as well as applying these methods to new, more challenging problems. The support that we received from the Perm State University Theoretical Physics Department was second to none, rivalling that of Oxford. The tutors were very understanding and engaged in our learning; this was made ever more evident during the regular hour tea breaks we would have at mid-day, a time used to discuss queries and problems from the lessons.

Daily Life

Having first arrived at Perm State University I could say that I was very much out of my element, as the university itself was very different in terms of appearance and atmosphere to that of Oxford. However, the Perm State student volunteers eased us into our new environment, giving us tours of the university and highlighting buildings and spaces that would be important to us for our two months residency. The city of Perm was also completely different to what I was expecting, however, again the volunteers guided us, giving us information of where the supermarkets, water stations and other useful places were. Thankfully having accommodation in the university campus meant that all of our lecture halls were at most a five minutes’ walk away, which made mornings very easy.

Lasting Impressions

Having completed my internship in Russia, my impressions of the country are now completely different; the information and stereotypes that the media had instilled in me were wiped away during the first week of the internship. The Russian people were some of the most warm and friendly people I have ever met, always wanting to engage in conversation to find out why we were there, what we thought of the area of Perm and what we thought of Russia as a whole, and how our perspective of Russia had changed during our time here. Our tutors in particular were very welcoming, spending extra time with us both in our education as well as extra-curricular. I will almost definitely be returning to Perm, Russia to meet up with lifelong friends that I have made during this internship. I feel that this internship has indeed helped me in my career ambitions; the Theoretical Physics Internship proved useful in showing me the depth of areas Physics had and has opened my eyes to the possibility of me going down the route of research, be it experimental or theoretical.

 



Daniel Haxell

Second year undergraduate, MPhys Physics, The Queen’s College

Daniel is happy to reply to emails if you want to find out more about this internship. While still a student, Daniel's email address can be found on the global Oxford address list.

Work Projects

The internship involved a series of classes on different Physics topics, which were taught by different academics at Perm State University, not unlike a term at Oxford. The main teaching topics were Fluid Dynamics and Ferromagnetism, which were taught in the first four weeks of the programme. They were taught in a tutorial-like style, with a lot of questions asked by the tutors and also by us students if we didn’t understand any details. These classes were very interesting and informative, particularly those on Fluid Dynamics which will be useful for the 3rd year course in Oxford that I will be studying next year. For the final few weeks, our classes changed to a series of shorter, special topics which were of particular interest to the tutors. There were four topics, one for each tutor, and all were very interesting – ranging from using group theory to solve differential equations to diffusion through porous media. Since the tutors had chosen and prepared their individual topics, they were very passionate about them and this encouraged me to engage in the topics to a greater extent. There was no assessment thought the classes, but homework was set every day which was expected to be completed. The homework was enough to keep you busy after classes, but nowhere near as much as at Oxford.

Daily Life

We would have classes in the morning, which would usually finish by 2pm. After that we would be free, but every day there would be some homework to complete for the classes the following morning. This was usually just reading a section or two from a textbook and would rarely take more than an hour and a half in total, so for the rest of the afternoon you could go into the city to shops or cafes, look around art galleries or museums, or just stay in your room and relax. There would be sports activities organised almost every weekday evening, with regular sessions of badminton, table tennis, basketball and Russian wrestling as well as occasional games of football and volleyball. The amount of sport certainly kept me entertained through the week, and on top of excursions during the week and on a Saturday I rarely felt bored. The Saturday excursions were interesting, a trip to some nearby ice caves were a highlight. We walked through caverns deep underground, in freezing temperatures, past underground lakes and ice formations and listened to interesting stories and histories of the caves from a tour guide. Also, we went on a rafting trip for one week of the internship down a river nearby to Perm. The scenery was stunning, and setting up camp and having the delicious food prepared by the guides was even more rewarding after a day of hard (but not too hard) paddling. Being outdoors was great, and a nice break from the studying in the city, despite all of the flies and mosquitos!

Lasting Impressions

I really enjoyed this internship! The university staff could not have been more helpful throughout the trip; if there was ever anything we needed there were a lot of people we could go to, and all of them would take time out of their busy lives to help. Unlike tourist locations like Moscow and St Petersburg (which I was lucky enough to see before and after the internship, respectively), Perm felt like a more ‘normal’ Russian city, and its inhabitants much more like most Russian people. It was interesting to have a window into their life and see their country the way they see it, even if only for a couple of months. Despite the Russian classes during the internship, my language skills were lacking so I do not think I could live or work in Russia without a lot of language practice. However, I did really enjoy the topics that we studied so the internship has definitely encouraged me to consider working in Physics or a related field after my degree.

 



Katie Hurt

Second year undergraduate, MPhys Physics, Christ Church College

Katie is happy to reply to emails if you want to find out more about this internship. While still a student, Katie's email address can be found on the global Oxford address list.

Work Projects

The work within this internship was quite similar to the sort of academic work you get at Oxford, although it was taught in a different style and there was relatively little problem solving. We began with a core course in fluid mechanics, as well as two compulsory courses in spin waves and ferromagnetism, and later were given optional courses, meaning you could do as much or as little as you liked. These optional courses included anomalous diffusion, further fluids, group theory and perturbation theory, with group theory being my favourite. Each day we would have around three hours of classes, in group sizes ranging from around three to ten, and were then given homework which, dependent on tutor, was in the form of either reading or some short problems. The tutors were very helpful and more than happy to answer any questions, although there was sometimes a bit of an issue with language barrier. Overall, the work was fairly enjoyable and it was very much a case of getting out as much as you chose to put in.

Daily Life

All the interns, including the biology and geology interns, lived on the same floor with a shared kitchen, in shared rooms of two or three, meaning it was difficult to feel isolated. The physics department was just a two minute walk from our accommodation and so we could just roll out of bed and into class. Around noon each day, all the physics interns met for tea and Russian treats, giving us a chance to be given notices and just generally catch-up as a large group. In the afternoons most people got on with the set work and day to day tasks like water collection (you can’t drink from the taps there so have to go and fill up 5 litre bottles every so often) or shopping. Each Saturday, we were offered some sort of cultural excursion, including a trip to the Kungur ice caves and an open air museum, and these were generally good fun, offering a chance to get out of Perm for a bit.

As there were so many interns, there was always someone around to talk to and the social life on the internship was really good. Many of us also socialised with some of the Russian volunteers (who were incredibly helpful throughout) and we would even go to bars with our tutors. In terms of food, I’m vegan and so ended up cooking almost all of my meals since Russia is not the easiest place if you don’t eat meat / dairy, but many people went to the canteen for lunch and it was easy to eat out cheaply. We were always incredibly well looked after and there was always someone to go to if you had any problems or needed help with something.

Lasting Impressions

Overall I will look back over the past 7 weeks very fondly and I’m really glad I got the chance to carry out this internship. I have definitely grown to love Perm, and Russia, and would absolutely love to visit again in the future, especially as I made some good Russian friends during my time there. I would definitely recommend booking your flights back a couple of weeks after the end of the internship so you can travel around the rest of Russia, as this is something I didn’t do and really regret.

The internship did help to confirm my interest in theoretical physics and has encouraged me to think about transferring to the joint Maths and Physics course for my fourth year, however, I am still unsure about what I want to do after my degree. The week spent rafting down the Usva River was by far my favourite week of the internship, and is something I will never forget.