Pavel Marchenko (MIPT'91)
Project Manager and consultant.
Back in 1996, life proved my expectations wrong. Along with some other 'experts', I had underestimated the ability of Russian system of education to weather the economic troubles of the previous five years. In particular, most of the Phystech graduates (we will follow the old tradition and call them 'phystechs', pronounced /fiz'tekhs/) thought that MIPT, or Phystech, would not be able to preserve its world class standards of training. We were wrong. Although scientific research suffered severe cuts since 1991, the educational system proved itself a lot more viable. Now, after almost four years of study in the USA, I am able to identify the reasons for its viability.
The main of them is, I believe, the traditional emphasis of the role of professional educators in the study process. For example, the lectures at MIPT are enforced by mandatory seminars, given by the professionals with Ph.D. Degrees in the field. Because of this, the learning quality of such seminars far exceeds that of the section meetings led by the senior graduate students in the American Universities. The seminars allotted about the same time as lectures in the study schedule.
Equally important is the emphasis on the hand-on research experience starting from the third year at MIPT. Phystechs are assigned to the Moscow's leading research institutions to work on the research teams. Such Institutes are called 'base Institutes'. Hence the name for this educational system: 'System of Bases'. The list of Phystech's base Institutes is very long and includes among the others Institute of Space Research, Institute of Problems of Medicine and Biology, Computer Science Center of Academy of Science, Institute of High-Energy Physics and the Center for Nuclear Research in Dubna. Although some of these places do not exactly flourish in the absence of the state funding, their plight may even be less terrible than that of the comparable Institutions on West. The reason is, of cause, that in the transitional economy the size of wage and costs of research are still often irrelevant to the question, whether to continue this or that research. The relevant question is, whether the assets allowing continuing this or that research are physically available. And they are available rather often.
The third pillar supporting the organizational structure of MIPT is the on-going training of the high school students. This pillar turned out to be extremely sturdy! About half of currently enrolled phystechs were once students at the MIPT's Distance Learning School. This is a very interesting and successful project. It is interesting to note that only a few people at MIPT believed in the success of it in the beginning. Today the total number of students enrolled by the School each year is 16,000. You can find more information about the School going to Phystech: Questions and Answers , and then following the links.
What makes this Distance Learning School different from what any self-study guide brings to you? You can buy many interesting and useful self-study guides on College and High School Physics and Mathematics in the USA. They are good indeed, but they are more on the side of the a reference manual and definitely not intended for those who makes this or that particular subject his or her life choice. For one, an average study guide will not teach you, how to derive more complex formulae on the basis of the simpler ones. For another, the level of difficulty of the problems that are considered in a mass-market study guide is mediocre. By the 'level of difficulty' we do not mean anything like three-pages of formulae needed to get to the point. No, and no again! It is the physical intricacies that make the problem in General Physics difficult, interesting and instructive (General Physics is what you do in high School and first year of college). The ability to solve such a problem hinges on the operational ability of your imagination applied to the physical world and deep understanding of simple physical concepts introduced at high school. It is intensive brainwork, not extensive. By 'instructive' we mean something in the problem, which creates steady and useful paths in your approach to thinking about Physics while you struggle to solve this problem. These paths must be more or less generic and applicable to a greater variety of tasks, not necessary similar-looking. It should be clear by now, that the educational niche of our Distance Learning School is elite advanced education in Physics and Mathematics for the high school and junior college students.
'Instructive' study guide also must be succinct and very clearly written. These qualities do you little good if you are the author, because it takes more time to write a short book than a long one with the same content.
Fortunately, MIPT's study guides are instructive - this is the tradition of Russian educational approach.
We believe that by taking the selected resources of the MIPT's Distance Learning School online, we will provide future scientists of the world with the learning tool of unsurpassed quality. First of all, these selected study guides, relevant problems and solutions will be posted as preparation tools for Phystech International Olympiads in Physics and Mathematics . All this is available totally free to all registered participants of Olympiads. Olympiads will provide an opportunity to compete and excel in Physics and Mathematics to a great number of senior high school and junior college students all over the globe. One of the payoffs to the participants will be their international rating calculated on the basis of the performance on the Olympiads. The rating will be confidentially reported to a candidate.
We also plan to put online the Distance Learning School itself and create a new section in addition to the two traditional ones (Physics and Math). And that section is, of cause, Finance! What else can attract a smart modern student? Our treatment of Finance will be focused on quantitative methods from the probability theory, analysis econometrics and other relevant topics. It should be noted that the study materials you may obtain from this site are intended to supplement and not to substitute your standard textbooks in Physics and Mathematics.