Post sponsored by

MIL OSI Translation. Region: Russian Federation –

Source: State University Higher School of Economics – State University “Higher School of Economics” –

Andrey Manin

4th year student Faculty of Chemistry National Research University Higher School of Economics. Senior research assistant at the Laboratory of Ionics of Functional Materials, Institute of General and Inorganic Chemistry named after. N.S. Kurnakov RAS.

Andrey Manin is working on membranes, but has not yet decided which of them to devote his PhD thesis to – those related to water desalination or new types of electricity. In an interview with the HSE Young Scientists project, he spoke about his dislike for organic chemistry, retro cinema in Illusion, and his childhood delight in Red Square.

Why I decided to become a scientist

It all started at school. I became interested in chemistry, but initially set my sights on becoming a surgeon. Until the 10th grade, I was confident in my decision and went towards it. And then I began to understand that chemistry was becoming more and more interesting for me. And already in the 11th grade I decided to enter a chemical university. I was choosing between MIREA, RKhTU and HSE. As a result, I ended up at HSE, where I could study science from the first year.

Although in my first year I came to the dean and said: “I’m not interested in science, I’m interested in teaching.” I thought that I would be better fulfilled if I taught chemistry to someone else. I asked him to find me a position related specifically to teaching. But then I started writing term papers, and I got hooked. Now I only do science.

It’s a gift of fate that I decided to go to the HSE Faculty of Chemistry; I consider it one of the best in Russia

And this is an objective opinion – I even posted note on your wall on VKontakte with an overview of how successfully the goals of our faculty were achieved.

What am I researching

The general topic of the work is membrane chemistry, and then there are its applications: membranes for water desalination, membranes for fuel cells and, in general, the production of polymer membranes with different chemical structures. We receive the first ones ready-made and modify them, and synthesize the rest ourselves from scratch.

It turns out that I work in parallel in several directions, which almost do not intersect with each other, but this does not mean that I am scattered. It’s just that in the first year one topic arises, then others are added, and collaborations with colleagues from other laboratories begin.

How the membrane is made

The membrane is basically a polymer. Due to the fact that the polymer has a large molecular weight, it, unlike low-molecular substances, has mechanical properties, for example, the ability to form films.

How does this happen? You take a polymer, dissolve it in something, and then pour this solution onto a flat surface and let it dry. Since macromolecules do not have the ability to go into a gaseous state, they form a film structure, which can be called a membrane.

What chemistry did I like at school?

Any kind, except organic, and especially physical. But from love to hate there is only one step, only in the opposite direction. At school I couldn’t stand organic chemistry, at university it was hard for me, and now I’m studying polymers. Polymer chemistry, although organic, is more amenable to my mind.

What results am I proud of?

It’s still too early for me to talk about big achievements or wow research, because so far most of the work is being done collectively. I’m probably proud that I can do all this, and at a level that primarily satisfies myself. I also became a laureate of the NIRS-2023 competition and am now a member of the “Republic of Scientists”.

What do I dream about

I think the main dream of any scientist is to make an important discovery, to achieve success, to be recognized in science. Well, now, on such a small horizon of scientific discoveries, I want to successfully complete my studies and become a candidate of sciences, and then a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

When will humanity completely switch to new types of energy?

There are polar opinions. Some people think that we are already very close to this. But let’s take the same electric buses, which seem to use alternative types of energy. In winter, their cabins are heated using diesel fuel.

In international science, many researchers, including those working at the Rosatom state corporation, pay great attention to methods for producing hydrogen and its accumulation. But I suspect it will take at least another 20 years before we can think about this as a reality and not as a dream. Yes, the first completely Russian-made hydrogen refueling station appeared in Chernogolovka, but this technology will need to be introduced in regions where economic, scientific and climatic conditions are completely different.

Let me remind you that the advantage of hydrogen is that it can be produced by electrolysis of water. But at the same time, you still need to learn how to properly clean it from impurities and store it.

For me, science is a craft, something I can do, bringing my ideas to life. In our laboratory, a lot is done using improvised materials. For example, you need a cell. We call cells structures with the help of which and a number of devices it is possible to establish the values of the physicochemical or transport properties of materials, in our case membranes. There are cells for measuring conductivity, for measuring gas permeability, for selectivity and electrodialysis. In the general case, this is a “black box”, but with the contents known to us – a membrane and a couple of tricks.

You buy a polymer rod, electrodes and bolts, cut out the cell or ask someone who has a lathe to do it. And then you conduct your experiments on it. That is, you assemble your equipment piece by piece and then create something new.

I’ve read several articles saying that scientists should change topics at least once every five years. Otherwise, you either bury yourself in unnecessary weeds or start to burn out. But this does not mean that I will study organics for five years, and then inorganics for five years. This means that you need to vary the type of work within the framework of your scientific interests. Try certain applications, different materials, don’t get hung up on one thing.

How AI can help a scientist in my field

It is interesting for any researcher to try to optimize their work in such a way as to initially filter out certain solutions based on the input data, without wasting time on it. Not everything that is done by scientists is always published or protected. Only the third part probably turns into the final product. Much is left behind.

Artificial intelligence can help with this. The idea is that you load the composition of your substance, its possible structure, into the program, and it gives a range of its properties, and you don’t need to synthesize it and measure it all by hand, you know in advance whether your final product will be promising in one way or another area, whether it will have the required range of properties.

However, there are no unified tools yet that would help get the desired number using three buttons. Here, too, as with hydrogen, many more years are needed for all this to be tested by different scientific groups and develop as a useful application that can partly make the work of scientists easier.

If I had not become a scientist

I would be a doctor or perhaps a historian. At school I liked Russian history. I watched films about the Romanovs, collected scientific journals. Nowadays there is not enough time to study history. There is still a body of knowledge that needs to be maintained, so I sometimes watch historical films of the Arzamas project or others on YouTube.

Which scientist would I like to meet?

This year marks the 190th anniversary of the birth of Dmitry Ivanovich Mendeleev, and I would like to meet him. Mendeleev was a very versatile personality. There are so many stories associated with his name that it is difficult to say for sure whether it is a fable or a historical fact. For example, that Mendeleev invented vodka. I would like to find out from him himself. And about the table – is it true that he dreamed about it? For a scientist, this is a unique experience – when ideas for amazing discoveries come to mind, which turn out to be true, and not your fevered fantasies.

Mendeleev not only placed the elements in the form of a table, he also predicted the position and properties of elements that had not yet been discovered. Later, all his predictions were confirmed accurate to the charge and atomic mass.

The periodic table continues to be filled even now, but thanks to physicists, not chemists. For example, the last currently known element of the table is called oganesson, and it was discovered by physicists from Dubna. His number is 118.

How my day is structured

Now I have a boring daily routine, because I need to combine studying, preparing for my diploma and working in a scientific laboratory. I wake up, go to work, leave work, go to bed. I try to arrive at 10 and stay until 8–9 pm. Sometimes studies or events like a conference in Sochi or the Mendeleev Congress interfere.

What do I think about burnout?

At my age, burnout is not a typical phenomenon, but it can happen if there is no result for a long time. In science it works like this: if you put in 10x effort, you can get x as a result. If this happens for a long time, you begin to feel sad and think what you are doing wrong, how can you correct this situation. That’s when burnout begins. At this moment, the main thing is not to despair, to understand that this is science, it happens, you need to survive it, endure it.

What else am I interested in?

When the work is not particularly complicated, I need to do simple robotic actions with my hands, I can turn on history lectures in my headphones.

I also like to watch original films. Recently I attended a screening of the film “Son” by Maria Safronova. It was first released in 2022, now Maria offered another montage of it with different lighting. I liked it very much.

I love watching retro movies at Illusion. You come to an old Soviet high-rise building to feel the atmosphere of the past, and then watch a good quality movie. I like Tarkovsky, Sokurov. I also like the “yetposner” project, it also often helps to distract myself.

What interesting things have I read lately?

I really like Pikul. I recently re-read his “Pen and Sword” and “The Battle of the Iron Chancellors.” And also “The Moon and a Penny” by Maugham. At school I could read a reasonable number of books at a given time for an educated person. Now I only read scientific literature every day, and fiction when I have time.

Advice to young scientists

I would probably give advice not only to young scientists, but to myself: to believe that what you are doing is for the benefit of humanity. Life for scientists is not always sweet, they work overtime, receive wages below the market, and sometimes they are sad because of this. But I believe that you need to think first of all about the fact that you are doing significant things in life, trying to unravel the mysteries of the universe, to put it pathetically. Understand how part of our world works, how something in this world can be changed and made better.

My family

I come from a simple working-class family; we had no scientists. My mom and dad do not have higher education. But already at school it was obvious to me that I would go to university. At our school, excellent students were given a scholarship, and I spent it on a ticket to Moscow for the Olympics (I’m from Kostroma). I was terribly embarrassed to ask my parents for this money, but still they always supported me, they thought that I was great, that I was a good student. I immediately began to love studying and was an easy-going child. Usually I sat in the library or reading books.

Favorite place in Kostroma and Moscow

My favorite place in Kostroma is the embankment of the Volga River and the monument to Lenin. It stands on a pedestal that was intended for a monument to the tercentenary of the House of Romanov. This is such an interesting historical detail.

And in Moscow, I really like Red Square since school. My dad and mom often told me that their parents went to Moscow and bought sausage, jeans, and sneakers. And all your childhood you saw this Red Square in the President’s address and you have never been there. And now you are finally an adult and can go and see. Now I don’t go there on purpose. But in the summer I often walk after work and can pass through it on the way somewhere.

Note; This information is raw content directly from the source of the information. This is exactly what the source states and does not reflect the position of MIL-OSI or its clients.

Please note; This information is raw content directly from the information source. It is accurate to what the source is stating and does not reflect the position of MIL-OSI or its clients.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is a translation. Apologies should the grammar and or sentence structure not be perfect.

MIL OSI News (multilanguage service)