Portrait of a Young CRD Scientist, Hripsime Mkrtchyan.

By Arsine Arakelians

March 25, 2014

Hripsime Mkrtchyan: the newest PhD student at the Cosmic Ray Division of Yerevan Physics Insitute.

The Cosmic Ray Division of the Yerevan  Physics Institute founded by famous Armenian scientist Artem Alikhanyan, is a major, world-renowned scientific research institute.  Along with its extremely important scientific research and discoveries, it is also a teaching and research magnate for young scientists.   Graduate students, eager to advance their knowledge, and gain valuable experience by working in their chosen fields, are recruited to study and work with practicing scientists.  They are encouraged and even expected to participate in the scientific endeavors of CRD.  One such graduate student is a young lady, Hripsime Mkrtchyan, profiled below.  

She has agreed to answer a few questions, via e mail.

1 - Where were you born?  Did you attend the primary and secondary schools of your birth place?

I was born in Yerevan in 1990, and from 1997-2007 attended N199 School named Henrik Khachatryan in Yerevan, which was my parent’s best choice for me.

2 - How large is your family?

My immediate family consists of my parents, younger brother and me. It is relatively small, but my extended family is large.

3 - Were there any scientists in your immediate or extended family?

There is no scientist in my immediate family. But in the extended family I have relatives who majored in sciences. My grandfather is a retired chemist who was a lecturer in what is today the Armenian National Agrarian University and had many productive students. Later he became a school administrator and taught chemistry to many young people. He is very proud of his influence on young people and he influenced me a lot with his enthusiasm for science. Besides my grandfather, my uncle is a physicist working on X-ray related experiments.

4- Was there anyone among your immediate surroundings that took a special interest in your education or in you as a budding scientist, and was willing to help you finance your education?

My parents took special interest in my education. They gave me freedom and support to choose the profession I was interested in. I hope I have justified my parents’ expectations. I was an honor student and was granted a Government sponsored Scholarship during my student years.  In addition, I would like to emphasize my uncle’s role in my education. He was and still is ready and willing to explain the mysteries of physics and answer my questions in regards to sciences.  His continuing assistance has been  very helpful and rewarding for me.  

5- At what age and why did you choose physics as your field of study?

I chose physics as a field of study when I was 17. Back then I did not know what was the real meaning of the word “scientist” and generally speaking, what it took to be a scientist. I strived to become a good specialist in a field where I could discover answers to questions about life and existence.  Personally, I’m very interested in inventing and creating new things. Studying physics has given me this great opportunity. I remember when I met my advisor, Prof. Ashot Chilingarian, for the first time, and told him about my ideas and plans, he advised me to work very hard, experiment, calculate, demonstrate, try out my ideas first, not jump to conclusions too fast. I know this is the field where I can try out my ideas and achieve success by working hard.

6 -Which university did you attend?  Did you do your undergraduate and graduate studies at the same institute?

After secondary school I entered Yerevan State University,  (2007-2013) Department of Physics. I received a Bachelor’s Degree in “Applied Physics and Mathematics” and a Master’s Degree in “Nuclear Physics” in the same department. Last year I enrolled as a PhD student at Cosmic Ray Division of A. Alikhanyan National Laboratory (Yerevan Physics Institute).  I have been affiliated with CRD since receiving my Master’s Degree.

7 - Did you have a special mentor?  Who was the main influence in your life and studies while in school?

My father is irreplaceable as a mentor in my life, and has had a great influence on me. He is always ready to motivate me, encourages me to follow my dreams, and teaches me to be patient and never give up, no matter how hard things may get.  It was based on my father’s encouragement that I pursued higher education and became a scientist, without worrying too much about future earning possibilities.

8 - How did you become affiliated with CRD?

When I was a 3rd year student (2010) we had special lectures at the CRD headquarters as part of our university curriculum.  After I met Prof. Chilingarian, became acquainted with his scientific works, I realized that the new and exciting field of Atmospheric Physics is where I want to specialize. After earning my Bachelor’s Degree, Prof. Chilingarian gave me the opportunity to join the CRD team.

9 - How long have you been involved with them?  How do you like being a part of CRD?  

I have been involved with CRD for 3 years, since 2010 as a researcher.   Now I cannot imagine my life without science and without my work.

10- What particular project are you working on?  As a young scientist, do you have opportunities to be creative, to introduce new ideas?  

My topic of research is related to Atmospheric Physics. Particularly, I study the phenomena of thunderstorm as well as lightning initiation, particle enhancement, and the behavior of meteorological parameters during thunderstorm.  Atmospheric Physics is a field where many questions still remain unanswered. My advisor always inspires me to “dive” into the world of science, never be afraid of new approaches, taking risks, experimenting, trying to prove my ideas.  He does everything possible to facilitate my study and work. I always share my ideas with him.  He is ready and forth coming with plenty of valuable advice. As a young scientist, working in this environment, I am encouraged to invent new approaches to research.

11 - Are you given the chance to interact with foreign scientists or to travel abroad and meet others like you, participate in scientific conferences, symposia?  

With my advisor, Prof. Chilingarian, we organize various international symposia and meetings in Armenia. These allow me the opportunity to interact, and communicate with foreign leading scientists. Last year I helped Prof. Chilingarian to organize Thunderstorms and Elementary Particle Acceleration  (TEPA-2013) symposium in Armenia. The year before that it was in Moscow and I presented my work there. This year we are planning to organize TEPA-2014, as well as an international summer school in Armenia.  In the future, I am planning to participate in various conferences abroad. In May I will attend an International Summer School in Collieune, France dedicated to Thunderstorm Effects on the Atmosphere-Ionoshpere System

Hripsime presenting her work at the TEPA-2012 Workshop in Moscow

12 - As a scientist, what are you long term goals?  What would you like to accomplish?

Our team and I are going to explain and enhance the understanding of the electrical structure of thunderclouds and conditions that support lightning initiation.  My dream is to become an excellent scientist and contribute to my home country, Armenia.  There are many very smart people who leave Armenia, chasing better salaries abroad, due to lack of opportunities here.  Other countries offer far higher standard of living and lure many of our highly educated people away.  As a matter of fact, we are suffering from a “Brain Drain”. Therefore, one of my life long goals is to do everything possible within, or even beyond my powers to persuade our scientists and specialists to stay, work and create in Armenia.

Thank you, Hripsime for your answers.

The above is a snapshot portrait of a young, dedicated scientist, who exudes enthusiasm and love for her chosen field.   She is a “treasure” for Armenia.  Her willingness to work very hard, her determination to succeed, ensures a bright future as a significant scientist in the field of Atmospheric Physics.   At her tender age, she is already gaining world-recognition from international scientists who go to Armenia for conferences.  In May 2014 she will attend a special a summer school called Thunderstorm Effects on the Atmosphere-Ionoshpere System (TEA-IS), to be held in Collioure, France. This is a research Networking Program, which began in 2011 and will last until 2016.  So far there are over 100 scientists from 9 countries,  participating in this project.  Imagine the exposure and experiences she will gain by taking part in these sessions. She will present her own work as well as discuss and learn from the practicing specialists.

It is only due to her involvement with CRD in Armenia, that she is capable of following her dreams, and working in her chosen field.  Without CRD, she would never have the opportunity to “fine tune” her specialization, to advance her base of knowledge, or to participate in such prestigious international conferences.  

The most heart warming aspect of her interview is her earnest desire to remain and work in Armenia.  We desperately need her and people like her.  For the sake of Hripsime and all future scientists, we must extend our support to ensure a thriving, prosperous CRD.

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