Physics Enthusiast, MSCA Research Fellow, and Skoltech Alumnus
Muneeb Farooq, MSc alumnus, Photonics and Quantum Materials
Meet Muneeb: a physics enthusiast from Kashmir, India. In his True Story, Muneeb reflects on his time at Skoltech and how it helped him become a research fellow through one of the most prestigious programmes in the EU: Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA).
the journey to Skoltech
I live in the Indian part of Kashmir in a beautiful town of Bijbehara. Before Skoltech, I did my Bachelor's studies in Electrical Engineering at Islamic University of Science and Technology Kashmir. Being a Physics enthusiast, I did my BSc thesis titled Numerical Simulations of Maxwell Equations on Some Static, Non-Trivial Geometries.

One of my friends introduced me to Skoltech where he studied Data Science. I was quite impressed: my instant reasons to study at Skoltech were a diverse curriculum, going through the memo of some of the professors (an awesome feeling in itself) and the university's infrastructure.
Photo taken at ITMO university during Muneeb's presentation
first impressions
My first day memory at Skoltech changed my perspective as a human being.

I was late to the course of Quantum Physics by a few lectures due to travel issues. On the day of my arrival, my course instructor personally came down to the main hall himself to meet me. I was completely astonished by this gesture, I can't imagine a professor walking a five-minute distance just to receive a student in the part of the world where I studied before.

Academically, I enjoyed solving challenging assignments, following some haphazard mathematics and deducing some beautiful physics. I want to mention a course on Plasmonics by Dr. Ivan Pshenichyuk exclusively, this course gave the perspective of research. Last but not least, the smiling faces of all colleagues you don't know from the Education and the Student department left a lasting positive impression.

Master's in Photonics & Quantum Materials
The program is tailored to provide future graduates with the tools they will need to tackle the on-going photonics revolution. A broad curriculum of courses in modern aspects of photonics, provided by world-leading faculty, provides both foundation knowledge in the field and specific understanding of key areas of modern photonics. Through a continuous program of experimental 'hands-on' activities, all students are provided with the opportunity to carry on a research project within one of Skoltech's state-of-the-art laboratories and research groups. Students are able to choose between research-oriented (involving research projects in fundamental and applied photonics) and industry-oriented (carrying out an applied project with industrial partners) tracks, tuning their experience to their specific skills and to their desired outcome.

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the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions research fellowship
During the second year of my Master's studies, I started looking for PhD positions. With some online searching, I found an interesting position titled 'Design, fabrication and characterization of quantum encrypted communication (QKD) PICs for LEO satellites' funded by Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA). MSCA funds the development of excellent doctoral and postdoctoral training programs and collaborative research projects worldwide.

This position was interesting to me because I have already worked with Photonic Integrated Circuits related simulations exhaustively during my masters, with a good grip on 'On-Chip Optical Communications'. It was a match!

The selection process was tough, but (eventually) enjoyable. I passed two rounds of online interviews: in the first one, I presented and defended my Master's work, and in the second one I answered some technical knowledge-based questions. I was interviewed by professors from Ghent University, DCU Ireland and a few industry experts. They asked question about Quantum coherent detection, some theoretical questions about pulsed lasers and presented a problem on quantum mechanics.

The news of my winning the fellowship came a few weeks later. I was in! The program sent a congratulatory email and hosted an online meeting to launch the program.

I will be working in collaboration with Ghent University Belgium, University of Vigo Spain and an Ireland-based company Embryonics. First I'll spend a few months in Spain and then move to Ghent University, Belgium.

Specifically, I will:
  • design and prototype a quantum signal source (QKD Tx) to implement QKD protocols;
  • develop a robust, low-power quantum random number generator that meets certain spatial specifications;
  • develop and implement the electronics and algorithms necessary to obtain secret keys through QKD, capable of processing the information generated by the transmitter.
thanks, Skoltech!
I dedicate the achievement of this fellowship to none other than Skoltech. The Skoltech curriculum and research you do, scientific acquaintances with world-renowned professors makes you knowledgeable enough that one faces any interview or solves any problem with utter confidence.

I think the credit to this efficient learning goes to the cordial environment Skoltech provides. When the professor treats you as a colleague and respects your attempt and viewpoint towards problems in a very optimistic way, you are definitely gonna learn and develop skills to compete at any level.
reflecting on my studies at Skoltech
The most important thing to consider when applying and studying at Skoltech is the what track you want to pursue: industry, academia or startup. That knowledge will really help you in focusing on your studies and getting the most out of them as soon as possible.

Then, dedicate some time to researching what specifically interests you in your subject area, get acquainted with professors at Skoltech and start looking for an advisor. And don't forget to develop the important general skills required to excel in the chosen field - never stop practicing!

Photo taken near the Skoltech campus
Some tips for current and soon-to-be Master's students. In managing time and curriculum, you have two options:

First, find all the interesting courses to you and complete them in the first year of your studies. Then you can dedicate your the second year to research and complete credits by taking extra research credits, not courses.

The second option is to follow the research as well as courses from the beginning only, so try to do both at the same time.

From my experience, focusing on coursework in Year 1 worked better. I would also recommend doing E&I courses in the second year, this way your research will run smoothly. Finally, it's better to choose your advisor early, but not panic. Use your early research credits timespan in choosing the most interesting lab, and then make your decision. Visit every lab in person first.
and now about Skoltech
We are Skoltech – a new international English-speaking STEM university that was founded by the group of world-renowned scientists in 2011 in Moscow, Russia. In just 8 years, we united dozens of researchers and globally renowned professors, built a stunning campus, set up world-class labs and made it to the top 100 young universities in the Nature Index. Read more >>
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