BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – OCTOBER 21, 2013 – Askar Kassymov said teachers noticed he was good at mathematics while growing up in Semey, Kazakhstan. But the 23 year old doctoral student ultimately chose physics to pursue his career.
The students began work in the nanoscience laboratories of Dr. Karen Martirosyan, an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, in late September. Kassymov is working on a thesis in technical physics and Saukhimov is studying for a doctoral degree in nanotechnology and nanomaterials at Kazakh National Technical University After K.I. Satpayev
in Almaty in southern Kazakhstan. The students are scheduled to end their nanophysics-based research work at UTB in December and expect to graduate in 2015.
The students relish the opportunities to work with laboratory equipment they have not had experience with before. Some of the equipment that Martirosyan has purchased with federal grant money include a Physical Property Measurement System, a SDT Q600 Simultaneous TGA/DSC and a Compact Vacuum Oven.
Kassymov has conducted experiments that have so far revealed an electric field forms during the combustion synthesis of materials. Combustion synthesis is one technique in Self-Propagating High-Temperature Synthesis producing inorganic compounds which lack carbon and hydrogen atoms.
Saukhimov, of Almaty, Kazakhstan, said he is eager to study rare Earth elements.
“The purpose of our experiments was to analyze the magnetic and thermal properties of YFe2O4 (Yttrium, Iron and Oxygen combined),” he said. “The thermal aspects were observed up to 1,000 degrees Celsius.”
YFe2O4 can be found in fuel cells, gas sensors and magnetic materials.
The students had to adjust quickly to American life. Kassymov said the two had to find electrical plug adaptors for their laptop computers and other technology and SIM cards compatible with their cellular telephones.
“We are enjoying it very well,” said Kassymov. “When we looked at the map searching for Brownsville it was not easy to find. We found it and look at it and thought it was a very little city. When we came here we liked it. There are birds and beautiful trees. People are the most important thing.”
Some physics students helped Kassymov and Saukhimov find an affordable apartment near the university. The Kazakhstan students have been invited by some of the university’s other international students to socialize.
Kassymov and Saukhimov have had at least one “first” since they have been in Brownsville: they swam in a large body of water for the first time when they visited South Padre Island. Kazakhstan is landlocked except for a portion of the western border on the Caspian Sea.
“It is very salty,” said Kassymov about the Gulf of Mexico. “I got a little sunburned.”
The students have also tried local seafood and burritos and eaten at a local Asian buffet restaurant. These are significant because Kassymov said Mexican and Chinese cuisine is considered exotic in his home nation.
The government of Kazakhstan is paying for the students’ time at UTB. The students said they want to teach and continue research after graduation. Saukhimov said his home nation, which became independent from the former Soviet Union in December 1991, needs more doctorate-holding citizens in specialized fields.
“We must return and share this knowledge with the next generation,” said Kassymov.