March 26, 2019
Petr Panov is from Moscow, Russia. He earned his BS and MS in biophysics from Moscow Institute of Technology. He is now a fourth-year student pursuing a PhD in statistics. We interviewed him via email about his experiences at the University of Chicago.
What have you been studying or researching as part of your program?
Probability theory. More specifically, certain random paths, Poisson point processes and the Gaussian free field.
Why did you choose the University of Chicago?
When the end of my MS program was near, I was very much interested in machine learning. The Department of Statistics at UChicago seemed like a great choice, since it has a strong reputation in academia, and the faculty’s research interests are fun and diverse.
Describe something you are proud of accomplishing at UChicago.
I have transformed from an experimentalist into a mathematician with moderate success. I began to grasp the method of mathematical thinking and to understand what ideas are, and how to build, manipulate and express them.
What’s something you love to do outside of the classroom and lab?
I like to read fiction, listen to some good music and just lounge.
What are your plans post-UChicago?
Hopefully, I will get a postdoctoral position in mathematics and study probability a bit more. Otherwise, I will try to get into industry and do something related to data analysis, unless there is a company interested in ways to compute the expected volume of a random fractal spherical horse in a vacuum. For science.
What support have you received at UChicago that was particularly valuable to you?
I was lucky to receive the McCormick fellowship when I first came here. As for the non-material support, the example set here by the faculty and other students’ high standard of work is quite valuable.
If you were speaking to someone who wants to learn about UChicago, what would you tell them?
I would say that UChicago provides a great environment for achieving a balance between breadth and depth of knowledge, with a slight tendency towards inquisitiveness rather than expertise. You will unlikely be forced to cram, and you'll learn to think, no matter how hard you try to resist. There is little to no promotion of unhealthy competition. There is a lot of strong faculty doing cutting-edge research here, and (most of them) are willing to spare time to share their vast experience with students. Also, you can nearly always find free food on campus if you know where to look.
How has your background or experience prepared you to contribute to an environment where diversity and inclusion are valued?
Learning English was somewhat helpful. Other than that, most of my experiences with regards to diversity and inclusion were learned (and are still being learned) here.