Interview with Fellows

“Pandemic decelerated the implementation of scientific projects.” Interview with MULTIPLY Fellow Vladimir Kalashnikov

Dr. Vladimir Kalashnikov does research in the fields of applied mathematics and theoretical physics including chaos theory, space-time nonlinear and stochastic dynamics, soliton theory, general relativity and quantum cosmology. His main activity was connected closely with ultrafast nonlinear optics, laser physics, and the theory of dissipative solitons

Now Dr. Vladimir Kalashnikov is a MULTIPLY Fellow at the Sapienza Universit di Roma, Dipartimento di Ingegneria dell’Informazione, Elettronica e Telecomunicazioni. The title of his project is “Mastering the Spatiotemporal Dissipative Solitons”. We asked Vladimir to tell us more about his work, the impact of the Covid on his research and the innovative aspect of Vladimir’s project.

Before Italy, you worked many years in Vienna, Minsk, UK. How is your experience in Italy different from your previous places?
All countries have their own specific features that require some time for adaptation. This process in Italy is quite friendly but somewhat slow from the formal side. Maybe it is typical for the Romance speaking countries, there are some initial problems with English in some situations. But it is not critical because the atmosphere in Italy is amiable, and there are many possibilities for Italian learning. Unfortunately, the last was troubled by the COVID pandemic.

How did Italians deal with the pandemic? Was it a hard time for mental health or were they trying to stay positive?
Italians are very positive people and, first thing displayed the national flags and the encouraging pennants on the windows and terraces. Every day at noon, people go on terraces and song the Italian national anthem. Italians really love the children, and isolation allowed them to spend more time with the family. That was greeted very positively. Incidentally, all quarantine measures had strictly adhered to.

The text on the poster: “Brothers Italians! I’m staying home, and you (thou) run away.”

How the pandemic impacted your research?
The impact was negative. The quarantine broke the live communication between scientific groups, students and moved the international network into the virtual world. In particular, that caused significant problems with the Internet capacity. Especially, the quarantine troubled the experimental work.

The conferences became virtual. The last has both positive and negative aspects. The negative one is that live communication is more productive, of course. However, the virtual conferences allow “visiting” all desirable presentations.

As a whole, the pandemic decelerated the implementation of scientific projects.

Looking at what happened over the past year and a half, were there any benefits for the researchers in the pandemic?
I mentioned above one positive aspect of virtual conferences. Other aspects are the reduced conference fee, absence of travel and hotel costs. These made the conferences more accessible and resulted in their “proliferation”. The reduced costs concern the secondments, as well. But, I think, it is some benefit only for theorists.

MULTIPLY is your second project where you are the Marie Curie Fellow. What are the benefits for a researcher to be a Fellow on such projects?
A MULTIPLY project is intricately connected with a host project but can go beyond the initial scopes of the latter. That enriches the content of a host project and simultaneously provides a high level of independence for a MULTIPLY project.

What is your host project?
The host project is “Spatiotemporal multimode complex optical systems” (STEMS) aimed at mastering the self-control of the spatial coherence of optical beams in multimode nonlinear optical fibers. This project is evaluated as an ERC Advanced Grant.

Was the content of the host project upgraded?
Yes, the content was upgraded because the MASTEDIS project added new ideas exploring the dissipative effects for the light bullet formation and stabilization. Moreover, the new interdisciplinary aspects appeared, related to the Bose-Einstein condensates and even quantum gravity.

What is innovative about your research?
We investigate the new ways of energy harvesting in the coherent structures, such as, for instance, the ultrashort pulses or “light bullets” produced by fiber lasers. That means implementing the concept of spatiotemporal soliton laser, which would bring a high-energy and “subtle” physics on a laboratory and universally usable “table-top” and have a broad range of applications ranging from micromachining, metrology, and ultrasensitive spectroscopy to biology and medicine.

The expected achievement of these goals will result from developing novel synergetic approaches based on the deep analogy between photonics, plasma, and condensed matter physics. It would provide an effective photonic based “metaphorical” modeling tool for different branches of science.

Sound great. What was your most surprising scientific finding?
That is the surprising effectiveness of optical-based analogical modeling in understanding the phenomena ranging from turbulence to condensed-matter and plasma physics, Bose-Einstein condensates, quantum gravity, and soliton models of atoms and elementary particles.

What is your favorite aspect of your research?
That is its interdisciplinary character which bridges seemingly separated scientific and engineering areas.