"If we don't want to support science, we should agree to return to cave life"

Author : Iryna Nikolaychuk

Respondent : Igor Dotsenko

Source :

Associate Professor of Kastler-Brossel Laboratory in France, Ukrainian scientist Igor Dotsenko shares his view on science in the world and in Ukraine, the need to support it and results that societies can achieve
12:01, 27 October 2016

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For 10 consecutive years in the team of Nobel Prize laureate, famous French physicist Serge Haroche has been working Ukrainian scientist Igor Dotsenko. At the earliest opportunity he arrives in Ukraine: communicating with colleagues, participating in festivals of science, giving lectures to students, young scientists.

- Mr. Dotsenko, tell us how you were able to start working in one of the world's most renowned research groups in Paris?

I graduated from Cherkassy Physics and Mathematics Lyceum in 1996. While studying there, participated in national competitions in physics. Then there was the Physics Department of the Kyiv National University of Taras Shevchenko. After receiving a bachelor's degree, I entered the Masters, in University of Bonn in Germany, and after it – graduated from the Institute of Applied Physics. After graduating from it in 2007, I went to Paris to work in a group of Serge Haroche, where soon received a permanent position.

- What is unique about this group and laboratory?

The group itself is small (12 employees) - a few professors, permanent scientists and graduate students. It is part of the Kastler Brossel Laboratory, within which, in addition to our department, another 12 groups are united. By analogy with the Ukrainian system is a kind of scientific research institute. However, without their own premises groups work in various universities.

If we talk about the uniqueness of the laboratory, it is well known in the world in the field of quantum optics. Its activity is connected with the names of the three Nobel Prize winners: the founder of the lab Alfred Kastler, who in 1966 received the prize for the discovery and development of optical methods for studying atoms, Claude Cohen-Tannoudji - Nobel Prize winner in 1997 for the creation of methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light, and the already mentioned Serge Haroche (2012 Nobel Prize in physics was awarded to Serge Haroche and David J. Wineland for work in the field of quantum optics, "for revolutionary experimental methods that allow to measure individual quantum systems and manipulate them"). These names are known to all who work in quantum optics.

- What's in your circle of scientific interests?

 I work in the field of experimental quantum optics - the science that studies the interaction between individual particles of light and individual particles of matter, atoms and photons. We are trying to do very simple, conceptually simple experiments with individual quantum particles. Literally: we take one atom, only one, and examine it. As the motion of a billiard ball, we look at how it will roll. I emphasize: it is only one. It is a high technology; this is what last 10 years is called quantum engineering. We are partly quantum engineers, because we use the known laws of quantum mechanics to build something out of elementary particles.

- Sorry, but who finances these experiments?

We receive funds from multiple sources. Both public and various institutions. Today, it is a quite costly research. But it is an attempt to do what has never been done. Although we know that everything that is done, it finds its application with the time. To look into the future, we must first look back in history.

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- Are there mostly young people in your group?

Yes. The structure of French science differs from that in Germane, America. In the group there are several respected professors, and from time to time new people who receive permanent positions. This is the skeleton of the group. Why is it important? This is important in order to transmit knowledge across generations. There are also post-graduate students. Of course, there are young people who work with us for three or four years, learning from senior colleagues who share their knowledge with younger colleagues. Most people in the group are French, but there are also scientists from Brazil, China, Australia, Vietnam, Chile, Germany ...

- Youth in Ukraine is reluctant to work in science, and after receiving a minimum status they often seek realization in foreign laboratories.

Unfortunately, the reason is very simple - financial. I talked with the leading Ukrainian scientists who published a lot of their works; they are respected in the world. So – Ukraine has people to work in science. But we need the money. First of all - for the experiments. One mirror, which we use to hold individual photons, costs about 2 thousand Euros. We need 12 of such mirrors. We do everything in the cryostat (huge instrument, which can cool anything to a very low temperature) the price of which - 300-400 thousand Euros. Of course, in Ukraine, scientists simply can’t buy it.

- To what extent the principle of international science works? Perhaps it should be followed, and then it would not matter which country you are from...

We live in a world of globalization, which we have at all levels. We even use things, not knowing in what country they were made. The same goes for science at different levels. For example, a student did graduate studies in Ukraine, and then - in another place, worked somewhere else as a postdoc – it is a part of globalization.

- Do you also think that it is better not to work at the largest possible number of scientific fields, but it will be more productive to determine the priorities? Therefore, probably, there’s a lot of talks around our Academy of Sciences, which allegedly doesn’t want to reform...

The funds are never enough. I can’t say that science, education or health – is a priority. Because society needs it all. But the good societies in the world - those in which all fields are harmoniously combined. When science helps the medicine, medicine – the quality of life, together they contribute to the economy and education. The most harmonious countries are those that find a balance between the different spheres of life.

Science - is a very important thing, because all that we have received over the past few centuries, has been done by science. If we do not want to support science, we must agree to return to the cave life. But even in the caves to make a hammer - it was already part of the science. No one wants to climb back to the tree. Society must find a compromise between what it wants and what it can. And, it seems, there are no recipes, because each country is unique. As one of the examples - German science is very powerful, British, French ... But if we look at the structure of science in these countries, it differs.

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