Meet the ESRs: Vasyl Hafych

Hello everybody!

My name is Vasyl, and it has been more than a year since I have started this amazing Ph.D. journey as an Early Stage Researcher as part of the INSIGHTS Innovative Training Network. One could say that my introduction is a year overdue, though during this year my research trajectory managed to converge, which means that I can introduce myself with more clarity.

I was raised in a small city located on the western side of Ukraine called Ivano-Frankivsk. For those who are not familiar with eastern Europe, this city is located close to the geographical center of Europe. This part of Ukraine is famous for the special role of national traditions and culture in people’s lives. Being very traditional, yet modern, this region attracts many tourists that want to visit the Carpathian mountains, go hiking, skiing or to eat the best Ukrainian food.

Ratusha is a rathaus in the downtown of the city of Ivano-Frankivsk at the city’s Market Square. [retrieved from:]

I left Ivano-Frankivsk and moved to Kyiv — the capital of Ukraine — when I turned 17, to pursue a bachelor’s degree in the department of Radiophysics, Electronics, and Computer Systems. It was my dad introducing me to electrical engineering when I was a child that first sparked my interest in physics. What I have always found so appealing about physics is a fundamental way of understanding how our world works. The creativity inherent in crafting and applying simple concepts for an explanation of complicated processes is what inspired me to study physics and to pursue a bachelor’s degree in the subject. It turned out much later that Artem and Vitaliy — which are my INSIGHTS colleagues — started studying there at the same time with me!

In addition to my interest in physics, I have always been fascinated by programming, especially in the context of physics. Many examples of this have fascinated me, such as seeing how the Boltzman or Vlasov equations can be numerically solved for the kinetic simulation of plasma, and seeing the wonders of protein folding obtained from computationally expensive Markov Chain Monte Carlo simulations. This interest never left me, only growing more profound and passionate with every new subject I took at university.

The Old Town Hall in Munich. The building was first mentioned in city records in 1310, and it was the seat of the Munich city council until 1847.

Inspired through my great love for physics and programming, my next step was completing a master’s degree in a program called Atomic Scale Modelling of Physical, Chemical, and Bimolecular Systems organized by the European Commission. My classmates and I have been living and studying in the Netherlands, Italy, and France. This was a remarkable experience that broadened all of our cultural and research horizons tremendously. I completed my final project at the European Center for Atomic and Molecular Calculations in Lausanne, where I have been working on the quantum free energy reconstruction using Langevin-guided Monte Carlo. This stimulated my current interest in Markov chain Monte Carlo methods, which — together with knowledge of all benefits of EU-funded scholarships — led me to apply for my Ph.D. at the INSIGHTS Innovative Training Network.

One can wonder what is my Ph.D. project about? Broadly speaking, it is a mixture of physics, statistics, and programming. I have the privilege of working on these topics at the Max Planck Institute for Physics in Munich, with supervision from Prof. Allen Caldwell and Dr. Oliver Schulz. Working in these conditions has allowed me to develop my research skills tremendously. From spending an overnight shift in the AWAKE control room at CERN collecting experimental data, to using hundreds of CPUs for massively parallel computing, the past year has brought a lot of new experiences to my life. I can keep writing much more about them, but instead, I encourage you to have a look at a paper on parallelization of the Markov chain Monte Carlo technique that we are planning to publish in the near future. There, you will be able to find a more detailed explanation of all the interesting things that we do.

Stay tuned!

Swans seem to be pretty common near Lake Geneva. This picture was taken during my secondment at CERN.