National Research Nuclear University MEPhI (Moscow Engineering Physics Institute) (Russian: Национальный исследовательский ядерный университет “МИФИ” / НИЯУ МИФИ or МИФИ) is one of the most recognized technical universities in Russia. MEPhI was founded in 1942 as the Moscow Mechanical Institute of Munitions (Московский механический институт боеприпасов, ММИБ), but it was soon renamed the Moscow Mechanical Institute. Its original mission was to train skilled personnel for the Soviet military and atomic programs. It was renamed the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute (Московский инженерно-физический институт) in 1953, which was its name until 2009.
By the Order of the Government of Russia, issued by the Russian Government on April 8, 2009 (#480-r) on behalf of Russian President’s Decree of October 7, 2008 (#1448) “On the pilot project launching on creating National Research Universities” the university MEPhI was granted this new status. The university was reorganized. The aim of the university existence is now preparing the specialists by giving them higher professional, post-graduation professional, secondary professional and additional professional education, as well as educational and scientific activities.
Today, MEPhI has nine main departments (faculties or institutes):
- Institute of Nuclear Physics and Engineering
- Institute for Laser and Plasma Technologies
- Institute of Engineering Physics for Biomedicine
- Institute of Nanoengineering in Electronics, Spintronics and Photonics
- Institute of Cyber Intelligence Systems
- Institute of Financial and Economic Security
- Institute of International Relations
- Faculty of Physics and Technology
- Faculty of Business Informatics and Complex Systems Management
The university offers bachelor, masters (and similar degree ‘Specialist’), and post-graduate degrees in physics, mathematics, computer science and other areas. MEPhI facilities include a 2.5 MW (thermal) pool-type research reactor and Neutrino Water Detector NEVOD. The university has about 35,000 students at branches in Moscow and other towns. In Moscow are around 7,500 students (including over 1300 foreigners). It normally takes 4 – 5.5 (some sub-departments take six) years for a student to graduate from MEPhI. The curriculum of the first two years consists exclusively of required courses (core), with emphasis on mathematics, physics, experimental work and English. After the two first years of studying students on a competition basis enroll to the sub-departments which specialize in different branches of physics, computer science, information security, mathematics, etc.
Starting with the fourth year, some students have a choice to make their diploma thesis, working at base science institutes. Most of them are research institutes, usually belonging to the Russian Academy of Sciences. For instance, Lebedev Physical Institute, Institute for Theoretical and Experimental Physics, Kurchatov Institute etc.
The MEPhI curriculum is, indeed, considerably more extensive compared to an average American or European college. In addition, MEPhI programs usually focus more on research and less on classroom education.
Among MEPhI graduates are Nobel Prize winners, members of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and winners of national prizes. Its professors and alumni have made major contributions to various fields of theoretical and experimental physics, mathematics, cybernetics, and computer sciences.
Traditional university rankings are based on the universities’ research output and prizes won by faculty. In contrast, many distinguished professors teaching at MEPhI are officially on staff at the base institutes like Kurchatov Institute. Student research work is typically carried out outside of MEPhI, and published research results do not mention MEPhI. In effect, many MEPhI professors are not considered as such for the rankings, and student research is not earning any ranking points for MEPhI. This effectively hides MEPhI from the academic radar, an effect welcome during the Cold War era when leading scientists and engineers of the Soviet arms and space programs studied there.
In recent years, the institute has been working to improve its curricula in the humanities, economic sciences, and foreign languages.