About radio, family, love and physics

Azel Murzabekova graduated from Nazarbayev University School of Science and Technology with a Bachelor’s degree in Physics in 2019. The same year she entered the Ph.D. program in Physics at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, USA. While at NU she was active in many clubs, she was a broadcaster for NU perceptions Radio, a member of THEМЫ student club, ex-president of NU Ballroom Dance Club, the winner of Yessenov Foundation summer internship programs and was recognized as the Freshman of the Year 2016.

Azel, what is Physics for you? How did you first come to be interested in it? Is it easy for you to learn?

–  Even though I studied in a high school program that focused on humanities, physics was a hobby for me. My first grade was a “two” (i.e. “D”), and I had never before received such a low mark in other subjects.  This grade was what gave me the initial motivation to study physics deeper. That’s how my love for physics began, and I’m still developing it. I can’t say that it is easy for me to learn it, but this only makes it more interesting!

Tell us about what you studied in the bachelor program. Did you first enter the Foundation program?

– Yes, I started with Foundation and it was a great time to prepare for a bachelor program and to improve my knowledge in all subjects. While I was at secondary school, my interest in becoming a physicist developed, but being a bit young and uncertain when I finished the Foundation Program, I somehow decided to study Engineering for a semester. Almost immediately after I started studying Engineering, I decided that it was a mistake and not what I wanted to do, and then changed my specialization to physics.

When did you decide that you would enter Nazarbayev University?

– Well, in the 9th grade, when I studied at #6 Gymnasium school of Nur-Sultan city. I still remember when I visited the NU educational fair and I received an NU Poster.  This poster became my motivation to study harder. It still on the wall of my room 😀

What did you get from attending NU?

– Well, it was an incredible opportunity to get a better education within Kazakhstan, I was able to “lose” and find myself, make friends, meet like-minded people, and just become a better person than the one who stepped over the threshold of the atrium 5 years ago.

Tell us about your family. Does your family have any special traditions?

– I have a big family. My favorite tradition is to have lunch together every day. I have two elder brothers, and one of them graduated from NU’s MBA program. My family is my main support and motivation. Thanks to my parents who always supported all my endeavors, I decided to become a physicist, despite the many difficulties I had to go through.

What are your hobbies, how did you spend your free time at NU?

– At NU I had various hobbies: teaching ballroom dancing, broadcasting on the radio – hosting my program “Life with Azel” and managing playlists, for a short period I was in student government, busy with the women-physicists’ club, I visited the boxing club and even attended videography courses. Unfortunately, now I don’t have much free time, but I attend Argentine tango classes.

How did you decide to organize NU Perceptions Radio? How did you come up with ideas and what was your radio program about?

– The idea to create a club came to Ahan Kussainov and Sultan Kystaubayev long before I joined NU, but I was lucky to be with them when the club was just making its first steps. Then we were given the equipment on the 3rd floor of the 4th block and we periodically turned on the music, and later there were different shows. In my program “Life with Azel”, I invited different people to talk about their life at university and outside of school.

How did you manage to study and have an active student life?

– To be honest, it wasn’t easy and my grades during some semesters reflect this 😀 It is necessary to set priorities correctly, which is something that took me a bit of time to really learn.   My mother also taught me that I should always be engaged in something in addition to studying because hobbies can help a person to unload from existential problems related to one’s studies.

Why the University of Illinois? What was your choice? How did you get into a doctoral program directly?

– The University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign is considered to be the best university in the field of condensed matter physics, and I have an excellent physics department here. In the summer after my 3rd year I won an internship competition from the Sh. Yessenov Foundation and did research at MIT. This internship has helped me a lot with my Ph.D. applications and many U.S. universities have combined a doctoral program with a master’s degree.

Tell us more about what you are studying right now.

– I do experimental physics. In our lab, we generate terahertz signals to study unusual materials, such as superconductors.

Give five tips to those who want to be Nazarbayev University students.

– Never give up! I have heard many times how hard it is to enter and study at NU, especially for ordinary schoolchildren, as I was. In fact, there is nothing impossible, if you believe in yourself, especially when no one else believes. You have to prepare for the fact that it will not be easy anywhere, and if something is coming to you too easily, then you did the wrong thing 😀 My main advice will be for girls: never listen to anyone who tells you that physics and the exact sciences are “not for women”, because they are all stupid stereotypes! I really want people not to compare themselves with others, although it is difficult but very useful.


  • This Saturday, October 26, 2019, Nazarbayev University invites all graduates to the III Alumni Reunion “The power of being together”. The organizers have prepared a lot of interesting team games, competitions such as Ice Breaking, Leadership talks, Alumni Pitching and Meet your School activities where graduates of different years will be able to be acquainted with each other a little closer.
  • Details of Nazarbayev University’s admissions and academic programs can be found here.