ITMO: Green Energy, Leadership Training, and Talent Scouting: Highlights From Day Two of Congress of Young Scientists

Energy for the future

Energy plays a major role in our lives and the development of the global economy. But what does the future have in store for it and how can scientists change the field today? These questions were discussed by Sergey Makarov, the head of ITMO’s ; Denis Derkach (Higher School of Economics); Igor Ermakov and Viktor Ilgisonis (Rosatom); and other experts. The discussion was moderated by the well-known TV host Alexander Pushnoy.

Sergey Makarov noted that solar power is not only highly promising, renewable, and accessible, but could be the solution to a number of environmental issues:

“Above us is the Sun – an unfailing source of energy. By a rough estimate, if we were to cover just 4% of absolutely unused territories, such as deserts, with solar panels, we could cover all of humanity’s energy needs. Moreover, there is a hypothesis that in some problem areas, such as in Africa, we could combat soil erosion and modify local climate by using solar panels to regulate the amount of sunlight to which our planet is exposed.”

In the future, green energy technologies will further permeate daily life. For instance, as wearable devices that can be recharged via solar cells embedded in clothing. And that’s not something expected to happen in decades or even centuries: these technologies are already becoming available today.



The Gen Z frequency

There’s a Russian joke that goes like this: “The only working social elevator in St. Petersburg is the Sapsan (a high-speed train that connects Moscow and St. Petersburg – Ed.).” But the jest rings true: can regional universities compete with those in the capital and how can they convince talented applicants not to leave for Moscow? This was the subject of the discussion Science in Regions: How to Attract and Retain Talents. One of the experts involved was Daria Kozlova, the First Vice Rector of ITMO University and the head of its 2030 Development Strategy. Among other participants were: Anton Serikov, deputy general director of ANO Russia – Land of Opportunities; Vladimir Knyaginin, the Vice Governor of St. Petersburg; Leonid Gusev, a vice rector at Lomonosov Moscow State University; Alexey Kozlov, managing director at SIBUR; Lyudmila Ogorodova, Deputy Governor of Tomsk Oblast for science, education, and digital transformation; and Andrei Travnikov, the Governor of Novosibirsk Oblast.

According to Daria Kozlova, students need to be attracted using the language of Gen Z, and retained by providing them with a comfortable environment for growth and development.

“If teenagers are playing video games, then your admissions campaign should resemble one. If they’re on TikTok, we should be there, too. It’s important to be on the same frequency. When we talk about drawing talents towards us, we need to realize that a university is a sort of springboard, a sandbox where they can try on different roles and make a few mistakes. Universities must be open towards their students’ ideas. Our student newcomers don’t like tasks for the sake of tasks; they want to create solutions that can be used here and now. And universities need to provide the opportunity to do that.”

Go wild

Alexander and Vladimir Vinogradov, the heads of ITMO’s SCAMT Lab, conducted a workshop titled Establishing a Globally Recognized Laboratory After PhD. They discussed their own experience with establishing a biochemical cluster at ITMO that was unique to Russia.

The two speakers shared the principles which they believe any young scientist should adhere to if they want to achieve a remarkable career in science:

“People often ask us whether there’s some key to becoming a PI. We always reply with the words of Prof. David Avnir, our scientific advisor. He said: “Go wild.” That means that there is no such thing as a solution that works for everyone. You make ones that work for you. And the more unusual and daring your unique path will be, the more widely you will be noticed.”

The workshop also touched on the recently hosted by SCAMT and shared a special questionnaire that will help the respondents realize their strengths and weaknesses, reflect on their experience, and plan a way forward.


Training leaders

Alexey Slobozhanyuk, a senior research associate at ITMO’s Faculty of Physics, took part in a discussion on training future leaders at the VUZPROMEXPO platform. During his talk, Alexey shared his experience of participating in the Leaders of Scientific and Technological Breakthrough educational program by SKOLKOVO. Among other panelists were Natalia Gvozdeva, the head of the Department of Project Activities of the Russian Ministry of Science and Higher Education; Inna Shevchenko, the rector of the Southern Federal University; Igor Bondar, the deputy head for research at the Institute of Higher Nervous Activity and Neurophysiology; Nikita Chernetsov, the director of the Zoological Institute RAS; and Anton Vlasov, the vice rector for research and expert activities at Reshetnev Siberian State University of Science and Technology. The moderator of the event was Andrey Volkov, the director of the Institute for Public Strategy, Moscow School of Management SKOLKOVO.

“We jokingly called this program an MBA for scientists. Researchers usually live and breathe their work and always remain scientists when they communicate with other people, even though they can play many other roles in life, each with their own goals and tasks. It’s challenging to step outside of your perspective and experience reality from a different point of view, be it of a manager, a minister, a fund manager, or an industrial partner. However, researchers should test their ideas through various perspectives. It’s necessary for them to be active in discussions, accept other views, and look for models and solutions that would work in current circumstances while taking into account the history and context,” comments Alexey Slobozhanyuk.

Glow-in-the-dark chess

The head of Laboratory of Hybrid Nanophotonics and Optoelectronics, Sergey Makarov, has a penchant not only for science but chess, too. So, it’s no wonder that Dr. Makarov leaped at the opportunity to join a tournament happening at the Congress. Artem Lebedev, a ten-year-old prodigy, became an absolute leader after beating 14 other chess players. Sergey Makarov invited him to play one more game, this time using a set of recently created at ITMO University.

Sergey Makarov won the game but admits that it was one of those hard-won victories:

“I was really into chess when I was studying in Moscow. It was more than ten years ago. Back then, I participated in city championships where you could see both adults and gifted kids just like Artem. He is an ambitious kid who has a great future ahead of him. I’m always happy to support such talents. I wouldn’t even mind losing a game to him, but I wanted to go all in so that he could learn something valuable from my experience, too.”

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