ITMO: ITMO in Top-Three of Potanin Foundation Scholarship Contest

About the contest
Among other things, the scholarship contest aims to support the best Master’s students from 75 universities participating in the program. This year, 5,707 students applied for the contest, ITMO placing second in the amount of applications sent by the university students (244) after the Higher School of Economics (274).

In the first stage of the contest, the organizers evaluated letters of motivation and popular-science essays submitted by applicants – 2,000 participants passed through this selection into the next round.

In the final stage, which took place online, the committee evaluated students during business games – the participants took part in interviews and presented solutions for the suggested cases. As a result, 750 students became winners of the contest, including 73 from the Higher School of Economics and 61 from both ITMO and Lomonosov Moscow State University.

We talked to several ITMO winners to learn about their research and ask for any advice they would give to future participants.

Roman Gorifyanov

A first-year Master’s student of the program


I evaluate the stability of P2P loans in Russia – those are cases in which a person or a legal entity provides a loan instead of a bank or a financial organization.

I submitted my application an hour before the deadline and I see now that it wasn’t in vain. I have only positive impressions of the contest; it was impeccably organized. I particularly enjoyed the original tasks and questions, as they allowed me to learn many interesting facts. For instance, to test our critical thinking, we were presented with fakes that we had to debunk. Some of the questions were pretty standard in the sense that you had to know the right answer, but we didn’t really have to know them to succeed – the committee evaluated our ability to make conclusions. This win helped me see that I can achieve anything I want if I have a goal and know how to get there.

If you are planning to take part in the contest, don’t think that it’s only for geniuses or straight-A students. The organizers evaluate your leadership qualities, how you behave outside of your comfort zone, your openness, selflessness, and your ability to back up your opinion and interests. That’s why I encourage everyone to participate, be yourself, don’t succumb to nerves, and do your best with writing the essay and compiling the application.

Anastasia Druzhinina

A second-year Master’s student of the program


I have many interests: innovations, startups, as well as recycling and composting technologies. I work at Sobirator (a company specializing in recycling and waste reduction and sorting – Ed.), particularly on the Ecocenter – a comfortable space for environmental activists that will open in St. Petersburg this March. I am also overseeing the company’s offices in Perm, Krasnodar, and Voronezh. We are also discussing potential collaboration with ORGANIC PUNK, a project that works with plants, composting, worm farms, and art. As for my Master’s project – together with my team I am developing a device that will identify plastic, aluminum, and biomaterials.

The contest was very interesting. I knew the final round would be some kind of a game. There were many different participants and sometimes I felt I wasn’t enough to compete with them. But this experience demonstrated that I am moving in the right direction. We still keep in touch with some of my fellow contestants – they are truly great people from different fields.

To those planning to participate, I advise to not be nervous and treat this contest as yet another opportunity to try your hand at something. If you are open to everything that happens, one day you will start succeeding. The results we planned for never correspond to our expectations anyway. Don’t get tangled in your expectations!

Mikhail Komarov

A second-year Master’s student of the program

My team used to work on an ITMO grant project focused on the development of a tool that would automatically check if students’ final theses and research papers comply with the formatting standards. During our work on this project, we published our own papers and took part in conferences. The program allows you to upload a document and get a copy of it with all the deviations from the standard identified. We developed a working prototype and defended it as our Bachelor’s project. Moreover, I worked on a project at the Infochemistry Scientific Center developing software for a potentiostat that can evaluate the concentration of chemical compounds in liquids.

The most memorable day of the contest for me was the crazy day of the deadline. I naturally postponed the application until the very last moment, so over a short amount of time I had to collect all the paperwork and proofs of my achievements, as well as write an essay. I submitted my application at 11:50 pm, so there was no margin for error. Apparently, my work met every criterion, so I proceeded to the next round. As a result of the contest, I arrived at three conclusions: teamwork and networking are needed for efficient solutions of nontrivial tasks; I need to work on my flexibility in thinking; and meeting deadlines is a crucial aspect of self-discipline that helps reach ambitious goals.

Don’t be like me and start working on your application at least a week in advance. Don’t worry too much about the essay – write what you know and care about. Treat the final round as a job interview and not a party: address everyone politely, don’t be too emotional, and don’t hesitate to talk to the hosts and organizers. You don’t have to be charismatic to win, but you do need to be open to others. Come forth with your ideas, explain them to your teammates, and don’t forget to encourage the initiatives of others. Never use harsh language – unfortunately, I had a team member who did that. It was sad to see that he didn’t realize how this let him down.

Ekaterina Kocharina

a first-year Master’s student of the program

I am interested in developing food products for athletes. I think this market can welcome new products that will be healthy and affordable. As for projects, I am currently studying various ingredients, such as psyllium, to see if they contain other useful substances, apart from fiber. I want to create a protein carbohydrate snack bar that will be high in dietary fibers that are necessary for everyone. I am also developing an isotonic that will be significantly different from those currently on the market.

I really enjoyed the contest and I have never before seen such a superb level of organization on online platforms. In the final stage, you join a team of people, each of whom has a great deal of experience to share. Moreover, every task suggested by the organizers was very engaging and made us use various parts of the brain. After the finals, I marveled at all of the things I learned I could do.

This contest motivated me to never stop and never give up. When I was working on my application, I never thought I would be able to get into the second round and then win. However, everything is possible if you ulock your potential. I think that winning the contest gave me an opportunity to improve my skills in different fields, as well as a chance to create my own product and launch its development. If you are planning to take part in the contest, don’t be afraid to try your hand at something new. It will always give you useful experience that will lead you to your goal in the future.

Sergey Leonchuk

A first-year Master’s student of the program


I do research at ITMO’s SCAMT Institute under the supervision of Vladimir Vinogradov. I am interested in new approaches to synthesis in materials chemistry and development of functional materials. We are currently studying galvanic substitution reactions in a non-aqueous medium – we are looking for unique chemical agents and solvents. This project will allow us to create a full-scale foundation for synthesis of new nanomaterials that will be used in catalysis, medicine, the development of new accumulators, and more.

First of all, this contest allowed me to get to know myself, identify areas of growth, and also meet very interesting people. I’m still in touch with some of them and in the future it could grow into research collaborations or even business projects. And of course the scholarship is very important for me, too, as it’s a stable source of income for the whole period of my Master’s studies. For me, it’s an opportunity to additionally support myself financially and thus spend more time on research and volunteering instead of looking for part-time jobs.

I would advise any future participants to be themselves during the finals. If you are a Bachelor’s student thinking about participating in this contest in the future, then you should take part in various events, volunteering, and educational activities. This contest puts a lot of emphasis on the participants’ leadership skills, so you could try to identify them in yourself and try them in practice.

Anna Kuznetsova

A second-year Master’s student of the program


I evaluate properties of biodegradable materials. For instance, many packaging manufacturers claim that their products are biodegradable, but they don’t usually have a quality certificate to prove it, so you can’t always trust such claims. I am working on a that includes the creation of a laboratory which will evaluate these materials’ biodegradability. Apart from that, I am contributing to a project within ITMO’s soft skills module that improves the educational process to allow ITMO students to acquire all the necessary soft skills for their future careers. I am also participating in various environmental events.

This contest was an opportunity for me to communicate with different people and learn to quickly act when under stress. Moreover, this scholarship is another source of financial support for me. In the future, these funds will help me take a new course, learn a foreign language, or do something for my personal development that I couldn’t afford before. Apart from that, it’s a huge bonus for my portfolio that can give me additional opportunities when applying for a PhD or even at job interviews. Finally, it’s a great confidence booster to know that your skills and competencies received high marks from the experts. This is a push towards further development.

To any future participant, I’d say that they should believe in themselves, not be shy, and never doubt if they should do something or not. One of the experts said: “You didn’t come here because you were shy. And now is not the time to be – now, you need to showcase your skills!” And I completely agree. There is no point in trying to guess what kind of tasks will be there next year, just join the contest to test your skills and discover your potential.

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