New English-taught Master Programs at ITMO’s Biochemistry Cluster

These educational programs adhere to the modular approach, hence the students can choose the subjects they want to learn, make the most of the lectures read by internationally renowned guest speakers, as well as participate in academic mobility programs and plan their unique educational paths. Yet, education is not the primary goal here, but just a great complement to intensive work at the SCAMT (Solution Chemistry of Advanced Materials and Technologies) International Laboratory. Students will take part in relevant research projects and publish their papers in top-rated science magazines. Thus, the new programs gathered the most promising graduates from the country's best universities; the new Master's students shared about the kinds of research they are interested in, what they expect from studying at ITMO University and how its Master's programs differ from those in other universities.

Tatyana Lyalina (graduated from Saint Petersburg State Chemical Pharmaceutical Academy, SPCPA)

I like it that the educational process at the Biochemistryl cluster is focused on science - generally, educational and laboratory work at most universities are separated from each other. It's also great that the program I entered is entirely in English: this is the current language of the scientific community, and it is most important to have a complete command of it so as to write papers, collaborate with other scientists and participate in conferences.

During my Bachelor's years, I worked at the Regulation of Gene Expression Laboratory, where Istudied the interaction of two proteins so as to define their functional relevance. Now I'm working with molecular robotics at the SCAMT Laboratory under the guidance of professor Dmitriy Kalashnikov from the University of Central Florida. I've been doing that for a month already, as I entered ITMO back in June via the portfolio contest. My research has to do with studying viruses.

The laboratory has great equipment, which is totally new, especially for me, so at first I found it hard to find my way around it – when preparing solutions, for instance – but the other students and staff are always ready to help. The atmosphere here is very friendly.

Yaroslav Soloviev (St. Petersburg State University)

My main reason for choosing SCAMT is that education here does not pry away from real practice. When I was a Bachelor's student, I had lots of lectures with great professors, but no practice, as well as opportunities to work with the equipment I've been told about. There were practical sessions at my department, but a lot less than there were lectures. I went to ITMO to have it vice-versa. I got to know about the Biochemistry cluster from my peers, read the students' reviews, the information on their website, and entered it. Before taking the exams, I took an MIT course on molecular biology, and went through my notes on this subject once more, as I did my Bachelor's program in general physiology.

Here at SCAMT, I want to combine work on two projects in the field of nanopharmacology - targeted drug delivery and molecular robotics - so as to have a common project as a result. Some time ago, I participated in Skolkovo's project on testing an exoskeleton on people with spinal cord trauma. In future, I also plan to work at some enterprise, in a Russian or foreign pharmaceutical company.  Also, it would be great to get a Doctoral degree sometime after.

Semyon Koltsev (University of Tyumen)

In a sense, science is my calling. I am good at it, including working in several research fields at once. I find it most interesting, and, truth be told, I can't even imagine doing something different: I would soon get bored. I also want to see the world: I've already been to the International Conference on Competitive Materials and Technology Processes in Europe and took part in other events, I've published a paper some time ago and some theses. If anything, I have a decent portfolio, which also helped me enter ITMO University. I can also freely discuss science in English.

I've already chosen my research topic, spoke to my research advisor, and started working in the laboratory. We aspire to reproduce the "rings" one observes on the cuts of minerals in organics, which can be applied in information encryption. I especially like doing practice-oriented research, which is why I chose SCAMT, where they greatly focus on the engineering aspect of their research.

Before applying to ITMO, not only did I read the information on their website, but also asked the engineers I'm acquainted with to recommend a university where they have a strong engineering school - all of them spoke about ITMO. After coming here, I got to see for myself that they were totally right.

Yulia Lanchuk (St. Petersburg State University)

I was impressed by how friendly everyone at SCAMT Laboratory is and they are always ready to help. It's also great that the laboratory is in a modern building in the city center; before this, I studied on the outskirts of the city and almost had no chance to go to the center.

During my time at ITMO University, I want to try something new; I'm particularly interested in theoretical chemistry, so I might take up modeling of biological systems. I've read many articles on this topic, and I think this field is very relevant. I also want to continue working on the topic I wrote my thesis on.

It had to do with studying a new type of oscillation spectroscopy that is widely used for researching the properties of molecules absorbed on metal surfaces. This method is very effective for defining the amount of the investigated materials, which is important for medical applications and research of biological molecules. For instance, we've studied folic acid, which is really important for the human organism, and tested what it can be absorbed with.

Anastasia Klestova (St. Petersburg State University)

I still haven't decided on my future research as part of my Master's program at ITMO University, but I was already offered several projects, which I want to discuss with my research advisor. As a Bachelor's student, I worked with surfactants, everything that had to do with methyl formations, and they have similar topics here as well. I've also worked for a grant project and participated in international conferences: for instance, the Mendeleev-2017 conference organized by St. Petersburg State University, my previous Alma Mater.

Here at ITMO University there are lots of opportunities: our work is aimed at real science, and education is just complementing it. Before, I could only do laboratory work in the evenings, but here we focus on research, writing papers and participating in conferences. Another great advantage is that the program is in English. I know it can be hard, but I'm sure I'll manage. I want to go on an internship at a foreign university, and then I guess I'll start working for some large company.

Magomed Gazimagomedov (Ivanovo State University of Chemistry and Technology)

I decided to apply for a Master's program, as it is hard to find a job after getting your Bachelor's degree, and you can use these two years to study more, specialize on something new and complete an interesting project. I learned about SCAMT by chance. A year before graduation, I got concerned about my future and decided to take part in some academic mobility program, go to a bigger city. I looked into the opportunities for studying in Kazan, Moscow, and St. Petersburg, and chose ITMO University. Some of my friends already studied here, so they told me a lot about it; it turned out that everything they tell on ITMO's website - about SCAMT and the university in general - is true and not just advertising.

I know what I want to do for my Master's program, yet I still need help from my research advisor so as to finalize my project plan. My Bachelor's thesis had to do with the electrographic and quantum-chemical study of a particular molecule. Gas electron diffraction is best for defining the geometrical properties of molecules; in a sense, such research is more about fundamental science. Here at ITMO, I want to continue with this topic, yet in a slightly different manner: I want to work on quantum-chemical computations and modeling. In the long run, it would be ideal to become a PhD student in some foreign university, yet, I'm not against working at some enterprise as well. The program being in English is yet another bonus; plus, they have international internships here.

(author Natalia Blinnikova)