On his first official visit to St. Petersburg since his appointment to the position in October, Ambassador Huntsman set time aside to visit ITMO University.
It was during Mr. Huntsman’s meeting with ITMO University’s Rector, Vladimir Vasilyev, that he expressed his confidence that, regardless of the political situation between Russia and the United States, it is important to develop partnerships between the universities of the two countries and between universities and corporations which will support the commercialization of scientific achievements and provide students with the opportunity to implement their own projects. The Ambassador also noted that MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) is interested in collaborating with ITMO University.
During his visit, Ambassador Huntsman was also given a special tour of the International Laboratory “Solution Chemistry of Advanced Materials and Technologies” (SCAMT) at ITMO University. There, the Master’s students talked to him about their research and R&D. Studies into the molecular biology of cancer, development of inorganic drugs, the synthesis of unique nanoantennas for cancer theranostics, printing optical structures on an inkjet printer and other works which are carried out by the young staff of the laboratory were shown to the Ambassador.
“I’m part of the cell-biologist research group, which is a special part of the SCAMT laboratory: we specialize in cancer biology research at a molecular level. We study the fundamental mechanisms of tumor cell death with the goal of creating our own experimental compounds that could potentially be applied clinically as a form of treatment. Our group is completely new but we already are involved in some international collaboration. For example, we are collaborating with chemists at the University of Clermont-Ferrand in France. We also started working with Igor Roninson from the University of South Carolina, who is a specialist in the area of cancer biology and drug development with extensive international experience. This project has a direct clinical future since Igor is a partner of the Russian pharmaceutical company BIOCAD”, shared with us the first-year Master’s student Lera Saparova.
The main question that the Ambassador asked each student was what they plan to do when they finish their Master’s studies. Almost all of the students said that they want to stay in science. Ambassador Huntsman reminded them that, in order to achieve success, it’s important to plan out your professional life from the beginning of your career and to follow the examples of the best experts in the field.
“It's great that students are engaged in such serious studies, and industrial projects. And I like that you work in conjunction with other research groups in the laboratory. Such collaboration based on an interdisciplinary approach will give rise to new projects", – he commented.
After the tour, the Ambassador stayed for some time to talk with the university’s students. The students were interested in opportunities to receive grants for their research and internships, they were also worried about getting a visa to the US. Ambassador Huntsman promised good news about visa applications to the US in the near future. He also noted that he will do as much as possible to attract not only Russian and American foundations and NGOs to provide grants for Russian students, but also international corporations and large companies that should be interested in hiring young, highly skilled professionals.
"We didn’t have much time to chat with the Ambassador, but I still managed to ask my question. I asked him what inspires him to work not only as Ambassador, but also as a businessman. I found his answer surprising: “Your generation. Such young people like you inspire me.” He explained that he likes to be conscious of the fact that many members of our generation – bold, clear-thinking young people – one day (and some already now!) will cope with the difficult challenges of life, which will be even more difficult than those that are now in front of his generation. And this answer really inspired me," says Cristina Fierro Nunez, a second-year student at the Department of Computational Photonics and Videomatics.
Jon Meade Hunstman was appointed U.S. Ambassador in Russia in October 2017, succeeding John Tefft. Jon Huntsman is a member of the Republican party and has considerable diplomatic experience. Over the years, he has worked as U.S. Ambassador to Singapore and, later, China. He is the CEO of his family company Huntsman Corporation, a major manufacturer and supplier of chemical products. He is married with seven children, his eighteen year old daughter Gracie, a student at the University of Pennsylvania, accompanied him on his visit to ITMO University.
(author Daria Zhukova)