“Profession: Scientist”: how to start a career as a researcher in a magistracy at ITMO University

    Usually, serious scientific developments are associated with research institutes and professors (in extreme cases, graduate students). In fact, ITMO University can become a real scientist already in the master's program - for this there are a number of scientific master's programs. We spoke with Anna Veklich, the first deputy chairman of the Admissions Committee, and the head of the Strategic Communications Department of ITMO University about what these programs are.

    In this article: what does a modern young scientist look like and why should he be able to program, how does a scientific master's program differ from ordinary, what you need to be prepared for when entering there, and how the path to great science looks like for a student at ITMO University.

    About the scientific magistracy

    What does “scientific magistracy” mean?

    Master is a stage of education, which a priori includes research activities. Therefore, absolutely all educational master's programs (regardless of the subject) can be called research - in the broad sense. However, students have different goals for entering a magistracy - someone wants to create their own business after studying, someone wants to get an opportunity to work in a large company, and someone decides to continue their education in graduate school and make a career in science.

    Therefore, a year ago, a graduation of all master's programs in four types appeared at ITMO University:

    • Master's science - the basis for the growth of scientific activity of the university and companies;
    • Industrial Master - joint programs with industry leaders;
    • corporate magistracy - joint programs with individual large businesses;
    • Master's program in promising areas - new programs as part of the development of industries where, perhaps, there is still no corporate / industrial customer, but the university is ready to proactively approach the construction of a new educational process.

    Graduates of scientific master's programs are aimed at entering graduate school and continuing research activities: either in the status of a researcher or teacher at the university (the duties of teachers also include scientific activities), or in research centers and R&D departments of companies.

    Businesses no less than universities are interested in beginning researchers - now, for example, the popular areas for "corporate scientific development" are the design of new functional materials, laser technology, nanotechnology applications in photonics, the transfer and storage of big data.

    What is important for a future student to know about a research area?

    In research magistracy, we focus on creating the most favorable conditions for students to develop their research projects. And in order to learn how to conduct research, it is best to interact a lot with those who are now engaged in them and are ready to share their knowledge. Courses in the specialty are developed and taught by scientists who are currently conducting serious research on the relevant topic. Including visiting professors.

    Students are required to participate in international seminars, schools and conferences. It is assumed that successful students, depending on the topic of the project, undergo internships and practices with one of the Russian or foreign academic or industrial partners (each program has an impressive list of them).

    In addition to the willingness to conduct scientific work, it is important for undergraduates to be fluent in English - including “in the field of professional communication”. This is vital in order to conduct scientific work in international research groups, communicate with foreign colleagues and study the necessary literature (many books and manuals useful in the work are published primarily in English). It is very important for students of scientific magistracy to be “mentally prepared” to assimilate a large amount of information coming from different sources, and use it to develop their project.

    How important is it for young scientists to understand programming?

    Another universal skill needed by novice scientists is programming. It greatly facilitates the life of the researcher - the better he knows how to program, the easier and faster he copes with the time-consuming part of the work (the technical side of the calculations), and the more time he has left for the interesting - researching new things. There are many problems “tied” to development in modern science, and the further the student moves from fundamental questions to his own research work, the more there are.

    Given this, programming is given a lot of attention in the framework of those scientific master's programs that develop at the intersection of different disciplines. One such program, for example, is Bioinformatics and Systems Biology"(Opened this year). The applicants for the program will be graduates of biological specialties. In addition to comparative genomics and metagenomics, population and medical genetics (and other specialized areas), they will be taught Python and R programming and the basics of machine learning.

    In addition, all undergraduates of ITMO University study the university-wide block of disciplines " Digital Culture ". Its purpose is to show that any modern scientist, regardless of the chosen direction, should be knowledgeable in information technology and be a “bit IT specialist”.

    What other ITMO University programs are focused on training scientists?

    Educational programs of scientific master's programs are available at almost every megafaculty. The range of topics is very wide: from the development of algorithms in the field of machine learning to optics.

    One of such programs was opened this year at the mega-faculty of photonics - this is “ Functional materials of optoelectronics ”. Under the program, students conduct research in one of two directions: the development of new materials with special properties or the study of semiconductor nanostructures for photonics.

    Education there (as in other programs of scientific master's programs) is conducted only in English, the leaders are scientists known both in Russia and in the world (A.E. Romanov, head of the transnational scientific and educational center for advanced methods of research of materials, and V. G. Dubrovsky, Professor, Department of Modern Functional Materials, ITMO University).

    Already at the time of admission, applicants know that, having become students of this program, they will be included in international scientific activity: these are joint research with foreign scientists, internships, business trips and study abroad at partner universities. The partner universities of the program are, for example, the University. Blaise Pascal in France, University of California at Santa Barbara, USA, University of the Balearic Islands in Spain.

    Another program of this kind is Nanophotonics and Metamaterials . Under this program, undergraduates participate in advanced research of new optical materials, optical control methods and the interaction of light with matter. Training in English only.

    During the training, students collaborate with the International Center for Research on Nanophotonics and Metamaterials and a number of international research laboratories, including the International Laboratory for Applied Radiophysics (supervisor Nico van den Berg, Utrecht Medical Center, Netherlands), and the International Laboratory of Photoprocesses in mesoscopic systems ”(supervisor - Ivan Shelykh, University of Iceland), Metamaterials International Laboratory (supervisor - Yuri Kivshar, professor at Australian National University) and others.

    About the way to big science

    Why are young people now interested in going to science, doing research? What does the “modern young scientist” look like now?

    Science is an opportunity to solve problems that no one has dealt with before. In the wake of the popularization of science, being smart, being a researcher has become fashionable again - that's why modern young scientists, oddly enough, love no less than others the focus of attention.

    At the same time, scientific master's degree provides an opportunity not only to “engage in science”, but to work on real problems that are being studied by scientists in Russia and abroad. A modern young scientist almost always works on interdisciplinary tasks (at the junction of three or more scientific fields) in cooperation with like-minded colleagues and colleagues from around the world.

    The life of such a specialist implies the dynamics of movement and freedom in choosing ideas, companies, universities, research teams. Moreover, he does not need to go abroad for permanent residence, since he has exactly the same conditions (including financial) in Russia.

    In particular, graduates of research magistracy in 90-100% of cases go to graduate school and work in parallel. The average income level of beginning scientists is 1.5-2 times higher than that of graduates of other programs, and is comparable with the salary of IT specialists.

    All this is due to the fact that the young scientist’s salary is formed from several sources: a small load in the framework of teaching activities, plus participation in grants, plus bonuses for scientific articles in top-rated journals, individual scholarships, etc. This approach allows you to start with a salary of 80,000 rubles or more - but for this, of course, you need to work hard and take the initiative to participate in research, write articles, apply for grants, attend conferences and enjoy scientific work.

    How does a master's degree in science facilitate a further “path to science”?

    After a research magistracy, enrolling in graduate school to continue moving along the chosen path is really easier. Such undergraduates have more opportunities to participate in real scientific research, they often go on internships to foreign universities, write articles.

    Therefore, at the time of submitting documents to graduate school, they already have a strong portfolio in their hands - they pay attention to it both when submitting documents and when passing an exam in a specialty (before the exam, the commission receives a set of all achievements and can see a full portrait of the applicant). The very conditions for entering graduate school are the same for everyone - the fact of studying in a scientific magistracy does not affect the conditions of the competition or the particulars of admission.

    In addition, a strong portfolio and knowledge base help graduate research graduates enter joint postgraduate programs with a foreign partner university and ultimately receive a “double diploma” (PhD degree). Children with experience working with foreign universities have much more chances to enter such programs.

    For example, Dmitry Potorochin became the first graduate student who began to study under a joint educational program between the ITMO University and the Freiberg Mining Academy. As part of this project, he is part of an international research group that uses XFEL , the world's largest free electron laser , in its work .

    Do such masters have the opportunity to realize themselves outside the university?

    Graduates of scientific master's degrees are in demand not only in universities, but also among private companies and organizations that develop innovations and have their own research centers. Among these, for example, the A.F. Ioffe RAS, CJSC Scientific and Production Association of Special Materials, JSC INTER RAO LED Systems, JSC Radio Engineering Institute named after Academician A.L. Mintsa ”,“ Connector Optics ”LLC,“ Soft-Impact ”LLC and others.

    On the other hand, graduates of a scientific magistracy can themselves influence the market by creating their own technology company, as, for example, ITMO University graduate Arthur Gleim, project manager of Quantum Communications, did this (we have already talked about their developments here: 1 and 2 ) .

    By the wayuntil May 15 at the mega faculty of photonics of ITMO University, the collection of applications for the competition “Science needs you!” continues . As part of the competition, applicants can enter the budget for a master's degree in the areas of “Functional Materials of Optoelectronics”, “LED Technologies” or “ Optoelectronics ”. To participate in the first competitive stage, it is enough to prepare a resume, a motivation letter and a list of completed disciplines with information about academic performance.

    We wish the participants good luck and are waiting for you among the undergraduates and scientists of ITMO University!

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