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Gifted schoolchildren from the Urals cities of Perm and Yekaterinburg visited the Skolkovo innovation city on Friday to see some of the technologies being developed here and to learn about a new scholarship being launched for Russian students to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
The new scholarship will pay for Russian students to study at the prestigious MIT. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
The scholarship was established by Victor Vekselberg, president of the Skolkovo Foundation and chairman of Renova Group. More than 10 scholarships per year will be awarded to Russian students to study at the prestigious U.S. university, said Olga Bashkirova, CEO of the Renova Charity Foundation.
“It’s not about the money, it’s about the opportunity,” she said.
“Renova Group is one of the biggest employers in Russia. We are very interested in building this new community of talented students and young entrepreneurs who are going to push our Russian economy and our business forward in this innovation century,” Bashkirova told an audience at the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech), a graduate research university set up in partnership with MIT in 2011.
Olga Bashkirova, CEO of the Renova Charity Foundation. Photo: Sk.ru.
Candidates for the first year of the Renova scholarship have been identified in schools in Yekaterinburg, Perm and Novocheboksarsk in Russia’s Chuvash republic, as well as at the Skolkovo International Gymnasium. The first students will go to MIT in September 2018. Details on how to apply for the scholarship will be available on the Renova Charity Foundation’s website from September, said Bashkirova.
Tuition and fees for the last academic year at MIT were $48,452, according to the university’s website, though 70 percent of MIT undergraduates receive some kind of scholarship. The university has produced 85 Nobel laureates since it was founded in 1861.
On hand at Skoltech to tell the would-be scholarship recipients present – schoolchildren who have won various academic competitions – more about applying to and studying at MIT were four current MIT students, accompanied by Ekaterina Zabrovskaya, MIT-Russia programme manager. The programme is part of the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI).
“MIT’s motto is ‘mens et manus,’ meaning ‘mind and hand,’” said Zabrovskaya. “This means that the great emphasis at MIT is on practice. You will certainly get amazing academic experience, but you will also be expected to do internships and to be involved in hands-on activities.”
The Moscow experience
The MISTI programme enables MIT students to travel abroad and obtain work experience at companies and research labs all over the world, including in Russia. The four MIT students present at Skolkovo on Friday were all taking part in the programme at companies and institutes in Moscow.
Rachel Price, a student of aerospace engineering at MIT, is approaching the end of a 10-week internship at Dauria Aerospace, a resident startup of the Skolkovo Foundation that makes nano- and small-class satellites.
“It’s been a challenge, but I’ve really enjoyed the work I’ve been doing,” Price told Sk.ru.
“There’s a challenge in miniaturizing the technology that we’re working on, so it’s sort of unchartered waters, which I’ve liked.”
Ekaterina Zabrovskaya (left), MIT-Russia programme manager, and MIT aerospace engineering student Rachel Price, who is currently completing an internship with Skolkovo resident startup Dauria Aerospace. Photo: Sk.ru.
Carlos Cortez, who graduated from MIT this year, is doing a research internship in mathematics at the Higher School of Economics.
“Moscow has been a nice city, and Russia has challenged my perspective on many things, which is what I was really looking for when I came here,” Cortez told Sk.ru. “It’s also helped me learn the language, which I quite enjoyed.”
Those present at Friday’s event also saw presentations by two other Skolkovo startups that offer work experience and career opportunities guaranteed to turn most tech students green with envy: the high-profile cybercrime investigator Group-IB, and TEEMP, which is developing a supercapacitor (molecular energy accumulator) that it plans to use on a solar-powered glider to beat the world record for flying non-stop around the globe.
In offering advice to the Russian students present, the MIT students were united in their advice to “be yourself” when applying. They were also all agreed that one of the university’s richest resources is not just its staff, but its students too, because of the exchange of knowledge between students studying different subjects and fields.
“Getting in is competitive, but it’s not competitive when you’re there: students help each other,” said Saranesh Prembabu, a physics student who is in Moscow to work on two different theoretical physics projects.
Opportunities at home
The scholarship was set up by Victor Vekselberg, chairman of Renova Group and president of the Skolkovo Foundation. Photo: Sk.ru.
One of the goals of the Skolkovo Foundation when it was set up at the initiative of Russia’s then-President Dmitry Medvedev in 2010 was to reverse the brain drain that saw many brilliant Russian scientists move abroad amid the funding and resources crisis that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union. The aim of the new scholarship is not to export a new generation of gifted scientists, but to complement the new opportunities offered by Skolkovo and Skoltech, the speakers at Friday’s event made clear.
“Presently Skoltech doesn’t provide bachelor education, though we plan to,” explained Professor Konstantin Severinov, director of Skoltech’s Center for Data-Intensive Biomedicine and Biotechnology, noting that the university currently offers Master’s and PhD programmes that would welcome MIT graduates returning to Russia.
“In those we excel: we’re already rapidly becoming some of the best programmes in the country. I hope that Skoltech can provide a reasonable place to come back,” said Severinov.
Bashkirova said the Renova foundation was very interested in bringing schoolchildren from Russia’s regions to Skolkovo to show them the “wonderful opportunities” offered by the innovations city.
“If they become students of MIT, they can still be involved in one of the projects here at Skoltech or Skolkovo, we are very interested in that,” she said.
Ekaterina Inozemtsova, the Skolkovo Foundation’s vice president for strategy and investments, encouraged the gifted schoolchildren to launch their own tech startups at Skolkovo.
“Skolkovo is the best place to fulfill your dream of creating a startup and launching on the market a disruptive technology,” she told them.
“I’m sure that I’ll welcome all of you here in a few years as a Skolkovo resident startup.”