“Life and Other Stories”: Skoltech presents a new book starring top biologists
On November 16, Skoltech unveiled its new book, “Life and other stories. How we and the living world around us work”, featuring a collection of interviews with top experts in life sciences. It continues Skoltech’s book series, including “Mathematical Walks” (2017), “Mathematical Walks+” (2022) and “The Forefront of Physics” (2020), and marks the culmination of the large-scale media project implemented in collaboration with the Russian Science Foundation (RSF).

“‘Life and other stories’ is the largest of the three books. We have spent two years interviewing renowned scholars, and also bright young researchers, since biology is both a young science and a science of the young. Right from the start, we wanted our books to be attractive for professionals, as well as for broader audiences having little to do with science. When reading the interviews, you focus on the scientist and get a sense of the way they think and come up new ideas. On a broader perspective, the book is about what doing science is like and how scientists understand their mission and build professional relationships,” Skoltech President Alexander Kuleshov says in the note to the reader.

Some of the featured scholars study polychaetes, some look into how a 1.5 m long DNA molecule is packed into a microscopic cell nucleus, while others search for new cancer treatment approaches and practice medicine. Published by Paulsen, the collection comprises 38 interviews and 2 photo stories. The book will soon become available in the leading network bookstores or online on the publishers’ website.

“‘Life and other stories’ is a unique opportunity to meet researchers who have devoted their lives to biology. Day after day, they deal with formidable challenges in a variety of fields, from molecular genetics, bioinformatics, and immunology to biomedicine, zoology, and ecology. They are not just talented scientists: scientific research is both their life purpose and their lifestyle. Read the book to learn more about their scientific careers, accomplishments, failures, and future vision,” RSF Director General Alexander Khlunov says in the note to the reader.


More presentations for the readership are to follow on December 2, at the Non/fictioNo25 International Literary Fair, which will host an open interview with Professor Mikhail Gelfand, the vice president for biomedical research at Skoltech and a scientific adviser for the project, one of interviewees.

“The interviewees represent several generations of scholars, who work at the forefront of various fields, from evolutionary and systems biology to classical zoology and botany. What strikes me most is their vision of modern biology and the world, rather than their achievements. Also, the book’s title, which was created long before the first interview, fully matches its contents,” professor Gelfand says addressing the readers.


In search of a new style for the book, the project team decided on an open spine paperback rather than a classical hardcover, with a catchy book cover and expressively drawn portraits visually accentuating the liveliness of life.

“I tried to make sure each portrait is a unique and captivating story reflecting the scientist’s passion for science,” project artist Maria Zaikina explains. “As for the book cover, I decided against figurative art, instead oping for abstraction to portray life in a biological sense. I invite our readers to experience the enormity of life by looking at the Brownian motion, with color spots and lines shooting all over the cover page. The paperback’s open spine is fastened with red threads that resemble blood vessels running through the book’s entire body.”

The interviews and photo stories are available in Russian on the project web page. In 2024, the team is planning to publish the English version of the book.