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Young Skoltech scientists win Moscow Government Awards

Four Skoltech scientists have won the annual Moscow Government Award for Young Scientists. The winners will receive two cash prizes worth two million rubles each.

The first of the two awards went to Professor Ivan Oseledets, the director of the AI Center, and Skoltech PhD graduate Valentin Khrulkov, who earned the prize for a series of studies on machine learning. In one paper, they analyzed the expressivity of a specific learning architecture, seeing as a deeper network is exponentially more expressive than a shallow one. Another study focused on generative models that are extremely important in deep learning and are used in many applications. The researchers put forward several theoretically sound approaches based on geometry and topology concepts in order to compare different generative models. Also, they proposed a simple technique for constructing the perturbation of a deep learning model. Since perturbations, or adversarial attacks, are very dangerous, the ability to construct them is essential for identifying the model’s weak points. The proposed method rests upon generalized singular vectors and outperforms competitors by learning on only a handful of samples from the dataset, as opposed to other techniques that require thousands of images.

Associate Professor Yury Kostyukevich from Skoltech Bio and PhD student Sergey Osipenko won an award for their project titled “Monitoring the City’s Health by Analyzing the Molecular Composition of Wastewater.” Focusing on new approaches to chemical analysis with the use of mass spectrometry, the researchers developed original methods leveraging engineering solutions, experimental techniques, and data processing methods that help enhance informativity with regard to chemical compounds found in complex natural, biological, and technological environments. They created a highly informative method involving chromatography — mass spectrometry analysis of metropolitan wastewater to check the city’s health, just like blood or urine composition helps assess human health. The new approaches have already been implemented at Moscow schools to test their wastewater for drugs and pharmaceuticals. In the first half of 2022, wastewater was tested in 300 schools, providing the Moscow Department of Education and Science with up-to-date information about drugs found in school wastewater and enabling immediate action by administrators and teaching staff to curtail substance abuse among children.

The Moscow Government Award for Young Scientists, established in 2013, has been given out in 22 categories for the development and implementation of new technologies and outstanding achievements in basic and applied research. The competition is organized by the Moscow Government and the Department of Education and Science of Moscow. It is open to scientists aged 36 or younger and holders of the advanced doctorate (that is, the Russian Doctor of Sciences degree) aged 40 or younger.