‘We have many new opportunities and a robust demand that we can satisfy’: Skoltech hosts annual Industry Day

On Oct. 18, more than 350 first- and second-year master’s students from Skoltech and over 250 tech company representatives took part in the annual Industry Day at Skoltech. This year the program included a career opportunities fair, poster sessions featuring 210 summer projects of master’s students, and awarding of the nine best projects, as well as networking between students, employers, and scientists, and nine round tables of Industrial Advisory Committees — consultations of educational programs with the industry.

At the opening ceremony, Zhanna Turubarova, the head of industrial studies, and Alexey Ponomarev, the senior vice president for industrial cooperation, greeted the participants with welcoming speeches. As Ponomarev noted, this year’s Industry Day is different from the previous ones, as many new opportunities have emerged: “This year, we have faced a great demand for R&D projects from Russian companies, and I am glad to welcome their representatives here today. After foreign companies left the market, we have many new opportunities and a robust demand that we can satisfy. I hope that both first- and second-year students will join the industrial projects.” Ponomarev noted that foreign students, too, are interested in the industrial track, “As of now, many countries are trying to launch their own industrial programs.”

Invited speakers Alexander Fertman, the director of science, technology, and education at the Skolkovo Foundation, and Dzhangir Dzhangirov, a senior vice president and the chief risk officer at Sber, talked about their projects and motivated students with new opportunities. Fertman advised students to always start with a clear goal and stressed that industrial partners are an integral part of the entire Skolkovo ecosystem. Dzhangirov discussed how AI models function in the banking sector and spoke about joint projects of Sber and Skoltech. As part of one of these projects, researchers and experts have developed a technology for predicting climate risks based on artificial intelligence. It helps banks assess the effect of such risks on their customers and their probability of default.

The opening ceremony ended with the awarding of the nine best projects of master’s students presented within the 2023 Industrial Immersion program. During the summer internship, Skoltech students gained practical experience in the industrial sector, increased their knowledge, and developed the skills necessary to achieve results through engineering and innovation. The program aimed to solve a short-term technological problem in partner companies. For example, the students displayed their competence while working at Gazpromneft NTC on the processing of rock sample images obtained by a technique called dual energy micro-computed tomography, as well as by developing a prototype of an active noise control system based on neural networks at ColemanTech.

The Career Center conducted a career fair. Representatives of 26 leading partners talked to students about the career opportunities available in their companies, Sber Robotics Lab held a meetup with students, and six other companies provided career counseling and held mock interviews.

For the first time at the Industry Day, Skoltech set up nine Industrial Advisory Committee round tables — one per MSc program. During their working sessions, industry partners gained a detailed understanding of the educational programs, graduate profiles, and opportunities for joint work with the Skoltech faculty and researchers in training future young professionals. Recommendations obtained by the educational program from industry partners will be considered at the revision of the curriculum plans for the next academic year.

One of the industrial round tables invited experts from Sibur and Gazprom Neft to discuss the new MSc program — Applied Computational Mechanics. Inaugurated this year, it brings the best practices to prepare leaders in the development and use of modern computing tools necessary for high-tech industries. After the presentation, industry experts confirmed that the interdisciplinary skills developed by the program are relevant for their technological tasks, especially after the withdrawal of some technological suppliers from the Russian market. Sergey Kiryasov, a senior manager at Sibur, emphasized: “I really liked the program. The topic of modeling hydro-gas dynamics for our processes is just opening up. We see its relevance.”

The director and coordinator of the program, Aslan Kasimov, an associate professor at the Energy Transition Center, noted that Skoltech is open to industrial partners’ ideas to update the program, and all students are interested in research work. Kasimov suggested that the experts invite students for a summer internship, where they could join a project on a topic related to their future thesis, show their commitment, and apply for a job in the future. The participants also discussed how to create comfortable conditions that will motivate a new generation of specialists for professional development in the country.

In the Engineering Systems round table, an exchange between industrialists and the faculty of Skoltech Engineering revealed the potential benefits of applied master’s theses focused on specific manageable real-life problems defined by companies, with the academic institution bringing its scientific expertise to the table. The industry’s interest in master’s student placement — as opposed to the more familiar industrial PhD projects — has to do in part with the shorter life cycle of a master’s thesis project, better aligned with corporate realities, especially with the pace of changes in a typical startup.

Multiple speakers stressed the need to implement dual thesis supervision, despite the associated challenges. This refers to the practice when an academic supervisor from Skoltech or some other institution oversees a student thesis project alongside an industrial research supervisor from a company involved with the project. “This double-supervisor system is highly beneficial for everyone: companies, universities, students. But to execute this approach efficiently, we need real involvement on the part of the company,” Professor of the Practice Mikhail Belov commented, citing his prior experience as an executive in an IT company that partnered with two major Russian tech universities on such projects.

The director of Skoltech Engineering, Associate Professor Tatiana Podladchikova, said her center might pilot such MSc thesis projects this year, and the session participants agreed to establish a channel for exchanging thesis topic ideas for the coming term. The industrialists got an invitation to pitch their projects at next year’s Innovation Workshop — the monthlong innovative entrepreneurship course that all first-year MSc students at Skoltech take in September.

The Neuro Center hosted a round table to present the research domains of the center and the scientific and clinical results of a number of projects, including those conducted in collaboration with clinical centers and industrial partners. The round table began with the presentation of the center’s research and innovation program made by Natalya Podsosonnaya, the deputy director for development at the Neuro Center. Professors Philipp Khaitovich, Yuri Kotelevtsev, and Gleb Sukhorukov, Visiting Professor Alexander Korsunsky, Associate Professor Yuri Koush, Assistant Professor Nikolay Koshev, Principal Research Scientist Alexander Kaplan, and others showcased their research projects. Partner companies also joined in, presenting collaborative projects and future initiatives.

The day concluded with a lecture by Tagir Nigmatulin, the director for control over the manufacture of basic technological equipment at Novatek. The expert provided insights into computational mechanics, which uses modeling and simulation to understand and predict complex physical behavior in engineering and science, as well as the challenges faced in that field today. He also listed examples of how Novatek is contributing to resolving these issues.