On Friday, hundreds of adoring family members, friends and research collaborators descended on the Skolkovo Technopark to celebrate the graduation of Skoltech’s Class of 2018.
This year’s graduating MSc class included 130 students from Russia and around the world, as well as several PhD holders and/or candidates.
The ceremony also honored Maria Sokolova, who successfully defended her PhD dissertation earlier this month, as well as seven other PhD candidates who will defend their dissertations in the coming months.
Skoltech President Alexander Kuleshov kicked off the ceremony with some warm words of advice for the graduating class.
“Today, technology changes so quickly that every five to seven years we face a new world… You must be ready to spend your whole lives learning. This is the lesson I wish to impart to you,” he said. “I am proud because you in this hall are the best of the best.”
Then the keynote speaker, Dave Waiser, Founder and CEO of global ridesharing app Gett took the stage, offering valuable advice to the students about what it takes to excel as an entrepreneur.
“I often ask people, why wouldn’t you open your own business, start your own company? These people have talent, skills and stamina, but the number one reason they won’t do it is fear. People are afraid of critics, they’re afraid of failure, they’re just afraid. And that’s totally ok. It’s totally ok to be afraid and to go through difficulties, as long as you know what’s expected of you and you’re willing to do it,” he said.
“That’s why I’m not afraid to talk about difficulties and failures, and trust me, there have been a lot of them,” he added.
He told the graduates that he believes entrepreneurial success requires two key traits: one must be a resilient leader and must be comfortable with uncertainty.
“A resilient leader is one who sees failures as temporary setbacks they can recover from quickly. When faced with ambiguity, a resilient leader finds ways to move forward, and to not get stuck,” he said.
On the imperative of comfort with uncertainty, he explained: “If you can learn to embrace and welcome challenges, it could be very helpful in your life. No [level] of preparation will make you ready for the startup life. Some people say uncertainty is the hallmark of entrepreneurship. You have no guarantee that your company will still be here next year, or even next week.”
In addition to these attributes, passion is key, he said: “If you’re truly passionate and inspired about what you want to do, if you’re more passionate than you are afraid, that’s the right time to do your own business.”
Empathy for other aspiring entrepreneurs and knowledge are also crucial, he said.
At long last, the MSc students were awarded their diplomas. Ido Nativ, head of Skoltech’s Student Life Office, who served as Master of Ceremonies, called each student to the stage, where they received their diplomas and posed for photos with President Kuleshov and Associate Provost and Dean of Education Anna Derevnina.
Then, several students were invited to deliver speeches, including head of Skoltech’s Student Counsel and Data Science graduate Nina Mazyavkina, as well as Space and Engineering Systems graduate Ignacio Hernandez Arroyo.
Mazyavkina said that preparing her speech for the ceremony was far more daunting than preparing her thesis defense. “Skoltech is a completely different type of university. It’s not just about the outstanding faculty, location and research. Skoltech truly values the thoughts and opinions of its students.”
Hernandez Arroyo added: “Skoltech is a Russian institution – but from its origin it’s an international institution. It finds talent wherever it is. Our graduating class is from around the world, but we have one thing in common: innovation.”
He also urged the students not to shy away from risks.
“Taking risks is taking chances to improve ourselves. Without the risk of failure, there’s no chance of success. And even if – or when – we fail, it can be a much stronger catalyst than we would get if we succeeded,” he said.
The institute’s top performing students were then honored for their hard work. Awards were handed out in three categories: Academic excellence, Best research and Entrepreneurship and innovation.
Dean Derevnina gave out awards in the first category for the top performing students, who received excellent grades throughout their time at the institute.
They included: They include: Roman Isachenko (MSc: Data Science, Advisor: Maxim Fedorov), Julia Gordeeva (MSc: Biotechnology, Advisor: Konstantin Severinov), Egor Krivov (MSc: Data Science, Advisor: Mikhail Belyaev), Pavel Kurilovich (MSc: Mathematical and Theoretical Physics, Advisor: Mikhail Skvotsov), Anton Marin (MSc: Data Science, Advisor: Evgeny Burnaev), Evgeny Marshakov (MSc: Data Science, Advisor: Maxim Panov), Arshak Minasyan (MSc: Data Science, Advisor: Vladimir Spokoiny), Olga Mineeva (MSc: Data Science, Advisor: Evgeny Burnaev), Alexander Podkopaev (MSc: Data Science, Advisor: Vladimir Spokoiny), Nikita Puchkin (MSc: Data Science, Advisor: Yury Maximov), Igor Silin (MSc: Data Science, Advisor: Vladimir Spokoiny), Daria Triniatova (MSc: Space and Engineering Systems, Advisor: Dzmitry Tsetserukou), Alexey Uvarov (MSc: Photonics and Quantum Materials, Advisor: Nikolay Gippius), Evgenii Ulianov (MSc: Space and Engineering Systems, Advisor: Dzmitry Tsetserukou), Pavel Yakubovskiy (MSc: Space and Engineering Systems: Advisor: Evgeny Burnaev) and Ilya Zharikov (MSc: Data Science, Advisor: Maxim Fedorov).
Associate Provost and Dean of Research Keith Stevenson then delivered the awards of excellence in research, which were given to the 18 students who delivered the best thesis defenses from among their respective educational tracks.
They included: Alexey Kovalov (MSc: Computational Science and Engineering, Advisor: Andrey Ivanov); Igor Silin (MSc: Data Science, Advisor: Vladimir Spokoiny), Alena Shilova (MSc: Data Science, Advisor: Yury Maximov), Arshak Minasyan (MSc: Data Science, Advisor: Vladimir Spokoiny), Artem Korenev (MSc: Data Science, Advisor: Pavel Boyko), Julia Gordeeva (MSc: Biotechnology, Advisor: Konstantin Severinov), Artem Mikelov (MSc: Biotechnology, Advisor: Dmitry Chudakov), Yulia Mitina (MSc: Biotechnology, Advisor: Yuri Kotelevtsev), Emil Davletov (MSc: Photonics and Quantum Materials, Advisor: Alexei Buchachenko), Yulia Sklyueva (MSc: Photonics and Quantum Materials, Advisor: Albert Nasibulin), Vladislav Kurilovich (MSc: Mathematical and Theoretical Physics, Advisor: Igor Burmistrov), Mykola Semenyakin (MSc: Mathematical Physics, Advisor: Andrei Marshakov), Nataliya Gvozdik (MSc: Materials Science, Advisor: Keith Stevenson), Laura Victoria Gonzalez Giraldo (MSc: Energy Systems, Advisor: Aldo Bischi), Rita Fazyleva (MSc: Petroleum Engineering, Advisor: Alexey Cheremisin), Miguel Altamirano Cabrera (MSc: Space, Advisor: Dzmitry Tseterukou), Andrey Sartison (MSc: Space, Advisor: Dzmitry Tseterukou), Shamil Biktimirov (MSc: Space, Advisor: Anton Ivanov) and Zarina Chokparova (MSc: Advanced and Digital Engineering Technologies, Advisor: Ighor Uzhinsky).
Lawrence Stein, Vice President of International Business Affairs and Intellectual Property, and Interim Director, Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, then handed out the awards for innovation and entrepreneurship.
Winners included: Dmitry Ermachenkov (MSc: Space and Engineering Systems, Advisor: Dzmitry Tsetserukou), Andrey Sartison (MSc: Space and Engineering Systems, Advisor: Dzmitry Tsetserukou) and Andrey Starostin (MSc: Data Science, Advisor: Viktor Lempitsky).
The aforementioned PhD graduate Sokolova accepted her diploma. Meanwhile, several of her counterparts – all of whom will defend their dissertations in the coming months – were also honored.
Dean Derevnina gave a few words about Skoltech’s PhD program: “Skoltech provides a unique opportunity in Russia for students to defend a PhD degree,” she said. All of the 25 PhD students who plan to defend their dissertations this year were invited to participate in the ceremony, but most of them were too busy finalizing their defenses to attend.
In addition to student awards, the ceremony honored some of Skoltech’s best loved faculty members. These awards were presented by President Kuleshov and Interim Provost and Dean of Faculty Clement Fortin.
Students submitted some 322 candidacies, of which five professors were selected as the crème de la crème.
Professor Konstantin Severinov won the top award overall: Skoltech Professor of the year.
“I’m really happy [about this award] because Konstantin is an excellent lecturer and a brilliant scientist,” said President Kuleshov.
Professor Zeljko Tekic was named best instructor. This is awarded to a professor who has demonstrated excellent knowledge in his or her subject area, and who creates a safe, yet challenging learning environment, among other criteria.
Professor Ighor Uzhinsky won the outstanding teaching for career training award. This award honors faculty members who have helped prepare students to transition into the working world as excellent and well-adjusted professionals upon graduating.
Professor Tatiana Podladchikova was named best mentor. This award is granted to a faculty member who is approachable and accessible, and who listens to and cares about student needs, while challenging and encouraging students to grow.
“I wish you to be masters of your destiny and maestros of your orchestra. Good luck,” she told the students.
Professor Victor Lempitsky was named best research supervisor. This is given to a professor who prepares their students for excellent thesis defenses, helps students navigate the current work in the field, and helps them to understand crucial ideas and welcomes collaboration, among other criteria.
In the end, everyone gathered to toss their hats in the air, officially ushering in their new, post-graduation era.
And of course, it wouldn’t be a Skoltech graduation without a rousing party.
Congratulations to the Skoltech Class of 2018!