Skoltech PhD student, Sofia Medvedeva, becomes the first holder of a double degree from Skoltech and Sorbonne

On June 3, Skoltech PhD student, Sofia Medvedeva, successfully passed a joint PhD defense with Sorbonne University and was awarded a PhD degree from this prestigious French university with a high honour. The joint defense took place at The Pasteur Institute, Paris. This was Skoltech’s first joint PhD defense with another institution. Sofia Medvedeva conducted her studies in France in the framework of the Vernadski fellowship*, which is supported by the French Embassy in Moscow.

Sofia conducted her research on the natural diversity of CRISPR spacers under the supervision of professors Konstantin Severinov and Mart Krupovic. The PhD defense jury was jointly appointed by the institutions and represents an equal contribution from both parties. The PhD Defense Jury members represented the following universities: Skoltech, Sorbonne University, Paris-Sud University and The Pasteur Institute.

The supervisors commented on Sonia’s success and joint PhD program experience.

Konstantin: The experience of double degree was new to us. Sofia is thus a trailblazer. I’m glad that she liked it almost as much as I did. For me it was an honor to supervise her. I particularly enjoyed the breadth of the research that Sonia did covering essentially the entire globe with her bioinformatics analysis, from Antarctica, to hot springs all over the world, to microbiota of mammoth and including, of course, conventional model bacteria. She has been extremely productive during her graduate years, setting a very high standard for public PhD defenses at Skoltech and other joint PhD defenses that will follow.

Mart: I hope the successful example of Sofia will be a pathway for other students. I’m sure Sofia will have a very bright scientific career and invitations for postdoc positions are already lining up for her. Congratulations!

At the end of the defense, the chairperson and professor of Sorbonne University, Guennadi Sezonov, announced the awarding of the PhD degrees of Skoltech and Sorbonne in three languages – French, Russian and English.

Sofia shared her impression on the joint PhD program:


Image: Sofia Medvedeva

Sofia: I really enjoyed this double program, especially when you switch your place several times a year – for me it was easy. From the scientific point of view: I’m a bioinformatician and the research can be done from any place. I like to have two supervisors: you can always that you have to do something for your second supervisor and still need help from the first one. It was an interesting experience.

In her thesis, Sofia explored the diversity of CRISPR spacers in different natural prokaryotic communities, including an extinct Escherichia coli community from a mammoth intestine, Flavobacterium communities from Antarctic surface snow, Thermus communities from four distant hot springs in Italy and Chile, and a Sulfolobales community from a Japanese thermal field. The comparison between the environmental spacer sets that were gathered and with spacers from public databases, as well as with virus sequences, allowed her to reach several significant conclusions and gain insights into virus-host and virus-virus interactions in natural microbial communities.

Follow this link for detailed information about the defense.

*Within the framework of the Vernadsky PhD program, aimed at supporting the mobility of young scientists, the Embassy of France in Russia awards grants (scholarships) to postgraduate students who study under the joint French-Russian postgraduate program.

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