Our school is based on a belief that many students of high school age are ready to participate, intellectually and through work in the laboratory, in real scientific experiments. We believe that the experience of working in a real research environment is helpful in deciding whether science and research is for you. We offer a chance to work on a real scientific question alongside real scientists with a possibility of obtaining real and novel results. At our school you will hear lectures, learn how to perform different techniques and calculations and explore current ideas in areas of molecular and theoretical biology. We do not offer any coaching or training aimed at improving scores of standardized tests or Olympiads. Our work and studies are focused purely on the scientific questions addressed in individual laboratories.
Within a wide diversity of topics in the natural sciences and mathematics our school is focused on molecular and theoretical biology. Such focus is deliberate and was dictated by several considerations. Molecular biology as a field continues to be at the forefront of modern science. Many areas of biology and medicine are utilizing methods on the molecular level, providing a new dimension to research even in traditionally non-molecular fields as in ecology and animal behavior. We chose molecular biology as one of the focuses of our school to expose high school students to the field that is currently dominating biological research throughout the world yet, unfortunately, remains relatively low-profile in science and high school education in Russia.
Theoretical biology as the second focus of research in our school was chosen for similar reasons. Quantitative thinking and computational analysis are rapidly becoming more relevant to many areas of biology. In addition to quantitatively oriented fields such as biochemistry and biophysics, many aspects of high-throughput genomic analyses rely on mathematics and computational analyses. The fields of bioinformatics and quantitative biology have been strong in Russia in the past and generally remain so. However, quantitative sciences and mathematics remain broadly separated from biology on the level of high school education. Thus, the union of molecular and theoretical biology within our school was in part created to facilitate the joint study of these disciplines by our students. If you are a student with a strong background in physics, mathematics or computer science, we encourage you to apply and try your hand at the quantitative side of biology. For students with an interest in biology that shy away from mathematics we provide opportunities to improve your skills in mathematics no matter what your starting point is. Many students in biology fear or loathe mathematics and we strive towards eliminating such strong feelings in our students through the demonstration of the essentiality of many aspects of mathematics in modern biology and through tutorials in school-level mathematics for interested students.
Scientific research at all levels involves spoken and written communication in English. It is therefore a matter of professional necessity for all students aspiring to become scientists to learn how to communicate in English in a scientific setting. We involve scientists at the level of lecturers and full-time faculty from all over the world, including those that do not speak any Russian. Our school is not an exception in that English is frequently being used to communicate among the faculty and in the laboratory as a matter of necessity. However, we realize that for many high school students in Russia, especially those oriented towards the natural sciences do not have the right level to participate in a truly bilingual school.
We thus attempt to integrate English at our school as an omnipresent but not strictly necessary factor of life at our school, to provide a platform for its improvement for students of all levels, from advanced to nonexistent. A rudimentary level of English may limit the student’s capacity to communicate to non-Russian speaking faculty, or other students, and may be a factor when selecting a suitable laboratory. However, even a complete lack of English will not affect the student’s ability to participate fully in our program and certainly should not stop anyone from applying. At school-wide venues, such as lectures, we provide translation and a choice of laboratories with a majority of Russian-speaking faculty in both the molecular and theoretical lines of research will always be available. In a research environment, classmates and bilingual faculty will be available to help if something was not understood.
One or more English-oriented teams is formed every year to promote communication in English amongst the students and basic classes in English may be offered. We hope that whatever the level of proficiency in English may be when a student comes to our school there will be opportunity for improvement through hearing and speaking it in a research environment and in the classroom.