School of Molecular
and Theoretical Biology

Frequently Asked Questions

Application process and SMTB account

When does the application process start?

We usually start the application process for the School in the second half of November or the beginning of December that precedes the coming SMTB season. The deadline for applications is usually in mid-January. We announce the call for applications on our website and our official groups in social media: VK and Facebook.

How to sign up to apply to SMTB?

Зou can sign up or login your personal account on any page of the SMTB website. The direct link to the login page is here. After signing up you will receive an email to confirm your email address. If you had not received the email, please check your spam folder and make sure that you had filled out the correct email-address in the sign-up form.

If you have any difficulties signing up or logging in your account, please email us.

What is the letter of support?

The letter of support is a kind of a letter of recommendation in a free format. In our form we ask the person the student nominates to write the letter of support, why, they think, this student should be invited to participate in SMTB. The only important thing for us is that the letter of support for the application should be written by any person but the applicant.

How to invite someone to write a letter of support?

The applicant can send one or more invitations to write a letter of support from their Profile page. After the student fills out one or more email address(es) and sends the invitation(s), the recipient(s) will receive an email with the link to the form of the Letter of Support. If you had not received the email with the invitation, please check your spam folder and make sure that the applicant had used the correct email-address to send the invitation.

The student can send an invitation to write a letter of support at any time before or after submitting the application to the SMTB. The letter of support will be automatically attached to the application as soon as it is created and saved/submitted. Our system accepts only one letter of support for each application. If the applicant had sent several invitations to write a letter of support, we will receive the one that was submitted first.

How to send a letter of support?

When a student invites you to write a letter of support, you will receive an email from (please check the Spam folder if you did not receive the message). There will be a link to the form of the letter of support for the applicant who invited you to write a letter of support for them. After you submit the letter, it will be automatically attached to their application form.

If the student had sent several invitations to write a letter of support, only the first letter of support that is submitted will be used for the application. In this case when you follow the link in the invitation, you will see a message that someone else has already submitted a letter of support.

Can I just send my letter of support to the SMTB email?

We ask you not to do it. Our application system automatically attaches letters of support sent through our website to applications, even if the application is submitted later than the letter of support.

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About the school

What criteria are used to evaluate applications to SMTB?

Our admission committee carefully evaluates all aspects of the applications the we receive. Individual experts of the committee use their own reasoning when evaluating an application. At the final meeting the admission committee discusses all applications focusing on applications that have received different marks by experts. Therefore, the admission committee does not use formalized criteria and the decision to accept a student represents the consensus among all of the committee members. The admission committee does not discriminate based on any features of the applicant, explicit or implied.

Why was my application, or the application of my child or student, rejected?

Each year we receive many more applications than we can possibly accept. We are certain, that many students that have not been accepted would have made a wonderful participant of SMTB and could end up being an active research scientists. Our selection criteria are focused on the evaluation of the application materials that we receive without making a value judgement of the individual behind the application. Therefore, we ask all applicants not to take the rejection of their application as a judgement of their talents or abilities. We hope that our decision will not adversely impact anyone’s interest in science and are looking forward to receiving the applications of those students that could participate in the competition the next year.

I do not speak Russian - will that prevent me from participating?

The school is fully bilingual to the extent any educational activity can be made in such a manner. All labs include bilingual faculty, teaching in English and Russian, and are always on hand to translate. A few courses are taught only in one of the two languages, however, in such instances alternatives in the other language are always available. Non russian-speaking students regularly participate in SMTB and even a total absence of any knowledge of Russian does not prevent the full emersion of an English-speaking student into our programme.

I am currently only in 8th grade, can I submit an application?

Yes, but in such instances we ask you to address why you believe you will be able to keep up in a research program that is designed for students a few years older than you. It is also likely that the admission committee will request an additional skype interview.

I am a last year high school student, can I submit an application?

Yes. You can apply to SMTB if you are not a student at the University by the time you submit the application.

I am a first year student at the University, can I submit an application?

No. Unfortunately, our programme is for high school students.

I finished school but I am not studying at the University, can I submit an application?

Yes, but in the application please describe the circumstances why you have not yet enrolled at a university.

Can I participate in SMTB as a team leader or member of the faculty?

We would be happy to receive your CV and a short description of your interest in SMTB by email at

Will my knowledge be enough to participate in SMTB?

A motivated and dedicated student should be able to keep up even without an extensive background in biology, learning the necessary background in parallel to working on a research project. Specifically, we welcome applications from students that have previously been focusing on the study of chemistry, physics or mathematics. However, we advise all students to familiarise themselves with the basic principles of molecular and cell biology prior to the start of the school. A list of recommended reading will be distributed to the accepted students.

I am not sure I will be able to participate in August, can I still submit an application?

We ask all applicants to be reasonably certain that they will be able to participate in the school when submitting their application. Furthermore, if you are accepted, we hope that you and your parents will make an effort to ensure your participation. Accepted students that change their minds about coming to the school, especially at the last minute, translate to considerable loss of resources for us and prevent other students from participating.

What is the cost of tuition at SMTB? What may be some other costs associated with participating in SMTB?

One of the founding principles of SMTB is that the financial status of the student's family does not influence admission or participation of any student accepted through the primary call. SMTB fully covers travel insurance for non-EU students, tuition, room and board and other research-associated costs.

We ask for parents to cover the costs for the visa application, the travel to the city with the nearest visa application center (if applicable) and the transportation to the school. However, we will consider requests for financial assistance with the aforementioned costs on a case by case basis. Financial status should in no way influence the decision of any student to send their application. We will do what we can to guarantee the participation of all accepted students.

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School program

How is an online season organized?

An online season differs a lot from an offline one. First of all, it has two parts. During the preliminary part (the first one) that lasts about two weeks we offer participants different courses and lectures. There will be different topics, including biology and other STEM areas, as well as arts and humanities. We also give the students a list of online courses to follow in Russian and English on several online platforms (for example, Stepik or Coursera). This part is not compulsory. No one will check if a student participates in all courses/lectures or completes the online course. Still, we hope that every SMTB participant will find interesting topics and useful information during the preliminary part of the School.

The main part of the School mostly consists of laboratory work and is about three weeks long. A student has to actively participate in lab work and the final conference to successfully finish the SMTB season and become SMTB alumnus/alumna.

We will have several days off during and between the preliminary and the main parts of SMTB so that everyone could have some rest from online activities.

Why is an online season twice as long as an offline one?

During an offline season all students and faculty are in the same space all through the School. We have both scientific and leisure activities planned full time every SMTB day. When the season is online, all participants are in different places and time zones. It is absolutely impossible to be in the online SMTB space the whole day. We try to restrict the time online to five hours a day. This way it is impossible to fit in courses, lab work and other activities all together. Therefore, we decided to organize the school in two parts.

If someone chooses to participate in a sixth course in a row during the same day, of course we will not kick them out. But we really hope that all participants will be able to act responsibly and will not wear themselves out.

How is it possible to work in a lab online?

We plan computational and theoretical labs for an online season. It is technically possible to work in an experimental lab in the framework of a robot-assisted project but we have not had such projects at SMTB so far.

I do not have any programming experience. Will I be able to fully participate in SMTB online?

Programming experience is not required to work in most SMTB projects and labs. We offer the students a range of projects of different degrees of complexity as regards programming. All participants will be able to choose those projects that seem the most interesting and in which one can learn everything in the process of lab work.

During the preliminary part of SMTB we offer several courses on different levels of programming in biology. In the list of materials on online educational platforms you will also find topics that cover programming. If you are struggling with something, you can always ask SMTB staff in SMTB space online. We usually have a special channel on technical issues, and you will be able to discuss all programming problems and issues there.

I do not feel comfortable if I have to communicate online with people I do not know. I am afraid I will not be able to fit in. What shall I do?

Comfortable communication of all participants - both students and faculty - is the key part of SMTB. We understand that it is complicated to organize the same level of free-flowing communication during an online SMTB season as we have at an online School. But we do our best to help all participants feel part of SMTB while staying in their comfort zone. Each student invited to participate in SMTB online will have a mentor. Mentors are SMTB alumni who will help their mentees all through the School, starting from the first day of the preliminary part and up to the final conference. Students can contact their mentors as well as SMTB organizers if they have any questions or problems.

Is there free time at the school?

Most of their time the students spend working on a research project in a laboratory. All students have some free time after dinner, which may be used to visit our studios or as personal free time. Furthermore, after the start of the research projects the students will enjoy one day of rest with plenty of free time.

Which labs will be present at the school?

Every year we have some new laboratories at the school. We do not publish the list of laboratories for the coming season on our website. To find out more about areas of focus of the laboratories of the School, you can have a look at the laboratories of previous years. Each year there are about 10 laboratories, including experimental and theoretical ones.

How can I select the laboratory that I want to join?

Students select the laboratory that they want to join in the first few days at the school. We adhere to the principles of having the students make an informed choice. This means that the students select laboratories that they liked after rotations in different labs, where they have a chance to learn about the proposed research and interact directly with the faculty. Furthermore, the students fill out their requests to join specific laboratories together with their adviser, who may help the student in making the choice.

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Is it safe to participate in SMTB?

The faculty and team leaders of SMTB are experienced educators that work hard towards creating a safe, comfortable and accepting environment for all participants. Students are organized into teams of 8-10 individuals under the guidance of 2-3 team leaders. Laboratories are supervised by active research scientists that require all participants to strictly follow all laboratory safety guidelines. Overall, the school enjoys a one to one student to faculty ratio, team leaders and monitors accredited for working and organizing summer programs. We advise all students not to carry around their passports or large sums of money, with foreign students preferably giving passports to the SMTB staff for safekeeping.

Will someone meet my student in Moscow (or the city where SMTB takes place)?

Yes, SMTB staff will meet all students at their port of arrival in Moscow, or the city where the school takes place - for students not traveling from Russia.

Who will supervise the student during the school?

We have an about one to one student to faculty ratio so that students are rarely doing something without the participation of at least one adult. We pay special attention to safety protocols while students are working in the laboratory and all students must follow rules of behaviour at all other times. Students and their team leaders, as well as most research faculty members reside in the same building, which in turn is supervised by the hostel personnel.

Whom can I contact with questions about the school?

You can write us an email at with any questions. Urgent issues can be addressed to our scientific director, Fyodor Kondrashov, at +43-664-88326214.

Where will the students live?

All students, and most of the faculty, live in one of the student housing buildings of the host university.

What do the students eat during the school?

Meals are organized in one of the cafeterias of the host university. In addition to the three main meals students have access to fruit and other snacks.

What if I need to contact my child?

We ask parents not to needlessly interrupt students in the course of their work in the labs or their studies during courses. As a rule, students have free time in the evening, which can be used to chat by Skype over the internet. In instances, when you urgently need to reach your son or daughter you can contact the Scientific Director, Fyodor Kondrashov, at +43-664-88326214.

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General questions

How can I apply for a visa?

To obtain the Schengen visa, Russian citizens need to have a passport that is valid for foreign travel with an expiration date no earlier than three months after the last day of SMTB. The students are not required to hold a travel passport or visa when applying. Not having these documents in no way will affect the evaluation of the application. Our staff will contact the accepted students and provide the necessary documents for the visa application. If you already have a Schengen visa, please make sure that it is valid up to and including the last day of SMTB.

Are there any documents that I need to fill out before arriving at the school?

The necessary documentation will be sent to all accepted students. They will be related to issues of obtaining a visa, health certification, insurance and official acceptance to SMTB.

What should I bring with me to the school?

A list of recommended things to bring with you will be sent to all accepted students.

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