School of Molecular
and Theoretical Biology

Participants' reviews

Sofia Belyaeva

I was told about SMTB by my high school Biology teacher and I am very grateful to her for that. Even though my school program was focused on Biology, I did not quite believe I would be admitted to this highly-competitive school. My first time at the School was rather challenging academically, but my interest and excitement helped me to tackle the difficulties. After each day in lab, I used to self-study and go through a lot of material, as we were not taught such advanced details at school. It turned out, however, that you can get your head round many molecular biology concepts even if you are just a 10 th grade student.

Certainly, the School itself is a motivating environment that encourages you to learn more and go further. I have never met people so excited about science before and this really did inspire me. We had a lot of time to get to know each other, as there had been plenty of evening activities to choose from – such as listening to classical music, watching films or dancing. The second time I found the School much easier for me in many ways because I already knew what to expect and because I have become a part of a student community by that time.

SMTB helped me gain understanding of how real science works, as I got a chance to participate in actual research project. More than that, the School helped me with choosing field of my further studies. I see SMTB as a starting point for the young and aspiring before they set off into the “big sea” of scientific world.

Viktor Dmitriev

Having had an opportunity to participate twice in the fantastic project, I would like to say that the Bioschool allowed me to immerse deeply into real scientific research, which a normal school program lacks. Even textbook biology with pictures and descriptions of cutting-edge modern methods does not give you a full understanding of how attractive science is. I am not one of the students who is happy with only theoretical aspects of my studies, I need to see everything with my own eyes, to check the obtained data and the Bioschool gave me this opportunity. That is why I think that this school is a perfect place for those who have firmly decided to become a biologist and for those, who are not yet sure about their choice and wants to experience all the advantages for him or herself.

Here you get full access to real laboratories, but you are not left alone facing research problems; instead, you are carefully guided by faculty members. The atmosphere at this summer school is impressive. Huge number of like-minded people gathered in one place makes your head go round. It is hard to express with words how happy I am to be a part of this school. New acquaintances, new knowledge and skills, satisfaction from scientific process and personal development - all this is a lesser part pf what you get here. There is not a single wasted moment while you are here.

Sasha Eremina

When I first read about SMTB on the school’s website, I got an impression that it was written exactly for me. Only without my name in the beginning. Of course, I applied, because who doesn’t want to know what is hidden behind the words describing your chosen profession of molecular biologist? When I was accepted, unlike my parents, I didn’t at first realize how important the consequences of that would be, but now I understand that it was not an exaggeration.

In my opinion, the closeness of research at school to real science is one of the things that make SMTB unique. Taking part in an experiment, which no one else have done before means being a part of science and making a contribution rather than emulating science. That allows to experience the variety of life of a scientist and makes this experience very realistic. During research here students often have to deviate from the initial plan, to come up with new ways of conducting the research and that is why all members in the team are highly interested in the results of experiment. A sparkle in the eyes of both students and faculty members when they get an interesting result is one of the brightest experiences of my work in the lab.

The school also gave me an opportunity to participate in experimental science beyond SMTB. At the school, I chose a lab that specialized on cell rather than molecular biology. But at the same time I was curious about the project of another lab studying antibiotic microcin B gene and I was trying to keep updated on their news and helping them a little. Later I was given an opportunity to take part in continuation of research of microcin B as a part of another project of the «Dynasty» foundation. Carrying on with research after the school season, I consider as one of the most important events of that year.

Thus, I can definitely say that SMTB that helped me to realize that my choice to study molecular biology and gave me the first chance to try myself as a scientist and the enthusiasm to carry on with experimental science during the study year. Certainly, such opportunities should not be missed by anyone who is interested in studying biology.

Grigoriy Khimulya

Imagine meeting successful biologists, cheerful volunteers and the best, motivated students in a scientific centre with a half-century history who take part in a real research altogether and you will get a taste of the Bioschool – a unique event, which I was a part of in summer 2013. Making my first steps in studying HIV, breast cancer and allergy, spending nights reading articles and analyzing DNA sequences, asking plenty of questions to professors and my lab leader, I understood that biological research is, without doubt, my future career and probably the most exciting processes in our life.

The most important aspect of the school for me was an ability to speak to scientists in an informal way, including their help in lab work. Among them, I found people who became my scientific mentors and even role models to some extent.

At the school, I finally found fellow students with whom I could discuss many and all topics. We continue to collaborate and hopefully will keep in touch in the future.

Two weeks spent at the School became one of the happiest and most cheerful times in my life. The experience I gained and people I met still contribute to my life in a positive way. I am deeply sure that applying to SMTB would be a truly wise decision for any student.

Katya Khritova (Shuvalova)

I found the school website while looking up something about molecular biology and decided to apply immediately. Two weeks at the Bioschool are one of the brightest memories in my life. While watching those wonderful scientists and experiencing the mysterious lab process I understood what I would like to do in my life.

I worked in Vladimir Katanaev’s lab, which specialized on nanostructures on eye surfaces of different insects. I was producing specimens, sitting down by the microscope for hours at a time and I really liked it! However, the most exciting part of the project was associated with using up-to-date molecular biology methods like DNA extracting, PCR and electrophoresis. Here, at the wet lab I realized my mission.

I am currently studying bioengineering and bioinformatics and undertake training at the Institute of plant physiology in Moscow every month. This is where I use all those skills I gained at SMTB. The pleasant atmosphere of the school where everyone is so motivated and focused on research has become a strong start of my scientific life.

Misha Moldovan

The first thing that I noticed at the school was how passionate the students were about their subjects – in either physics, biology or mathematics. The organizers, in turn, were very friendly and helpful people who were always ready to talk to you in case you have any queries. All these factors create an atmosphere that keeps you involved in the research process. The school gave me a chance to meet non-trivial people from different Russian regions as well as big specialists in different fields of bioscience. Besides, I acquired useful skills, which I would not have met until advanced courses at the university. Thanks to the project we did at the school, it was much easier for me to choose a lab at the university, in which I am currently doing my coursework.

Sergey Isaev

It was the end of 10 th form and I was facing an important choice in my life. What should I dedicate myself to: Biology or Chemistry? I chose Chemistry, because I saw Biology as a very unsystematic field of science, even though I was familiar both with molecular biology and biochemistry. My friend advised me to apply to SMTB. “Sounds great” – I thought.

It was the summer after my 10 th grade and I was still uncertain what I want to do (or, more importantly, where to apply). In August I got to SMTB-2014 and now I feel how this changed my future in so many ways. I met people who thinklike I do; who ask the same questions and see the world in a similar way. I now understand that Biology is not merely a collection of facts and not just playing around with definitions. Biology is a way of determining the truth, the same as Physics and Chemisrty. However, biological systems are more complex and affected by more factors.

“We would like you to experience novel social practices” – once said one of SMTB directors Dmitry Kokorin. SMTB is place where scientific process is modelled most closely to reality and not only in the way of lab experience. This is also informal communication with scientists at lunch, conferences and lack of social barriers. These factors, I believe, are as important as programming and doing wet experiments. These are things that create the spirit of academic community and let you understand whether you feel comfortable inside it. Now I am studying at the faculty of Bioengineering and Bioinformatics in MSU. I applied to this course because I wanted the experience I gained at SMTB not to be confined within two weeks, but become a reality of my life.

Aigul Minnegalieva

“Having a positive experience of trying yourself and knowing the best practices in the world are the key ingredients for making an important and difficult choice of profession” - this is what we have been once told in a professional orientation seminar. Now I understand what a happy person I am since I know that I am exactly where I have to be and know what I want and where I am heading to. All this is thanks to the SMTB.

Positive experience of trying yourself is really important since you need to understand what you would like to devote a large part of your life to. Unfortunately, such an understanding is hard to get not only in school, but also in the first year of university. The beacon for me is my experience from the bioschool. Thanks to it, the prospects of scientific career seem less vague and obscure and the heavy load of learning process can’t decrease my motivation.

But the best discovery at SMTB is certainly people. Despite the school being biological, you find versatile and open people here and no strict boundary between faculty members and students. The latter are treated more as colleagues and often both you and your mentor don’t know the answer to a certain question and you both are on the edge of science.

The choice of the laboratory is excruciating, because you choose between interesting and even more interesting labs. The School gives you a lot of independence: you choose the lab, the courses, lecture you go to in the morning and activities you go to in the evening. As a result, everyone gets a unique development experience. And if you are struggling, advisors can always give you a valuable advice and not necessarily only on SMTB courses.

Here you understand that “scientist” is not a profession, it’s a special lifestyle and a way of thinking.

The atmosphere at the School is so warm-hearted and informal: here you can have a conversation about anything with absolutely anyone, hear the guitar and songs, play table games and make friends from all over Russia and all around the world and everybody seems to enjoy it a lot. Furthermore, it doesn’t end after two weeks in August, it becomes a great community of interesting and inspired people, who support each other throughout the year and you feel genuinely happy every time you hear about somebody’s success and achievement.

Georgy Antonov

I heard about SMTB from a good friend of mine, when I have already graduated from high school in Russia and was doing A Level in the UK. By that time I already knew that I wanted to do biochemistry at university, but I was dramatically lacking practical recognition of science. I didn’t have enough lab experience and I wasn’t yet confident about my future studies to the desired degree. Although I wasn’t Russian high school student any more, I couldn't miss a wonderful opportunity to dive deep inside the science and to feel it on my own.

What was the most valuable experience I have gained? Undoubtedly, it was communication with the students and the people who worked there. I have found like-minded people whom I was so pleased to have discussions and work with. It appeared to me that everyone was very excited about the enormous mutual efforts all of us have contributed to. During those two weeks I could always feel the spirit of unity in the air. We all realised that we were 'inside the science'.

SMTB helped me to become confident about my future studies. Thanks to SMTB I had a huge punch to my self-motivation and intellectual development. Not only did I enjoy real science, but I have also met new friends whom I very appreciate. We keep in touch a lot, even after a long time from the school. Most of the scientists, whose lectures I attended and whom I had a chance to chat with, have become authorities to me in many aspects. I admire these people a lot and I will do my best to try to achieve the same summits as they did.