New International Laboratories Opening up at HSE
On December 23, 2016, the HSE Academic Council approved the creation of four new laboratories: the International Laboratory for the Study of Russian and European Intellectual Dialogue, the International Laboratory for Population and Health Studies, the International Laboratory of Deep Learning and Bayesian Methods, and the International Laboratory for Supercomputer Atomistic Modelling and Multi-scale Analysis.
The first international laboratories to feature top researchers from abroad opened at the Higher School of Economics in 2010. Their main objectives were to create, support, and develop academic areas of specialisation and schools at the international level; participate in international network projects that give HSE access to contemporary methodologies and academic communication networks; and also create multidisciplinary research and information centres in the socioeconomic sciences (sociology, political science, economics, and management) and other related fields.
As of December 2016, HSE had 28 international laboratories, 24 of which are at HSE’s campus in Moscow, two in St. Petersburg, one in Perm, and one in Nizhny Novgorod. In addition, five of the laboratories were created thanks to large grants from the Russian government, while the rest were on the university’s own initiative.
This past summer, the university put out a call for proposals to create new laboratories, as a result of which 20 projects were entered. Upon further international assessment, it was decided that five projects would be supported, and the Academic Council approved the creation of the four new international laboratories in December. One other laboratory will be put forward and discussed at the Academic Council’s January meeting.
The International Laboratory for the Study of Russian and European Intellectual Dialogue will research Russian culture – philosophy, literature, and art – to show the universal significance it has for the future of Europe and Russia. Taking into account the historical precedence of the European intellectual tradition, people usually talk about the influence of European thought on Russian thought, but the reverse has also taken place, the creators of the laboratory stress. European culture has learned from Russian culture, and this is the field of study for the laboratory. The heads of the laboratory will be HSE Tenured Professor Vladimir Kantor and Catholic University Eichstätt-Ingolstadt Professor Leonid Luks.
The International Laboratory for Population and Health Studies will work on demographic problems such as life expectancy, employment potential, population ageing, regional health and healthcare conditions, socio-economic inequality, and public health. Russia achieves much fewer new scientific results in demography than more developed nations. The creators of the lab – Leading Research Fellow with the HSE Institute of Demography Evgeny Andreev and the head of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Vladimir Shkolnikov – are planning to make the laboratory the best demographic research centre in Eastern Europe and one of the best in Europe as a whole.
The International Laboratory of Deep Learning and Bayesian Methods is being created as part of the Faculty of Computer Science, and the lab will be headed by HSE Professor Dmitry Vetrov and University of Sussex Professor Novi Quadrianto. The relevance of the laboratory’s research is driven by the global revolution taking place in the field of machine learning, an important area of artificial intelligence. This revolution is connected with the spread of deep neural networks and deep learning. A number of relatively simple problems have already been solved with the help of neural networks, and in order to solve more complex tasks, it is necessary to build probabilistic models using a Bayesian modelling unit. Professor Vetrov’s group is a leader in the field of machine learning and probabilistic modelling in Russia. In addition, Russian corporations such as Yandex, Sberbank, and Mail.ru have already shown an interest in this area, signifying that the laboratory will have partners from the business sphere as well.
Finally, the International Laboratory for Supercomputer Atomistic Modelling and Multi-scale Analysis will utilise the potential of supercomputers to develop new materials, describe them, and predict their properties. The head of the laboratory – Chief Scientific Officer of the Joint Institute for High Temperatures of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Genri Norman – is a world-renowned researcher in the field of mathematical methods based on the atomistic description of a substance. His first work on molecular modelling came out in the late 1960s. Also expected to take part in the laboratory’s work are foreign researchers Andrei Kalinichev, a specialist on the application of atomistic modelling methods to solving problems at the interface of physical geochemistry, materials science, and environmental chemistry, as well as Nikolai Priezjev, who is developing a nano- and microfluidics model and also studies the multi-scale bond of atomistic models and the mechanics of continuous bodies.
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