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HSE Postgraduate Students in Psychology to Conduct World-Class Psychophysiological Research

This year the Postgraduate School of Psychology will admit 10 individuals for state-funded spots. Those selected will attend courses that correspond with their areas of academic interest and work in laboratories using the most modern equipment.

The arrival of Vasily Klucharev, Dean of the HSE’s Faculty of Psychology, has seen development of the neurobiological direction in psychological research, which is in line with global trends. In European and American universities, psychology is studied alongside neuroscience, which is the study of the human brain – how it is built and how it works. After all, human behaviour is explained not only by psychological theories, but also by biological peculiarities of the brain. Psychologists conduct experiments using complex equipment, which allows the brain to be acted upon with the aid of magnetic waves.

 Studies in the postgraduate school will be interdisciplinary in nature, as psychological research is intimately connected with mathematics, physics, biology and medicine

Substantial changes in the faculty also affected the postgraduate programme. Previously students received training in two areas – ‘General Psychology, Psychology of Personality and the History of Psychology’ and ‘Social Psychology’. These areas will remain, but the postgraduate school will also feature wider areas of ‘Psychological Sciences’ and ‘Psychophysiology’. Studies in the postgraduate school will be interdisciplinary in nature, as psychological research is intimately connected with mathematics, physics, biology and medicine.

How training will be structured in the postgraduate school

All postgraduate students will take highly specialized courses (approximately one eighth of their workload) that are needed to conduct their research projects. The wide range of courses is a requirement for postgraduate programmes imposed by the new Law on Education in the Russian Federation. Training in mathematics, programming and mathematical methods of information processing, all of which are necessary for modern psychological study, will be strengthened.

 A world-class laboratory base at the faculty, which allows unique experiments to be carried out, is in place. No other Russian university has such equipment

As before, the programme provides for research work, both through interaction between the postgraduate student and academic supervisor and in research seminars. Postgraduate students working on dissertations can be hired as research assistants, who not only receive a scholarship but also compensation.

A world-class laboratory base at the faculty, which allows unique experiments to be carried out, is in place. No other Russian university has such equipment.

‘Paper and pens are not enough for psychologists who conduct testing today,’ said Olga Martynova, Academic Director of the Postgraduate School of Psychology. ‘Scientific experiments using modern equipment are needed. We have purchased transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) equipment, which allows for non-invasive stimulation of the cerebral cortex with the help of short magnetic impulses. Individual sections of the cerebral cortex can be ‘excited’ or ‘slowed’, and thanks to this, for example, it is possible to influence the level of a person’s compliance. Whereas a person may initially change under the influence of public opinion, under the influence of TMS they may refuse to do so.’

An example of such an experiment is when a student is asked to choose the most beautiful girl in the class, changes his position when told that the majority of students don’t consider her beautiful, but then reverts to his previous position under the influence of TMS.

Postgraduate students – the main engine of research              

Olga Martynova is a neurophysiologist who received her PhD from Turku University (Finland) initially having gone there for a project devoted to the study of speech perception by new-borns. During her postgraduate studies, she also worked as a researcher. She believes that postgraduate students are the ‘main engine of research’ given that they process data, prepare publications and conduct research. The task of the faculty is to attract the most talented and interested students.

You can’t come to a postgraduate program without understanding what you want to study, hoping to determine it during the course of study. A postgraduate student moves towards a concrete project in a concrete laboratory. This is standard practice around the world, and we are implementing it here

Olga Martynova
Academic Supervisor of Postgraduate School of Psychology

The postgraduate programme in the Faculty of Psychology is open to graduates of the Master’s programme at the Higher School of Economics or at other universities. ‘You can’t come to a postgraduate program without understanding what you want to study, hoping to determine it during the course of study,’ Martynova says. ‘A postgraduate student moves towards a concrete project in a concrete laboratory. This is standard practice around the world, and we are implementing it here.’

During the new academic year, the Postgraduate School of Psychology will have 10 state-funded spots allocated to it. As in other faculties, there is an opportunity to enrol in a full-time postgraduate programme with a monthly stipend of RUB 30,000. The Faculty of Psychology currently accepts two foreign research assistants (from Italy and the U.S.). After a year of preparation, they will study in the postgraduate programme, as well as defend their dissertation in English and translation.

Psychology is an area of study that we need everywhere – from education to politics. Representatives from many other areas of specialization come to conduct research at the intersection of disciplines. The employment outlook for students graduating from a programme in psychology is strong in many fields, although many choose to remain in academia. More information on the admissions procedures for Postgraduate School of Psychology can be found on its site

Boris Startsev, specially for the HSE news service

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