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  • HSE Faculty of Chemistry Opens Teaching Laboratory Jointly with Russian Academy of Sciences

HSE Faculty of Chemistry Opens Teaching Laboratory Jointly with Russian Academy of Sciences

The HSE News Service attended the first workshop held at a new laboratory that has been equipped for chemistry students. In the new laboratory, first-year students will be able to conduct experiments and learn how to work with different substances.

HSE University and the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) cooperate closely in several areas, with RAS institutes playing an active role in the creation of four HSE faculties, one of which is the Faculty of Chemistry. As part of this collaboration, HSE University works with relevant institutes at the Russian Academy of Sciences to ensure that students are provided with the most modern equipment as part of their education. Workshops for first-year chemistry students who enrolled this year are currently held at the Kurnakov Institute of General and Inorganic Chemistry (RAS).

During these laboratory classes, undergraduate students in the Faculty of Chemistry performed a full-fledged chemical experiment for the first time. For three and a half hours, they acquired basic skills: weighing reagents, using pipettes, dissolving salts, and filtering and separating residues. First-year student Daria Sedlova synthesized nickel chromite while learning how to use scales and a sand heater.

Chemistry is the study of matter, so working with our hands is important for us

Dasha’s classmate, Sergey Arakelov, was given another task: he obtained copper glycinate monohydrate from the available reagents. This experiment was the first in the young researcher’s career. ‘The workshop went well. The laboratory has excellent equipment, high-quality reagents and understanding teachers: they answered all our questions, even stupid ones, and gave some advice,’ he said.

HSE lecturer and RAS doctoral student Polina Yurova notes that the first workshop is not always easy for everyone, so it is important for students ‘not to feel discouraged and to continue working.’ She adds that HSE students took the work at the laboratory very seriously.

 The students did a good job and followed the instructions, which is very important for chemists

As Polina Yurova says, on that day the students performed the simplest experiments and synthesized simple substances: ‘The workshop’s main goal was to give them basic knowledge and skills to work with reagents. For the first workshop we chose colour syntheses - green, red, pink - to make it more interesting for the students. Down the road, they will work on much more difficult experiments.’

The main feature of HSE bachelor’s programme in chemistry is the high amount of research work, says Professor Andrey Yaroslavtsev, who serves as the Programme Head and is a corresponding member of RAS. The laboratory’s establishment is therefore an important step in this direction. He says that the new laboratory meets all modern requirements and that its equipment is as good as in other educational institutions.

Professor Yaroslavtsev also has considerable regard for the competences of some first-year students: ‘It’s difficult to give a general assessment at this point, as I’ve delivered only two lectures and met with the students a couple of times. But I can say for sure that there are 10-15 very active students who have a great interest in science.’

Vladimir Ivanov, Director of the Kurnakov Institute of General and Inorganic Chemistry (RAS), notes that classes in the new laboratories are designed to be an exclusively practical training experience but that later students from the Faculty of Chemistry will become engaged in research together with scholars.

Vladimir Ivanov,
Director of the Kurnakov Institute of General and Inorganic Chemistry (RAS)

In fact, each of our students will have a personal tutor who will help him or her to become immersed in real science. 24 laboratories of the Institute will offer work to first-year students: they will write term papers and engage in real research projects on relevant themes led by scholars from the Russian Academy of Sciences. This is a feature of HSE-RAS joint departments: we combine efforts and obtain synergies. The Academy of Sciences hopes that after graduation some students will be engaged in the research conducted in our institutes and will join the cohort of young researchers. Judging by the results of the entrance tests, we have very talented students. HSE, in turn, gets access to the competencies of our scholars and the experience of the oldest academic school in chemistry.

The Faculty of Chemistry, a joint project of HSE and RAS, generated considerable interest among applicants during the latest admission campaign. Initially, the programme provided 30 state-funded places, but eventually 44 students were enrolled on the programme. Daniil Bardonov, winner of the international Olympiad in chemistry, is among them. The faculty includes four joint departments with RAS institutes. A master’s programme in chemistry is currently in the planning stages.

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