IT at HSE Perm: From Academic Projects to Commercial Research
Aleksey Kychkin, Head of the Laboratory of Interdisciplinary Empirical Studies, spoke to the HSE Look about his background, industry projects the lab has been doing, and student involvement in research.
On Joining HSE University
In 2016, I was invited as a guest lecturer to teach a course on Software Systems Architecture Design to students in the Software Engineering Bachelor’s programme and a course on Architecture of Management Information Systems to students of the Information Analytics in Enterprise Management Master’s programme.
The campus environment surprised me a lot—the colleagues I worked with had a high level of expertise, while the students I used to teach were highly educated. Their priorities in life and their way of thinking about digital technologies were in sync with my own
So, two years later I was granted a permanent position as Associate Professor at the Department of Information Technologies in Business. By that time, I developed lecture materials, and my seminars were set. The courses I had taught perfectly fitted into students’ educational programmes. It was clear that the students were interested in my classes, and there was positive feedback from them.
In 2020, I was also offered to head the Laboratory of Interdisciplinary Empirical Studies, which we are trying to make more research oriented. My students and I, thus, switched from academic projects to research, including a commercial project.
Project-based learning, which is widely being developed on our campus and which I have been implementing for the last two to three years, has brought several interesting projects to us
On Involving Students in Research
Not a lot of students show interest in research work. However, the most talented in mathematics, programming, foreign languages and the most proactive—those wishing to advance in studies of digital technologies and personal development and produce new results—are invited to work in projects at the Laboratory. It is certainly not an easy task to find these talents. Together with colleagues from other departments, Olga Vikentyeva, Alexander Deryabin, and Lidia Shestakova, we hold seminars and conferences to meet them and motivate them to participate in our projects.
Since our students won the UMNIK and START nationwide contests held by the Foundation for Assistance to Small Innovative Enterprises, we were contacted by IT firms to carry out commercial projects and developed software solutions for them. One of the projects was for the Moscow IT firm TASS Information Technologies, which develops and supports the TASS Business information system. It processes a large volume of data on many companies, and we were asked to develop a model for assessing their investment attractiveness.
Another project was for the Perm developer of smart home systems, for whom we developed a system for calculating various indicators of electricity cost, particularly for large buildings
In regards to other projects, we designed software architecture, and we have already accumulated a lot of experience in this area. We are eager to dive into the details as much as possible, and that is what our customers really liked as detailed project documentation can be used in the future by any software developer.
Last year, for example, we developed a SCADA system for an industrial firm in Siberia
The scope of work was very wide—we had to dive into data analysis technologies, software architectures, programming, and technological processes. Moreover, since we are a research-oriented laboratory and already have analytical experience, we have a good grasp of the subject area, understand it, design qualitative software architecture and, if necessary, develop the necessary software.
Projects let students grow professionally
Some of them, unfortunately for us, leave to find work in companies. Nevertheless, the feedback we get from employers shows that our work has not been in vain.
We employ both undergraduate and graduate students. Undergrads work mainly as software engineers, as they are good at programming and understand how system software works. Graduate students mainly come from Business Informatics course, and they work in customer support and product requirements, as well as design and model processes and systems.
Just like in real life, software engineers can never work alone; they always need business analysts. Therefore, we try to balance out our team—graduate students hold management positions and help the software engineers through assigning and tracking tasks.
However, we do not restrict ourselves to specific degrees. Primarily, we need students who are knowledgeable in mathematics and software design; we also need engineers who can work on-site for some time. We also need specialists in such fields as energy and smart cities as we become more actively engaged in digital environmental monitoring technologies.
We value experts in particular areas and it does not matter whether they are Bachelor’s, Master’s or PhD students
On International Outreach
Having access to articles, projects and a formed team definitely help me to get acquainted with prominent external organizations. This is how I had my first meeting with research fellows of the Software Competence Center Hagenberg (SCCH), a world-class research institute. The meeting took place in Hannover at the international exhibition Hannover Messe in 2019. I shared how our work is organized and how we conduct scientific research. The colleagues became very much interested in the work we do and invited me for an internship, which became possible with the support of the Young Faculty Support Programme.
Our main focus of work is demand response and energy management systems, which is a promising area both for Europe and Russia
It was a very rewarding experience. The knowledge I gained during the internship was implemented in real projects. We together with key researcher in SCCH, PhD Georgios Chasparis also published a research article ‘Feature and model selection for day-ahead electricity-load forecasting in residential buildings’ in the journal Energy and Buildings.
Another international project is being run with Prof. Stefan Voeth from Technische Hochschule Georg Agricola, Bochum (Germany). We are conducting analysis of ventilation digital twins based on OpenModelica implementation.
Students from the Engineering and Mathematics School, a joint educational programme of HSE University and VK, defended their projects at the VK Moscow office. The students presented technology for generating animated 3D characters, a framework for the PHP language, an open service for creating neural networks and several other innovative IT solutions.
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