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Vasily Klyucharev, Dean of the HSE Faculty of Psychology: ‘Our objective is to integrate our faculty into the European academic space’

Vasily Klyucharev is the new Dean of the HSE Faculty of Psychology.  His professional interests lie in neuroeconomics - more specifically, in the study of social influence, of the ways our decisions can be manipulated, what mechanisms are at play, and which parts of our brain are involved when someone tries to manipulate us. The new Dean talked to our news service about the faculty's upcoming research projects and academic courses.


Vasily Klyucharev (born in 1972) holds a degree in biology from St. Petersburg State University and a Ph.D. from the RAS Institute of the Human Brain; he defended his Ph.D. thesis under the academic supervision of Academician Natalia Bekhtereva. Since 2000, he has carried out research in neuroscience and neuroeconomics and has taught at research centers and universities in Finland, the Netherlands, and Switzerland.


 

— Over the last four years, you have been working with the Economic Psychology Group at the University of Basel (Switzerland) carrying out neurobiological research with MR resonance scanners. What prompted you to return to Russia and why did you choose the Higher School of Economics?

— During my fourteen years of living abroad, I have maintained my connections with Russia. I have been involved in numerous research and educational projects with Russian colleagues. The most recent was a multinational postgraduate course in neurobiotechnology (BioN) – a collaborative project between Moscow State University, St. Petersburg State University, Nizhny Novgorod State University, the Southern Federal University, and other academic centers. I was attracted by the opportunity to work with the Higher School of Economics because I saw a match between my professional interest in neuroeconomics and the HSE's willingness to prioritize interdisciplinary research at the intersection of psychology, economics, management and other disciplines.

Additional funding will be made available for this purpose, in particular for setting up new labs, and international experts will be invited. Many European colleagues have expressed an interest in working with the HSE's faculties of mathematics, since mathematical models of decision-making, the brain functioning, and social interaction in groups are all at the cutting edge of research, and the HSE's mathematicians really are outstanding. Add to that our new educational courses, some of them in English to attract foreign as well as Russian students, and you have a very modern and interesting direction for the university's development. The HSE is a unique place in Russia where these goals are achievable, I believe.

— Being a faculty dean is a largely administrative function. How do you plan to combine your administrative work with research and teaching?

— I believe that the main reason I have been invited to take up this position is to for the faculty to explore new directions in research. Without a good understanding of current research, it is very easy to lose your direction; therefore I will not abandon my research, but at the same time I will try to mobilize additional administrative resources. And since I have been involved in many international educational projects, combining organizational work and teaching are nothing new to me.

Neuroeconomics is a new area of research, and I openly admit that I am still learning a lot. In fact, I would love to attend, as a student, some of the new courses that we plan to design and offer. You can count on the fingers of one hand those universities anywhere in the world that have developed their neuroeconomics research and teaching into full-fledged, sustained academic programs. If our plans succeed, HSE will be a unique university in Europe and beyond.

— What should prospective students who want to be admitted to the Faculty of Psychology this year expect?

— We will not immediately overwhelm students with new courses and disciplines; rather, their introduction will be gradual and will start in the next academic year, i.e autumn 2014. What we hope to do this year is to set up new labs and to invite a number of international researchers to lecture at HSE. So those students who are interested in neuroeconomics will soon have an opportunity to explore this area and to take part in research projects which are new to Russia. The HSE plans to purchase a transcranial magnetic stimulator (TMS), a piece of research equipment that will be exciting for both students as well as established researchers to try out.

— What changes do you expect in the faculty's organizational and staffing plan?

— The faculty has been created from scratch and has gained a good reputation, which is certainly a great achievement by the current team. We plan to add to this already strong team by setting up international labs and inviting guest researchers and lecturers. In addition, the entire university today faces the challenge of developing its publications, and the faculty of psychology should not remain on the sidelines during this process. We will work to send even more teachers and researchers overseas for internships and exchanges, and we will substantially increase the number of courses delivered in English. By doing this, we hope to facilitate our faculty's integration into the European academic space. My colleagues and I see great potential for our faculty in this respect.

Oleg Seregin, HSE News Service

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