St Petersburg University has been visited by representatives of higher educational institutions and leading enterprises of France. They have talked about their research, shared best practices, and exchanged views with Russian colleagues.
Among the participants of a round table discussion were: representatives of the University of Toulouse (Université de Toulouse); representatives of the European Research Centre for Virtual Reality (Centre Européen de Réalité Virtuelle) of the Brest National School of Engineering; experts from various institutions specialising in artificial intelligence, such as Quantmetry, Naver Labs Europe; as well as experts from such large international companies as Airbus and Renault.
Aleksandr Tulupev, Deputy Vice-Rector for Research of St Petersburg University, said that there are more than 20 academic and research departments at St Petersburg University. Three of them – the Faculty of Applied Mathematics and Control Processes, the Faculty of Mathematics and Mechanics, and the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science – are involved in studying artificial intelligence. However, this field of study also attracts representatives of other research areas, such as Management and International Relations. He also emphasised that St Petersburg University pays particular attention to supporting and developing research into artificial intelligence.
The meeting at St Petersburg University was also attended by leading French experts working in different areas of this academic field: from interactive machine learning to the use of big data in designing self-driving cars. The French colleagues noted that the topic of artificial intelligence has great potential for strengthening scientific ties with Russia. St Petersburg University professors and students can also contribute to the development of fruitful interaction between researchers of the two countries.
During the meeting, the French and Russian researchers made presentations. Then they discussed: potential areas of cooperation in the field of higher education, research, and innovation; as well as the possibility of creating scientific collaborations.
The Web of Science (WoS) Highly Cited Researchers 2019 lists more than 6,000 of the most cited scientists from all over the world. It includes three researchers from St Petersburg University. The ranking is based on the number of highly cited publications in the WoS database for the decade 2008–2018.
The Web of Science is one of the most respected scientometric agencies in the world. The list annually includes about 0.1% of the world's scientists – the most cited ones in their fields. Of the 6,200 researchers represented in this year’s ranking, the most cited scientists are from the United States (2,737 scientists, or 44% of the total). China is now home to the second largest concentration of Highly Cited Researchers (636 scientists, or 10.2%), overtaking the United Kingdom (516 scientists, or 8.3%).
Ten scientists represent Russia in the WoS ranking, of which only four indicated Russian academic institutions as their primary affiliation. St Petersburg University, represented by three scientists, is first among Russian institutions.
Raul Gainetdinov, the Director of the Institute of Translational Biomedicine, St Petersburg University
Raul Gainetdinov is the Director of the Institute of Translational Biomedicine at St Petersburg University and Scientific Director of the Pirogov Clinic of High Medical Technologies of St Petersburg. He has been included in the WoS ranking for several years. More than 300 of the professor’s publications are presented in the Web of Science, 12 of which are marked as the most highly cited in the field of pharmacology and toxicology for 2008–2018. All in all, there are 140 researchers in the list of pharmacologists. In this category, he is the only scientist from Russia.
To get on this respected list is a high reward for any scientist as well as for the institution where the scientist works. I am very glad that St Petersburg University is represented in this year’s list by three scientists. This will undoubtedly contribute to raising the status of the University in the world rankings.
Raul Gainetdinov, the Director of the Institute of Translational Biomedicine, St Petersburg University
The main direction of research activities in the Laboratory of Neuroscience and Molecular Pharmacology at St Petersburg University under the supervision of Raul Gainetdinov is the development of new drugs for psychiatric and neurological diseases of the brain. These include schizophrenia, depression, and Parkinson's Disease. Prior to working at St Petersburg University, Raul Gainetdinov held the position of a senior researcher at the Italian Institute of Technology. Also, he worked at Duke University in the USA.
Gennady Leonov, Doctor of Physics and Mathematics. Photo by Vadim Zhernov
This is not the first year that Gennady Leonov, who passed away last year, has been included in the WoS ranking. He was an outstanding scientist, a long-term dean of the Faculty of Mathematics and Mechanics of St Petersburg University, the founder of the Department of Applied Cybernetics, professor, and Doctor of Physics and Mathematics. Nikolay Kuznetsov has also been included in this list again. He is the current head of the Department of Applied Cybernetics, professor, and Doctor of Physics and Mathematics. The Web of Science system contains more than 172 works by Gennady Leonov and 173 by Nikolay Kuznetsov, of which 14 publications by Gennady Leonov and 15 publications by Nikolay Kuznetsov are highly cited in the field of interdisciplinary research.
Doctor of Physics and Mathematics Nikolay Kuznetsov
‘In many ways, the studies of Gennady Leonov’s research school are highly popular in the academic community as their projects are at the forefront of research and have an integrated nature. During previous years, his research school has achieved success both in practice and in the qualitative theory of dynamical systems,’ said Nikolay Kuznetsov.
One of the main areas of study of Gennady Leonov’s research school is associated with the development of the theory of latent oscillations and the analysis of the stability of control systems. In particular, as part of these studies, they have carried out: an analysis of phase-locked loop systems in distributed computer architectures and GPS / GLONASS satellite navigation; and an analysis of the onset of oscillations in a closed dynamic model of the Sayano-Shushenskaya Dam. They have also considered the Keldysh problem of flutter suppression and developed rigorous approaches to its non-linear analysis. Moreover, latent vibrations in dynamic models of drilling rigs have been identified.
The profile of scientists who have been recognised by WoS Highly Cited Researchers also influences the profile of the educational institution where they work. This indicator is taken into account in many world university rankings, including the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU). It is considered one of the most respected global university rankings.
The University has been visited by a delegation from the Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics. The guests were received by the Rector of St Petersburg University Nikolay Kropachev. He expressed hope for continued joint work on the launching of new academic programmes with the Vietnamese component.
‘The University is the centre of Vietnamese culture in St Petersburg. It is here at St Petersburg University that the first school of teaching the Vietnamese language in Russia was established. The only monument to Ho Chi Minh in St Petersburg is located in the University grounds. We seek to expand educational and scientific cooperation with Vietnamese organisations, including the Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics,’ said Nikolay Kropachev, Rector of St Petersburg University.
The head of the Vietnamese delegation, Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Central Committee, Dr Nguyễn Xuân Thắng thanked the Rector for the warm welcome. He congratulated him on being recently awarded the Order of St Alexander Nevsky by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Dr Nguyễn Xuân Thắng noted that St Petersburg University and the Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics have been developing cooperation since 2010, when the first worldwide ‘Ho Chi Minh Institute’ was opened at the University.
Nikolay Kropachev pointed out that the first stage of cooperation with the Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics has been successfully accomplished. St Petersburg University has fulfilled all the requirements as stipulated in the cooperation agreement between the two educational institutions.
During the second stage of cooperation, I propose that we prioritise efforts to ensure that new publications on Vietnamese studies are available to our students. These include not only books to study the Vietnamese language, but also publications on Vietnam’s economy, politics, law, international relations, psychology, philosophy, sociology, and history.
Nikolay Kropachev, Rector of St Petersburg University
‘It is important that the University’s students should gain access to information sources so that they could learn about the achievements of scientists and scholars from Vietnam. This will, indeed, facilitate the penetration of the Vietnamese component into various academic programmes and enable the creation of new academic programmes with the Vietnamese component,’ explained Nikolay Kropachev.
Cooperation projects between the University and universities from China, Korea, and Hungary were cited as example models.
In the framework of international cooperation, the University implements academic programmes that have Japanese, Korean, Thai, Chinese and other components. Foreign experts are full council members of these academic programmes. They contribute to the content of the programme, participate in the selection of the teaching staff and the final assessment, and determine the list of relevant literature, teaching methods and approaches.
In addition, other initiatives that outline new areas of cooperation between the two universities and the development of Russian–Vietnamese relations were voiced at the meeting.
The head of the Vietnamese delegation, Nguyễn Xuân Thắng, expressed hope that St Petersburg University would agree to participate in an international conference and several other key events dedicated to three important dates in the political history of Vietnam. Next year marks the 130th anniversary of the birth of Ho Chi Minh, the 150th anniversary of the birth of Vladimir Lenin, and the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of Vietnam. The Rector of St Petersburg University expressed the University’s willingness to participate in the celebrations.
The memorial service to Lyudmila Verbitskaya, the President of St Petersburg University, Dean of the Faculty of Philology, and Honorary Citizen of St Petersburg, took place on 27 November in the Assembly Hall of St Petersburg University.
Russian President Vladimir Putin came to pay his last respects at the public viewing for Lyudmila Verbitskaya. He laid flowers and spoke with her family. Lyudmila Verbitskaya was an outstanding scholar, professor and leading figure.
Alexander Beglov, the Governor of St Petersburg, also came to say his final farewell to Lyudmila Verbitskaya. He noted that she had possessed rare, truly St Petersburg qualities and a solid public stance. ‘She loved our city enthusiastically and did everything possible not only for the University, but also for our city,’ emphasised Alexander Beglov.
Nikolay Kropachev, Rector of St Petersburg University, addressed the audience. He noted that it was thanks to Lyudmila Verbitskaya that the University managed not only to survive the hard times of the 1990s, but also to gain a new impetus for development.
The University is powerful due to its unity, which today is provided by information technology, the Research Park with common access for everyone, and other things. In the 1990s, there were none of these. There was neither money to pay for electricity and heat nor to pay salaries. There was nothing that could preserve the unity of the University, and it was at that time she became the rector. She was the woman who was supposed to solve all these complex challenges. I am sure it is this particular period of university life that was the main one in the history of the University. Lyudmila Verbitskaya’s role was essential in it: it was she who became the core that made it possible to preserve the University.
Nikolay Kropachev, Rector of St Petersburg University
Valentina Matvienko, Chairwoman of the Federation Council, also recalled the role of Lyudmila Verbitskaya in preserving the University. ‘Lyudmila Alekseevna not only preserved the University, but also did a lot for its development: new faculties and new directions appeared at the University. The main thing she managed to do was to preserve that special university atmosphere of academic freedom and democracy,’ noted Valentina Matvienko.
She also added that the best memory of Lyudmila Verbitskaya would be our masterly command of the Russian language; the preservation of which the scholar had devoted all her life to.
Andrei Fursenko, Aide to the President of the Russian Federation, noted that Lyudmila Verbitskaya had helped preserve the Russian education system, as well as bring a lot of improvements to it.
She did not only advise, but she also did a lot of things herself. She was a role model and showed how things were supposed to work.
Andrei Fursenko, Aide to the President of the Russian Federation
A lot of distinguished guests came to pay their last respects to Lyudmila Verbitskaya. Among them were: Olga Vasilyeva, the Minister of Education of the Russian Federation; Sergei Ivanov, Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for Environmental Protection, Ecology and Transport; Viacheslav Makarov, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of St Petersburg; Aleksandr Drozdenko, Governor of the Leningrad Region; Yury Zinchenko, President of the Russian Academy of Education; Mikhail Kovalchuk, Dean of the Faculty of Physics of St Petersburg University and President of the National Research Centre ‘Kurchatov Institute’; Viktor Sadovnichy, Rector of Lomonosov Moscow State University; Viktor Zubkov, Chairman of the Board of Directors of PJSC Gazprom, Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation in 2007-2008 and Chairman of the Russian Coordinating Committee of the St Petersburg Dialogue Forum; Sergei Stepashin, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the state corporation ‘Support Fund for the Reform of the Housing and Utilities Sector’, Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation from May to August 1999, Chairman of the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation in 2000-2013.
After the civil funeral service, a church funeral service was held in the church of the Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God. Lyudmila Verbitskaya was buried in the Northern cemetery of St Petersburg.
Lyudmila Verbitskaya was born in Leningrad. In 1958 she graduated from Leningrad State University with a degree in Russian Language and Literature. From then on, all her professional activities were associated with the University. Starting her career as a department secretary, she went on to become a doctoral student, junior research associate, assistant lecturer, associate professor and in 1979 a professor of the Department of Phonetics and Foreign Language Teaching Methods at the Faculty of Philology. In 1985, Lyudmila Verbitskaya became the Head of the Department of General Linguistics. In 1965 she was awarded a PhD in Philology and in 1977 a Doctor of Philology for her thesis ‘Contemporary Russian Literary Pronunciation: An Experimental Phonetic Study’.
From 1984 she worked as a vice-rector for academic activities, a senior vice-rector, and from May 1993 to April 1994, as acting rector. In April 1994, she was elected Rector of the University. On 19 April 1999 Lyudmila Verbitskaya was re-elected to the same position. She initiated the opening of two new faculties: the Faculty of International Relations and the Faculty of Medicine. In 2004 she was elected Rector of St Petersburg University for the third time. In 2008, following a proposal from the Federal Education Agency of the Russian Federation, the Academic Council of St Petersburg University elected Lyudmila Verbitskaya President of St Petersburg University.
In 1995, she was elected a full member of the Russian Academy of Education and a member of the Presidium of the Academy’s North-West Branch. In 2013–2018 she was President of the Russian Academy of Education.
Lyudmila Verbitskaya was the author of more than 300 scholarly publications, and was awarded numerous degrees and honours. Amongst other honours, she was a full cavalier of the Order ‘For Merit to the Fatherland’ and was awarded an Order of Honour and an Order of Friendship.
Lyudmila Verbitskaya passed away on 24 November 2019 in her eighty-fourth year of life.
Scientists from St Petersburg University have peered into the Atlantic’s past to learn about the Arctic’s future
Oceanologists from St Petersburg University together with specialists from the polar research foundation ‘Nansen Centre’ have developed an algorithm that made it possible to find out what had happened to the deep convection regions of the Atlantic almost 70 years ago. These zones, where water from the surface of the ocean sinks to its bottom, affect how much heat is transferred to the Arctic. The research findings will help scientists understand how the climate of the northern region will change in the future.
The movement of water in the oceans can be represented as a huge conveyor, carrying warm surface water to the north of the Atlantic and then to the Arctic Ocean, and cold deep water is carried back to the south. Although the reasons for the acceleration of ice melting in the Arctic in recent decades remain the subject of debate, scientists cite an increase in heat flow with ocean currents as one of the possible factors.
These surface and deep currents are connected to each other through a deep convection process. In some subpolar regions, the water on the surface of the ocean cools, becomes denser and goes to the bottom – this process is called convection. If the ocean releases more heat to the atmosphere, then the process becomes more intense, accelerating the movement of the entire global conveyor. Today, scientists are aware of four areas of deep convection in the North Atlantic. They are in: the Greenland Sea; the Labrador Sea; the Irminger Sea; and also the area between the Labrador and Irminger seas.
‘The dimensions of convection areas in the expanse of the ocean are very small. They are only about 100 kilometres in diameter. Moreover, every winter they appear in different places and at different times. These areas are fairly difficult to detect using the quite small number of oceanographic observations that are available,’ said Igor Bashmachnikov, the project manager and associate professor of St Petersburg University. ‘We have more or less reliable observations of convection intensity only over the past 10–15 years, and on the scale of climate change this is too short a time to reliably determine the development of climatic processes.’
To address this challenge, oceanologists have developed a new algorithm which is based on observational data from 1950 up to the present. It has made it possible to understand how the intensity of convection has changed in the three seas over the past 70 years. According to Igor Bashmachnikov, the results turned out to be quite unexpected. For example, convection in the Irminger Sea, which was previously considered less significant, has the greatest effect on the speed of the global conveyor, and therefore on the ‘transfer’ of heat to the Arctic. However, the rapid melting of the Greenland glaciers, which many scientists around the world are currently talking about, has not yet had a significant effect on deep convection.
‘We have also managed to identify the cycles of convection development lasting for about 30 years,’ Igor Bashmachnikov said. ‘These cycles were previously known for fluctuations in various atmospheric and oceanographic characteristics, but for the first time we detected the changes in the intensity of deep convection. Now we see that the rate of warming is slowing down, which might be the juxtaposition of a similar 30-year cycle in the general trend.’
During the next stage, the scientists will make forecasts. To do this, they will use the same algorithm, but based on data from climate models. ‘The causes of Arctic climate variability remain largely unclear,’ explained Igor Bashmachnikov. ‘Our work will contribute to understanding the mechanisms of today’s climate change.’
The project ‘Dynamics of deep oceanic convection in subpolar and polar oceanic regions under climate change, its relation on freshwater and heat contents and effect on the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation’ is supported by a grant from the Russian Science Foundation No 17-17-01151.