In 2013 and 2014, megagrant competitions were held at St Petersburg University. To implement the Megagrant Programme, 9 research laboratories have been established, with leading scholars from Russia and other countries appointed their heads.
1. Laboratory "Center for Bioinformatics and Algorithmic Biotechnology"
Created in: 2014
Headed by: Pavel Arkadyevich Pevzner
Bioinformatics is a rapidly developing science firmly linking biologists, mathematicians, programmers, and statisticians. Just a couple of years ago bioinformatics was practiced at a few Russian laboratories only, while today this science is being actively advanced both nationally and worldwide. It owes much, in terms of its high development rate, to the Center for Algorithmic Biotechnology, or CAB, created in SPbU 18 months ago.
Among the revolutionary developments of the laboratory there is a completely new immunoinformatics branch created from scratch and making it possible to analyse antibody repertoires appearing in an organism as a response to infection or any other aggressive exposure. Without such software it would be very hard or even impossible to analyse these repertoires. Even the first steps made by the laboratory in this direction arouse huge interest among the members of the scientific and pharmacological community. As a result, the laboratory received several cooperation offers.
For many years Russia has been a leader in new antibiotics development, yet now this time is gone both in Russia and worldwide. The resistance of microorganisms to present-day antibiotics has caused a strong need in new generation antibiotics that will not develop adaptation. Being fully aware of the problem's importance and the complexity of the search, CAB has started developing software aimed at making the search for new antibiotics easier and, which is more important, quicker. Following the results of the first year's work in this field, an article titled “In Silico Identification of Peptidic Natural Products Through Database Search of Mass Spectra” was prepared. It was accepted for publication by the Nature Chemical Biology journal. We must note that all of these outstanding results have been obtained by exceptionally talented people aged 31 and younger.
During the 18 months of the laboratory's existence 16 papers have been published in top-rated international journals including the Nature Methods with an IF of 32.072. CAB employees have already participated in 15 international conferences.
Alla Lvovna Lapidus
2. Laboratory of Electronic and Spin Structure of Nanosystems
Created in: 2014
Headed by: Evgeny Vladimirovich Chulkov
Detailed experimental and theoretical research of electronic and spin structure of binary, triple and quadruple technological insulators as well as of crystal compounds of the BiTeX (X=I, Cl, Br) type with an enhanced Rashba spin-orbit interaction has been conducted. Our scientists have studied the influence of exchange interaction and spin-orbit interaction on the electronic and spin structure of these compounds, including their magnetic doping, for the sake of effective application of such materials in spintronics. We have analysed the possibilities of the anomalous quantum Hall effect in magnetically doped topological insulators and BiTeI. We have also studied the electronic and spin structures of new perspective systems based on these materials, including those with double Dirac cones in electronic spectra. We have also studied systems based on combinations of topological insulators and cobalt phthalocyanines for organising an interface between the two types of materials with different properties. We have studied optical and dielectric properties of BiTeI and BiTeCl in the field of optical transitions, that being a crucial issue for practical application of such compounds. A theoretical research of the new types of binary and triple Bi-Te topological insulators containing Sn has been conducted as well. The existence of a new type of topological states realised in triple compounds based on heavy metal atoms has been predicted. The quantum spin Hall effect theory has been thoroughly studied in a 3D topological insulator. A more complete and less controversial quantum spin Hall effect theory has been suggested. It differs from the classical model based on the two-dimensional nature of topological insulators. We have conducted research on the synthesis and analysis of the electronic structure of systems based on functionalised graphene. We have studied the effect of boron impurities embedded into the graphene lattice. A new method of forming graphene/Ge and hBN/Ge interfaces has been developed. We have defined the structure and studied the stability of the interfaces. A new type of crystal topological insulators has been studied. The splitting of the Dirac cone in them takes place due to the applied electric field. Within the framework of the project we have studied changes in electronic and spin structure of graphene-based systems on single-crystal substrates (Ir(111), Co(0001) and Ni(111)) in the conditions of Pt , Au, Bi, and Pb atoms intercalation and Au and Bi joint intercalation. The corresponding effects of anomalously large induced spin-orbit splitting have also been studied. The effects of the formation of a topological phase in graphene have been analysed. We have discovered the effect of internal spin-orbit interaction and external interaction, introduced by the Rashba effect due to contact with metals with high atomic number. Moreover, for the first time ever, a method of obtaining well-ordered single domain graphene on the surface of Co(0001) has been developed. We have found out that a spin-polarised interface state having a linear dispersion and populated by electrons with one spin direction is formed in the electronic structure of graphene on Co(0001) near the Fermi level. A new method of graphene synthesis has been developed. It involves a solid-state source on the surface of a thin Ni(111)/graphite film and carbon atoms system segregation to the surface from the boundary between the deposited Ni layer and the graphite substrate. A method of forming graphene–Ge and hBN–Ge interfaces with the GeC6 and GeB3N3 stoichiometry, respectively, has been developed. It has been proved that controlled germanium intercalation into graphene/Ni(111) and hBN/Ni(111) systems makes it possible to create well-structured interfaces between 2D crystals and germanium.
During the 18 months of the laboratory's existence more than 50 papers have been published in top-rated international journals including 10 papers in journals with an IF of over 10 and one in the Advanced Material journal with an IF of 17.493. The employees of the laboratory have already participated in 60 international conferences.
Alexandr Mikhailovich Shikin
3. Laboratory "Transnationalism and Migration Processes: Comparative and Institutional Analysis"
Created in: 2014
Headed by: Peter Kivisto
The laboratory has been conducting fundamental interdisciplinary research in the field of transnationalism and migration studies. It also organises applied sociological research in the interests of internal and external customers. The laboratory staff includes Peter Kivisto, a world-renowned scholar, Professor at Augustana College (Illinois, USA), as well as several doctors of science and over 10 young Russian scientists.
The laboratory actively cooperates with the International Migration, Integration and Social Cohesion in Europe association (IMISCOE) and with other national and international research centres within the framework of various comparative interdisciplinary projects. The research conducted by the laboratory staff were carried out by request of various federal and regional institutions, including the Council under the President of the Russian Federation, the Russian Science Foundation, the Russian Humanitarian Science Foundation, and the St Petersburg Committee on Science and Higher Education.
The areas of research include:
- Migration processes, issues of ethnicity and nationalism in the social sciences;
- Intercultural communication, inter-ethnic relations and conflicts;
- Social adaptation, social inclusion and exclusion;
- "Discontent" as a social characteristic, protest activities among migrants;
- Legal aspects of migration;
- Institutions and practices of transnationalism; and
- Sociology of emotions, sociology of everyday life, comparative sociology.
The scientific importance of the transnational migration study problem is caused by two factors. First, the novelty of the transnational migration processes makes this issue an important subject of study for the social sciences. Second, the study of transnational migration makes scientists revise the outdated conventions and develop new theoretical and methodological approaches.
The practical relevance of transnational migration studies is determined by rapid changes in social relations, institutions and organisations in the light of migration processes and their unintended consequences, i.e. crisis phenomena in the Eurasian and American space, such as economic inequality increase, changing state borders, discontent and apathy, labour productivity collapse, etc.
During the 18 months of the laboratory's existence 9 papers have been published in various journals, with 5 papers published in journals included into the WoS and/or Scopus academic citation indexes. The employees of the laboratory have already participated in more than 20 international conferences.
Andrey Vladimirovich Rezaev
4. Laboratory “Economic Performance and the Environment”
Created in: 2014
Headed by: Frederick van der Ploeg
Head of the laboratory Frederick van der Ploeg is a professor at the Department of Economics, University of Oxford, research director at the Oxford Centre for the Analysis of Resource Rich Economies, and ex-minister of education, culture and science of the Netherlands. Frederick van der Ploeg has earned an international reputation as one of the leading experts in the study of global climate issues related to economic growth, ways of transition towards a low carbon economy, including those for the countries with large reserves of natural resources. He also specialises in the optimisation of energy balances and tools of environmental and energy policies.
The summary of the issues studied at the laboratory is the following: "Modelling of the structural reforms of economy and justification tools for ways of modernising the resource and environmental policies in countries with the predominance of traditional energy sources for the sake of transition to the path of sustainable, cost-efficient growth oriented at innovation and minimising the risks of global climate change."
Being predominantly young researchers, the members of the laboratory are facing the following challenges:
- Conducting intensive research and publishing them in high-ranking scientific journals, including international ones;
- Integration of new scientific ideas and cutting-edge practices into the educational process at St Petersburg University;
- Development of recommendations for regulatory authorities in the field of resource and environment policy, energy policy and climate policy. Such recommendations should rely upon the results of the research and best practices, both national and international;
- Promoting the formation of St Petersburg University's image as a reputed research centre for modelling of structural reforms in the economy and its transition to the path of sustainable, profitable growth, oriented at innovation and minimising the risks of global climate change.
During the 18 months of the laboratory's existence 12 papers have been published in various journals, with 3 papers published in journals included into the WoS and/or Scopus academic citation indexes. The employees of the laboratory have already participated in more than 20 international conferences.
Nadezhda Viktorovna Pakhomova
5. Laboratory "Internationalisation of Politically Connected Firms from Emerging Markets"
Created in: 2014
Headed by: Lilac Nachum
Our scientists regularly participate in research projects aimed at the development of theoretical and applied aspects of the internationalisation of companies from emerging markets, as well as the formation of international strategies for companies operating in emerging markets. Strategies for international business and company internationalisation, the development of multinational companies (MNCs) and international cooperation, foreign investment and national policies in the broader context of growing markets are important components of the laboratory's specialisation. A thorough understanding of the theory and good command of extensive empirical data in the context of emerging markets are a required basis for high-quality research in this area.
A laboratory titled "Center for International Business and Emerging Markets", or CIBEM, is planned within the framework of the project. It will be headed by Lilac Nachum, a professor of international business and strategy at Baruch College, City University New York.
CIBEM is aimed at becoming a leading research centre for international business among the business schools in Eastern Europe with a primary focus on emerging economies.
CIBEM's areas of research include (but are not limited to) three interrelated fields:
- The applicability of international business theories to the specific context of countries with growing economies using the comparative approach and focusing primarily on Russia;
- Strategies and results of the activities of MNCs from emerging economies, Russian MNCs acting as the main object of study;
- The interaction between emerging and advanced economies, particular characteristics of investment flows between countries, and the role of emerging economies in global markets.
The center will also provide a regular and systematic review of market conditions in the emerging economies and an analysis of changes in business environment conditions, including the political, institutional and economic development of these countries.
CIBEM's geographical focus includes not only the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), but also Eastern Europe, East and Southeast Asia, as well as (to a lesser extent) African and South American countries. The main focus is on Russia, the CIS countries and China.
CIBEM's methodological profile combines micro and macro aspects of international business, using both the quantitative analysis and the case study method. Potential research topics:
- Origins and sources of competitive advantages of companies from emerging economies;
- The role of institutions in the internationalisation of companies from emerging economies;
- Internationalisation politically connected companies from emerging economies;
- The "liability of foreignness" issue and the development of knowledge for the internationalisation of companies from emerging economies;
- The nature and sources of innovation in emerging markets and for emerging markets;
- Russian MNCs' internationalisation strategies.
During the 18 months of the laboratory's existence 12 papers have been published in various journals, with 2 papers published in journals included into the WoS and/or Scopus academic citation indexes. The employees of the laboratory have already participated in more than 35 international conferences.
Andrey Yuryevich Panibratov
6. Laboratory "Catalysis by Transition Metal Clusters: Synthesis of Biologically Active Molecules and Pharmaceutical Building Blocks with Atomistic Precision"
Created in: 2013
Headed by: Valentin Pavlovich Ananikov
Valentin Ananikov is a professor, head of the Laboratory of Metal-Complex and Nanoscale Catalysts at N. D. Zelinsky Institute of Organic Chemistry of the Russian Academy of Sciences (ZIOC RAS); head of the Department of Structural Studies at ZIOC RAS; member of the Coordination Council for Youth Affairs in Science and Education under the Presidential Council; Doctor of Chemistry, corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences (elected in 2008 at the age of 33, in the field of study "Physical Chemistry of Nanoscale Structures"). Dr Ananikov is an awardee of several honorary titles and prizes: Yu. Liebig Award granted by the German Chemical Society for Excellence in Organic Chemistry (2010); Balandin Award for Excellence in Catalysis (2010); Russian Federation National Prize for Young Scientists awarded for outstanding work in science and technology (2004); Medal of the Russian Academy of Sciences with a prize for young scientists (2000). He is also member of the Presidential Council for Science and Education (2012).
- NMR spectroscopy
- electron microscopy
- density functional theory (DFT)
- molecular dynamics
Scope of academic interests: catalysis, organic synthesis, nanotechnology, quantum-chemical calculations, modern physical organic chemistry (how molecules live and chemical reactions run).
Expert opinion: this is a project of high international standing.
During the 2 years of the laboratory's existence 11 papers have been published in top-rated international journals including the Chemical Reviews with an IF of 46.568. The employees of the laboratory have already participated in 16 international conferences as invited speakers.
Konstantin Sergeevich Rodygin
7. Research Laboratory for Analysis and Modeling of Social Processes. Political Islam / Islamism: Theory and Practice in Comparative and Historical Perspective
Created in: 2013
Headed by: Alexander Dmitrievich Knysh
Alexander Dmitrievich Knysh, Department of Near Eastern Studies, University of Michigan, USA. Born in Sasovo, Ryazan Oblast, on 28 September, 1957. 1979: graduate of the Faculty of Asian and African Studies, Leningrad State University, in the main field of study "Arabic Philology". 1980–1986: graduate student, the Institute for Oriental Studies, Academy of Sciences of the USSR; staff member of this institute after graduation. After the cross-sectoral Islamic Studies Group was created, Alexander Knysh became its member. 1986: defence of the candidate's thesis titled "The Main Sources for the Study of Ibn ‘Arabi’s Thought: ‘Fusus alhikam’ and ‘alFutuhat alMakkiyya’” (Research supervisor: A. B. Khalidov). 1986–1989: member, SovietYemeni Historical and Archeological Mission led by P. A. Gryaznevich.
Alexander Knysh has published over a hundred works in English, Russian, Azerbaijani, German, Italian, Persian and Arabic. All of these are devoted to various aspects of the history of Islam.
The research interests of Dr Knysh include (but are not limited to):
- Muslim mysticism;
- classical Arabic literature;
- history of the Muslim theological thought;
- Islam in Yemen and in the North Caucasus.
Since 1991 Alexander Knysh has been working in the USA. Since 1997: Professor; since 1998: Dean, Department of Near Eastern Studies, the University of Michigan. At present, Dr Knysh is a section editor (“Sufism”), Editorial Board of the 3rd edition of the "Encyclopedia of Islam" (Brill Academic Publishers).
During the 2 years of the laboratory's existence 37 papers have been published in various top-rated international journals. The employees of the laboratory have already participated in more than 80 international conferences as invited speakers.
Oleg Ivanovich Redkin
8. Biomolecular NMR Laboratory at SPbU: Protein Structure, Dynamics, Function, and Role in Human Disease
Created in: 2013
Headed by: Nikolai Ruslanovich Skrynnikov
Nikolai Skrynnikov is a professor at Purdue University located at West Lafayette, Indiana, USA. B.Sc., 1989, M.Sc., 1991, Leningrad State University. Ph.D., 1996 McGill University; postdoctoral fellow, 1997–1998, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology; postdoctoral fellow, 1999–2002, University of Toronto. Centennial Postdoctoral Fellowship, Medical Research Council of Canada, 2000–2002. Postdoctoral Fellowship, Quebec Research Foundation for Natural Science and Technology, 1997–1999. Postdoctoral Fellowship, National Science & Engineering Research Council of Canada, 1997–1998. McGill Major Award, McGill University, 1993–1996.
Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) is one of the most powerful and versatile techniques used for the characterisation of biomolecules. NMR is used to study proteins and nucleic acids under conditions that are reasonably close to those found inside living cells. Our research involves the development and application of NMR techniques with the focus on complex forms of molecular motion. The latter often hold the key to the efficiency and timing of enzymatic catalysis, signal transduction, and other biological processes of critical importance.
During the 2 years of the laboratory's existence 13 papers have been published in top-rated international journals including the Nature Communications with an IF of 11.329. The employees of the laboratory have already participated in more than 20 international conferences.
Ivan Sergeevich Podkorytov
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9. Laboratory of Amyloid Biology
Created in: 2013
Headed by: Yury Olegovich Chernoff
Yury Chernoff, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, USA.
1980: graduate, Department of Genetics and Selective Breeding, Faculty of Biology and Soil Science, Leningrad State University. Then Yury Chernoff worked at the Department of Genetics of the LSU Institute of Biology. He changed several positions, from a research assistant to a leading research worker (since 1991). 1985: Candidate of Biology. His candidate's thesis, created while being a member of D. A. Gordenin's team, was devoted to recombination in yeast. Further on, he explored the genetic control of translation in yeast under the supervision of S. G. Inge-Vechtomov at the Laboratory of Physiological Genetics. 1989–1990: Visiting Research Scholar with Dr. B. Ono, Okayama University, Japan. 1992-1995: Postdoctoral Research Associate with Dr. S.W. Liebman, University of Illinois, Chicago.
1995–present: Assistant Professor/Full Professor, School of Biology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta. Dr Chernoff also worked as Associate Chair, School of Biology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta; 2009: Director, newly established Center for Nanobiology of the Macromolecular Assembly Disorders, or NanoMAD.
Scope of academic interests: using yeast to study the aggregation of proteins, amyloid diseases, prions and protein-based inheritance, adaptation and evolution. Yury Chernoff was the first to describe prion induction by prion-forming protein overproduction and the first to demonstrate the role of chaperones in prion propagation. He is the chief editor of the Prion journal and a member of editorial boards of The Journal of Biological Chemistry and Gene Expression. Yury Chernoff has published about 70 scientific papers (not to mention conference abstracts).
During the 2 years of the laboratory's existence 11 papers have been published in top-rated international journals including the FEMS Microbiology Reviews with an IF of 13.8. The employees of the laboratory have already participated in more than 25 international conferences.
Denis Gennadyevich Yanchenko