Building Bridges Between MIT and Skoltech

PI: Elizabeth Wood, School of Humantieis, Arts, and Social Sciences, MIT


“Building Bridges Between MIT and Skoltech” is a project of the MIT-Russia Program designed to pair MIT and Skoltech students both in Russia and on the MIT campus.  Students will work together in internships in Russian companies and study together on the MIT campus.  Through their work together they will learn about MIT’s mens et manus [mind & hands] culture and about Skoltech’s innovations in scientific research and education.  


  • Project Title: Building Bridges Between MIT and Skoltech
  • Principal Investigator:  Elizabeth Wood, School of Humantieis, Arts, and Social Sciences, MIT
  • Grant Period: February 2017 – January 2018


Every year the MIT-Russia Program matches undergraduate and graduate MIT students from all disciplines with internships and research opportunities in Russia. Being part of the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI), MIT’s flagship international program, we partner with premier companies and universities to help students acquire pivotal professional experience and generate life-long connections with Russia.

Thanks to a grant from of the MIT-Skoltech Program for the 2016-17 academic year, the MIT-Russia Program supported 17 student internships and research trips to Moscow and St. Petersburg.

In addition, over the past year, we organized ten public events on the current political, cultural and civic developments in Russia for the broader MIT community. One such event was an exhibit of unique photos by renowned American photographer William Brumfield organized in the fall of 2016.  Entitled "Architecture at the End of the Earth," the exhibit showcased the beauty of the Russian North. Concurrent with the exhibit, we held five talks on related subjects, a Starr Forum on the Arctic, and a screening of Andrei Zvyagintsev's film "Leviathan."  In the fall of 2017, we followed up with the talk "Russian Society at the Turning Point: New Strategies in the Struggle for Democratic Values" by cultural historian Irina Prokhorova and the lecture “100 Shades of Red: Perceptions of the 1917 Revolution and Politics Today” by acclaimed journalist Mikhail Zygar.


Student placements 

 Internships: 9 
 Short-term research: 3 
 Coding competition: 5
 Total: 17

Class level by percentage, all students

 Undergraduate: 65%
 Graduate: 35%

Schools represented by percentage, all students

 Engineering: 47%
 Architecture and Planning: 29%
 Science: 12%
 Management: 0%
 Humanities and Social Sciences: 6%
 Undeclared: 6%

Host organizations

 Skolkovo School of Management
 JetBrains
 Dauria Aerospace
 Prompt Translation
 Higher School of Economics
 National Research Nuclear University MEPhI
 Strelka
 National University of Science and Technology MISiS

MIT-Russia internships lasted for 4-12 weeks; most of them took place between June and August of 2017.

Garine Boghossian (Master of Science in Architectural studies - SMarchS Urbanism ’17)
Host: Skolkovo School of Management, Center for Urban Studies

As part of a research project called Urban Sustainability for the Russian Arctic Cities that MIT and Skolkovo’s Center for Urban Studies are part of, Garine collected data and provided analysis on Arctic cities in Europe and North America. She also peer-reviewed the historic preservation guidelines developed for Dilijan, a major resort town in Armenia.

Claire Traweek (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science ’20)
Host:  National Research Nuclear University MEPhI

Claire built several versions of a walking robot with servos for legs using Labview and C++. She also conducted experiments and tested samples that were prepared via the molecular beam epitaxy machine and the gas cluster ion beam machine at MEPhI.

Carlos Cortez (Mathematics ’17)
Host: Higher School of Economics, Department of Mathematics

Carlos was involved in the study of the algebra of intersection graphs. He tried to prove a conjecture that the intersection graphs span the space of all graphs. In order to do so, he developed a program to better compute them and to understand how they behave.

Rachel Price (Aeronautics and Astronautics ’18)
Host: Dauria Aerospace

Rachel developed a preliminary design report for a near-Earth asteroid exploration platform. She began by assembling existing information on the platform’s development into a single design report, then moved into deconflicting different subsystems and pointing out discrepancies. For instance, the mass budget might only account for three reaction wheels, while the controls engineer might be planning for four reaction wheels. Her work found issues like this in the system planning and helped to ensure everyone was on the same page.

Saranesh Prembabu (Physics ’19)
Host: Higher School of Economics, Department of Physics

Saranesh’s project studied the effects of random impurities and disorder on a metallic crystal lattice. In a transition called Anderson localization, sufficiently strong disorder breaks the crystal’s symmetry enough to turn it from a conductor to an insulator, thus attracting a lot of research interest. Specifically, he studied the question of the likelihood that an electron injected into a point of the material would get absorbed before flying out of the same point, the “probability of no return.”

The length of the following projects was about two weeks.

Architecture students researched collective lifestyle ideas in the constructivist architecture of Moscow

Ching Ying Ngan, Mary Lynch Lloyd, and Maya Shopova, graduate students in architecture, traveled to Russia to research ideas of communal living from the Soviet past. Their thesis investigates contemporary collective lifestyles that are emerging in large American cities as a result of the housing crisis that has made traditional modes of living unaffordable. The trip to Russia allowed them to document examples of experimental communal living developed during the 20th century and helped discover a source of experimentation for the future.

MIT students participated in international coding competition in Russia

The MIT-Russia Program brought five MIT students to participate in a programming competition, VisionHack, in Moscow. The main goal of the hackathon was to foster international collaboration and to help develop connections among computer science students.  More than 30 teams took part in the competition and accompanying cultural events organized by the National University of Science and Technology MISiS.


"My time in Russia with MISTI is something I’ll look back on as being educational, fun, and a formative part of my undergraduate career. Being immersed in Russian culture and working with people from a totally different background helped broaden my perspective and give me more confidence in my everyday life. I’m very grateful to everyone who made my internship abroad possible.”

Rachel Price
Aeronautics and Astronautics ’18

“Russia was a really great opportunity for me to reflect on what my goals were and gain some experience in my area of interest.”

Claire Traweek
Mechanical Engineering, Computer Science and Engineering’20

“I will forever cherish my internship in Russia as a major life moment through which I learned a lot in a nation whose heritage has long deeply interested me. Pursuing physics in a Russian academic setting has also endowed me with new rewarding insights. The MISTI Russia program gave me the unique opportunity to experience the country not just as a visitor, but also as a contributing member of Russian society academically and socially, by connecting me with some of the country’s top research facilities and providing me the resources to explore the culture.”

Saranesh Prembabu
Physics ’19

“Our enriching research trip and the opportunities it afforded to forge new relationships and contribute to an international body of knowledge is a testament to the importance of on-site learning and cultural exchange fostered by MISTI.”

Ching-Ying Ngan, Mary Lynch Lloyd, Maya Shopova
Architecture ’18

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