Building Bridges Between MIT and Skoltech

PI: Elizabeth Wood, Department of History, 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: September 2017 – August 2018


Every year the MIT-Russia Program matches undergraduate and graduate MIT students from all disciplines with internships and research opportunities in Russia.  As 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.

In academic year 2017-18, thanks to a grant from the MIT-Skoltech Initiative, , the MIT-Russia Program supported 15 student internships and research trips, most of which took place at Skoltech. We worked in close collaboration with Skoltech’s international office, in particular with Grigory Kopelevich and his staff. and can attest that they contributedsignificantly to our success. In the fall, we sent a call for internship proposals to Skoltech faculty to gauge their interest in such collaboration. Nine Skoltech labs submitted 12 internship projects, and MIT-Russia was able to match them with 11 MIT students. In addition, MIT-Russia organized a lively Winter Festival Maslenitsa for about 150 MIT students on campus and held a series of robust pre-departure trainings to prepare our interns for their experience abroad.


Student placements
- Internships at Skoltech 11
- Other internships 4

Level of students
- Undergraduate 40%
-Graduate 60%

Schools represented by percentage, all students
- Engineering 40%
- Architecture and Planning 20%
- Science 33%
-Management 7%

Host organizations supported by Skoltech
- Skoltech
-Garage Museum of Contemporary Art


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

Alexander Knapp (Aerospace Engineering ‘19)
Host: Skoltech University’s Intelligent Space Robotics Laboratory under the supervision of Dzmitry Tsetseruko

Alex worked on autonomous mobile robots that the lab had built previously for the Eurobot international robotics competition. He was given a lot of opportunity to shape his project and decide what to work on. He ended up focusing on path planning and collision avoidance for these robots.
Lean more about his experience at Skoltech from his interview on  MIT’s campus radio station:

Gabrielle Marvez (Brain and Cognitive Sciences ’20)
Host: Skoltech Data Science Center under the supervision of Dmitry Dylov

During her internship, Marvez was involved in tresearch to build neural networks to spot cancerous masses. She focused on bladder cancer with CT scans pulled from a large database with over 40GB of DCM (medical images) files. She learned how to construct neural networks to differentiate between various kinds of images and how to structure machine learning projects.

Damarcus Patterson (Computer Science and Engineering ’20)
Host: Skoltech Center for Computational and Data Intensive Science and Technology under the supervision of Evgeniy Burnaev

Damarcus worked on processing data from point clouds, which has application in object recognition and obstacle detection. In particular, the project involved connecting points in a point cloud and performing operations using the resulting graph. His two primary tasks were to benchmark libraries handling point cloud data and to make a visualization tool for the point clouds.

Alban Cobi (graduate student in Mechanical Engineering)
Hosts:  1) Skoltech Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation under the supervision of Alexey Nikolaev;
2) Skoltech Center for Computational and Data-Intensive Science and Engineering under the supervision of Andrey Somov

Through his work for Professor Nikolaev, Alban helped incorporate best-teaching practices from MIT into courses at Skoltech. He assisted his supervisor in assessing two of his hands-on project based courses and collaborated on a joint 11-page white paper titled “Project-Based Learning Best Practices.” In addition, through his internship with Professor Somov, Alban focused on implementing a new GPS module with a Raspberry Pi microcontroller for autonomous vehicle tracking.

Aaron Powers (Graduate student in Architecture)
Host: The Garage Museum of Contemporary Art

Aaron was tasked with investigating the accessibility of archives in and around Moscow as an international researcher in the arts. The museum has been inviting non-Russian research fellows to study different aspects of Russian culture and its primary interest was to understand what obstacles they face during their work with archives. As a result of the internship, Aaron submitted a report, which focused on three points: 1) personal experience in how he went about obtaining archival access, 2) the required paperwork that researchers must submit, and 3) translation services each archive offers.

Dax Koh (graduate student in Mathematics)
Host: Skoltech Deep Quantum Labs at the Center for Computational and Data-Intensive Science and Engineering (CDISE) under the supervision of Jacob Biamonte

Dax’s research project focused on calculating quantum computational supremacy lower bounds that arise from entanglement scaling. The goal of quantum computational supremacy is to build a quantum device performing a computational task beyond the capability of any classical computer.

Eduardo Moore (Sloan MBA 2018)
Host: Skoltech Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation under the supervision of Alexey Nikolaev

Eduardo was tasked with analyzing how to optimize Skoltech’s support for their entrepreneurs. He studied the current situation, benchmarked best practices from MIT and came up with a list of recommendations. Eduardo also mentored four of their startups.


“This summer I had a truly amazing experience on the other side of the world. I met great people, learned about and experienced another culture, and worked in a welcoming environment where I was able to significantly increase my technical skills and knowledge.”

Alexander Knapp
Aerospace Engineering ‘19

 “During this summer I learned how to become a more fruitful, observant, and overall better researcher.”

Aaron Powers
Graduate student in Architecture

 “Working in Russia led to new ideas and perspectives on various research topics, an experience that would likely not have happened had I stayed at MIT. I find it beneficial when doing research to interact with different groups of people, and to be exposed to different perspectives on the same problem. For example, I had been working on the hardness of simulating quantum systems at MIT from a computational complexity perspective, but it wasn’t until I went to Skoltech that I was introduced to the language of tensor networks, which provides a different way of understanding the hardness of simulation.”

Dax Koh
Graduate student in Mathematics

“The MISTI-Russia experience was incredible as I had the chance to live with four native Russian speakers who welcomed me into their home and showed me around Moscow. The internship was also a great opportunity because I got to study how to build neural nets and work with CT scan data in the form of DCM files to help doctors diagnose cancer more accurately.”

Gabrielle Marvez
Brain and Cognitive Sciences ’20

“I believe my internship was beneficial for Skoltech. My white paper will help Dr. Alexey Nikolaev improve his hands-on project-based course - and has already sparked ideas in him as he told me. I am hoping that he will take the contents of the document in addition to contacting me for further assistance.”

Alban Cobi
Graduate student in Mechanical Engineering

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