Choosing a Master’s Program at ITMO, Part One: Scientific and Corporate Programs

Starting from 2018, prospective students thinking about studying at ITMO University can choose between different types of Master’s programs: scientific, industrial, corporate or entrepreneurial. Such diversification allows students to decide on their preferred development trajectory and choose the program that most suits their interests and career plans. In this series of articles, we join forces with heads of the programs and ITMO’s academic and industrial partners to give a comprehensive overview of different types of the programs the University offers, as well as career opportunities that they entail. Part one focuses on scientific and corporate Master’s programs offered by ITMO.

In 2019, 2,645 prospective students will be able to enroll in free-tuition positions of ITMO University’s Master’s. The University offers over 70 Master’s programs of four different types: scientific, industrial, corporate, and entrepreneurial. To help you navigate the admissions process, here is a step-by-step guide to applying for Master’s at ITMO.

Why divide Master’s programs into different types?

As noted by Sergey Kolyubin, head of ITMO’s Master’s Programs Department, the University divides its Master’s programs into different types based on specific demands of prospective students.

“In conditions of information being totally and easily accessible, the role of universities as mere transmitters of knowledge begins to lose its relevance. What is in demand is direct access to unique knowledge on the forefront of science and industry, as well as to interesting tasks and state-of-the-art infrastructure. The decision to divide our Master’s offerings into different types is based on different profiles and specific demands of our prospective students: what they need to do to build a scientific career, what skills and competencies are required to successfully conduct R&D projects, or, likewise, to rise through the ranks at a leading company or start your own business. Apart from that, we give our students the opportunity to enrich their experience with studies at our partner universities, including those abroad, as well as internships at the companies integrated in the university’s ecosystem,” comments Sergey Kolyubin.

Sergey Kolyubin
Sergey Kolyubin

Scientific Master’s programs

Scientific Master’s programs are implemented by three ITMO University schools: the School of Photonics, the School of Computer Technologies and Control, and the School of Biotechnology and Cryogenic Systems.

How studies are conducted

Research is the most important component of all scientific Master’s programs at ITMO University.

“In my opinion, the names of the four types of ITMO’s Master’s programs are very straightforward. With scientific Master’s, it’s important to understand that the lion’s share of the competencies acquired by the students is aimed at the scientific markets of the present or the technological markets of the future. In other words, what we intend to develop here are research skills, which play a crucial role in helping young scientists adapt to global technological changes, ensuring that they always will be in demand on the labor market,” says Alexey Bobtsov, director of the School of Computer Technologies and Control, head of International Research Center of Adaptive and Nonlinear Control Systems.

He adds that a scientific Master’s degree helps students develop systems thinking, learn to understand a problem from the inside and forecast the developments on promising technological markets.

ITMO University's Faculty of Physics and Engineering
ITMO University's Faculty of Physics and Engineering

Master’s students at the Faculty of Physics and Engineering, which also runs several scientific Master’s programs, not only attend lectures, seminars and lab workshops but also conduct scientific research all throughout their studies, highlights Andrey Bogdanov, head of the Master’s program “Nanophotonics and Metamaterials”. This research can become the foundation for a Master’s thesis or lead to a publication in a leading scientific journal.

Opportunities

Even during their studies, the students of ITMO’s scientific Master’s programs have the opportunity of getting work experience by joining a research group, including those led by prominent international scientists, as well as publishing in the world’s top scientific journals.

“Master’s students of the Faculty of Science and Engineering regularly publish their articles in such scientific journals as Nano Letters, Advanced Materials, Physical Review Letters, Nature Communications and others. This is facilitated by the fact that ITMO’s scientific Master’s programs are conducted fully in English. Moreover, from their first months of studies, the Faculty offers all students the opportunity to try their hand at topical, real-world science by participating in an internship at the International Research Center for Nanophotonics and Metamaterials under the guidance of the world’s leading scientists,” shares Andrey Bogdanov.

He adds that good scientific results give students the chance to apply for Russian and international grants and scholarships. Last year, ITMO University became the world leader in the number of scholarships of the International Society for Optical Engineering (SPIE) awarded to its students and staff. Here’s what SPIE scholarship winners have to say about the opportunities offered by a scientific Master’s degree. And these are PhD student Georgiy Zograf’s secrets of success for being published in Nano Letters.

Career prospects

Therefore, by the time of their graduation, an ITMO University’s scientific Master’s student can accumulate a solid portfolio containing scientific work experience, a minimum of one publication in an international journal, and presentations at scientific conferences all around the globe. According to Andrey Bogdanov, this gives the graduates significant competitive advantages when applying for Russian or international PhD studies or finding employment at hi-tech companies.

Alexey Bobtsov notes that in the context of the formation of new global markets, the competencies obtained by scientific Master’s graduates will enable them to be highly in demand among a large spectrum of engineering companies.

“It’s widely known that Russia has set the goal of developing new global markets that will allow the country to gain leading positions by 2035. Sensorics and robotics form part of the top-10 breakthrough technologies, which guarantees that our graduates will be highly sought after on promising global markets. At the same time, robotics is a cross-cutting technology for the modern market, which means that our graduates will be in demand in any engineering company in the world,” comments Alexey Bobtsov.

Alexey Bobtsov
Alexey Bobtsov

Scientific Master’s programs mainly focus on answering the demand from the scientific research market. But that doesn’t mean that the graduates’ only place is at research centers or universities, insists Sergey Kolyubin. This type of programs help the students develop both professional competencies and soft skills, which is a wide range of skills integral in solving non-trivial tasks and generating new scientific knowledge. These are the skills that R&D centers of major companies and the hi-tech industry in general will be looking for in potential employees, as confirmed by Peter Sloot, professor at the University of Amsterdam and member of ITMO University’s International Council.

“I’m positively certain that scientific Master’s is necessary if you want to train specialists to produce high-level scientific research and lead successful scientific careers,” says Peter Sloot. “But I’m also convinced that the skills obtained by the students of such programs are needed not only in research centers, labs and universities. They are also in a very high demand among companies and the industry at large. We can look at the banking sector and fintech as an example: they really need a large amount of talent in the fields of computer science, mathematics and, of course, economics. Apart from this, such big companies as Shell, Gazprom and other big players of the oil industry have special departments that conduct research and require specialists with serious scientific expertise.”

Corporate Master’s programs

Master’s programs of this type are implemented by ITMO in collaboration with major companies, which serve as the partners of the University. These programs are largely aimed at meeting the current demand from the labor market. The number of partners can vary from one to several industry big names interested in seeing ITMO students among their staff selected in a strict evaluation process. The key defining feature of corporate Master’s programs is that they offer you the opportunity to work on real-life projects under the guidance of an expert representing the company that can become your potential employer.

ITMO University runs more than 15 corporate Master’s programs. These include Software Engineering, which was launched last year together with the company JetBrains, and Cybersecurity in Banking Sector, implemented at the Faculty of Secure Information Technologies together with Sberbank Technologies.

ITMO's corporate Master's program with JetBrains
ITMO's corporate Master's program with JetBrains

Opportunities and how studies are conducted

Corporate Master’s implies that the training of students, especially as part of specialized disciplines, is conducted by ITMO lecturers together with the specialists of the company serving as the partner of the program, explains Danil Zakoldaev, dean of the Faculty of Secure Information Technologies.

This gives the students the opportunity of seeing the workings of a specific company from within. All students have work placements on the premises of the industrial partner involved in the implementation of their program. They also work on applied research tasks the thematics of which builds on the tasks that are relevant for the industry.

“The choice of thesis topics is guided by the real-world tasks of the partner company, who also offers the students mentorship and support in effecting their works,” adds Danil Zakoldaev. “This way, in the two years of study Master’s students receive specialized training for working in a specific industry. In our case, this is the banking sector, as our program focuses on the knowledge and skills required from highly-qualified specialists in the field such as specialized tools for the development and protection of relevant software, as well as mastering industry-specific terminology and fostering an in-depth understanding of business process at companies and others.”

Danil Zakoldaev
Danil Zakoldaev

The Master’s program “Software Engineering” includes both basic courses (such as algorithms, machine learning, etc.), and specialized courses (such as deep learning, information search, image analysis, etc.). The implementation of the program is conducted by practicing researchers and developers from St. Petersburg’s leading tech companies. The training takes places on the premises of JetBrains, with students working on real-world tasks and products under the guidance of the company’s specialists (you can learn more about the tasks solved by the program’s students here).

“What makes this program truly special is that it allows students to conduct their projects in active collaboration with the program’s industrial partners, including both JetBrains and other companies. Each student is assigned an experienced mentor. What is also important is that our students are free to choose the topics for their projects and their own educational trajectory,” shares Andrey Ivanov, head of the program and the Department of Investments, Research and Education at JetBrains.

Career prospects

Upon successful graduation, students of the program “Cybersecurity in Banking Sector” can be offered a position at Sberbank or its affiliated companies. Apart from that, the graduates can also apply to other companies working in the banking sector, says Danil Zakoldaev. What is also important in this regard is that upon graduation students have a working experience and a portfolio, which they prepare during their studies.

Students of a corporate Master's program
Students of a corporate Master's program

Andrey Ivanov also adds that the students of the program can choose from a wide range of opportunities: after finishing their Master’s studies, they can work on various tasks both at JetBrains and in other big IT companies (such as Yandex and others). What is also important, notes the program’s coordinator, is that the high level of proficiency demonstrated by the graduates of this Master’s program will allow them to simultaneously work in the industry and pursue their career in science by contributing to the solution of complex, knowledge-intensive tasks.

“Once you graduate, there are many career opportunities to choose from, and becoming a researcher is one of them. Some people believe that science is not very important, and becoming a scientist is not a good idea. But if you look at such major corporations as Google and Amazon, you’ll see that they employ lots of people from academia and establish research departments. It’s a widely accepted practice for big companies all over the world to employ renowned researchers, but even in Russia, such specialists are in demand and can work in both hi-tech companies and universities. They are also highly sought-after in the production sector, in which one has to solve complex task and develop new products,” comments Andrey Ivanov.

Corporate Master’s programs are implemented at all ITMO University’s schools. The full list of such programs is available here (in Russian).

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