Women and Science: ITMO’s Finest

To celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day, today, on 8 March, some of ITMO’s top women share their views on science, gender stereotypes and advice for the next generation!

Daria Kozlova, ITMO’s First Vice Rector

Daria Kozlova
Daria Kozlova

Why did you decide to work in science and not business or another field?

Accidentally! Being a professional athlete as a child, I had planned to have a career in sports. But fate led to me to St. Petersburg Polytechnic University, the classes of which I successfully skipped in order to play sports. Some time during my Masters or maybe my PhD, I understood that international education is interesting, and it’s necessary for people and it’s what I want to do.

When I defended my PhD thesis and talked about how to evaluate the effectiveness of academic mobility programs, very few of my colleagues understood me. It’s a good thing that the thesis board was highly professional and its members understood that this is an important objective both for the economy and for society. The most important reason for making this choice is that my work has a huge social impact. I don’t just work, but my work benefits others, and particularly students.

What do you think about gender stereotypes associated with women in science?

I don’t think that there is a gender inequality. Women have not been very active in the international scientific arena in the past.

What advice would you give to girls who decide to work in science?

Read, read, read, and of course, check out ITMO University!


Natalya Bystryantseva, Head of the Higher School of Lighting Design

Natalya Bystryantseva
Natalya Bystryantseva

Why did you decide to work in science and not business or another field?

There're major changes happening in the industry as businesses go hi-tech. Therefore, for us, as an entrepreneurial university, these two areas of activity, science and business are inseparable.

I have been working the field of lighting design for about ten years. The science work and the search for new interdisciplinary approaches for organizing the quality of the light environment gives me the opportunity to see ahead of the trends and key areas of development in this field.

The work of the art & science cluster at our university allows us to structure and outline trends in the development of science and society in an even greater perspective, to work in the present for the future, and already connect with it today, which is an important competitive advantage in our time.

Who, in your opinion, is the most outstanding world-class female scientist and why?

The number one female scientist for me has always been Galina Kamenskaya, the creator of the norms of external lighting in Russia. If we talk about international stars, then Hedy Lamarr, the creator of the algorithm of the modern format of wireless communications.

Why? This is an Art & Science project: the actress and composer came up with a new way to encode signals, leading to the future emergence of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. I think this is especially powerful.

What do you think about gender stereotypes asociated with women in science?

I think right now what is important is ideas and results, and not your gender.

What advice would you give to girls who decide to work in science?

Always be a woman.


Daria Yakovleva, Master’s student from ITMO’s Department of Computer Technologies and Programmer at the Information Systems Department

Daria Yakovleva
Daria Yakovleva

Why did you decide to work in science and not business or another field?

At ITMO University there are lots of opportunities for personal fulfillment: to implement your own ideas and science. For example, I am engaged in machine learning, and I’m writing my thesis on this.

Our University doesn’t stand still, it’s constantly developing, creating and implementing something new. It’s a team of people who love their job with passion. It’s encouraging to work in such an environment and to implement new ideas. Now I am also working on helping applicants and students and am engaged in various educational projects.

Who, in your opinion, is the most outstanding world-class female scientist and why?

Anita Borg is a female programmer and doctor of science. She has proved to the world that women are capable of many things in the field of IT on an equal basis with men. I believe that the ability to program, develop and research in the field of IT does not depend on gender.

Thanks to Anita Borg, who showed this by example. Anita Borg founded the Institute for Women and Technology, which aims to attract more women to the IT sector.

What do you think about gender stereotypes associated with women in science?

I think that gender stereotypes are going out the door. Girls are getting higher education and studying what they want and doing what they want and no one is stopping them.

I’m really glad that there is a trend now that more girls are coming to study in our department and want to become programmers. I hope that young girls won’t limit themselves to the goal of getting married, but find a sphere in which they really like to work and in which they can succeed.

What advice would you give to girls who decide to work in science?

Love what you do, and continuously develop and achieve your goals no matter what comes in your way.


Azalia Saitgalina, engineer at the Department of Applied and Computer Optics at ITMO

Azalia Saitgalina
Azalia Saitgalina

Why did you decide to work in science and not business or another field?

As a child, I wanted to become a diplomat and participate in negotiations and discussions with people. But when I enrolled in university, I started to study science, in particular Optics. By my third year, I consulted with the head of the program and she encouraged me to advance further in optics and suggested that I organize a student laboratory. I decided to use this opportunity.

At our student optotechnics lab we focused on the popularization of science and optical technologies. We found like-minded people quickly, after which we began to implement optical ideas and real projects. I wanted to implement something with my own hands, to find some practical application for optical ideas, and there was a lot as a student. Now, I already can’t imagine if we didn’t have our lab.

Who, in your opinion, is the most outstanding world-class female scientist and why?

Marie Curie. Marie is probably one of the most famous women scientists in the world and was awarded a Nobel prize twice! She researched the effects of radiation on cancer cells. These studies are at the intersection between physics and biology. In my opinion, such interdisciplinary studies are still relevant. And what Marie Curie did in those years was an impetus for the development of modern science.

What do you think about gender stereotypes associated with women in science?

Despite gender stereotypes, I believe that a person who is purposeful and acts within a moral structure will always achieve their goals. I personally know many successful women who motivate me to move forward.

What advice would you give to girls who decide to work in science?

Just do it and believe in yourself! Believe in your ideas, trust in them! Often people lack personal motivation to achieve any goal, but if you believe in your idea, are confident in it, understand the importance of it and the benefits it can bring, then, I am sure, success is in your hands!


Ksenia Buraya, programmer at ITMO University

Ivan Samborskiy, Kseniya Buraya and Denis Mekhaniko
Ivan Samborskiy, Kseniya Buraya and Denis Mekhaniko

Why did you decide to work in science and not business or another field?

From my first year of studies at university, I managed to learn about many different areas. For more than a year I worked at “Megabyte” the student radio station, where I worked in a variety of roles, from radio host to assistant organizer at large events.

But I always understood that the arts, even though I really love it, will always be a hobby for me. Alongside my work as a programmer in one of the largest IT companies, I started getting involved in scientific research at university. First it was just “for me”, and then, one wonderful day, I realised that the university lab, is exactly the place that makes me happy.  

Science, it’s not just an opportunity to sit around in a lab all day long. In the words “scientific research” I hear all my favorite things: programming for experiments, writing articles, public speaking and most importantly constantly developing, since in this sphere everything changes really fast and spontaneously. I understood, that science, before all else, is an opportunity to learn to think broadly and comprehensively. You can use these same qualities in business, arts, and programming. It's important that your heart is in it.

Who, in your opinion, is the most outstanding world-class female scientist and why?

I think that it is too difficult to single out one person, because the concept of being a “scientist” is too broad in itself. Some people treat cancer patients, and others launch rockets into space, so it’s impossible to pick the best.

As for my field, I’d say Grace Hopper. She was a truly outstanding woman and left a great mark on history.

What do you think about gender stereotypes associated with women in science?

I think that things will change in the near future. In my opinion, all these stereotypes are connected with historical moments, when women were considered home keepers, and all the great things in the world were done by men.

Now, of course, we still have a predominant number of men in “non-women” spheres. I’ve never experienced a situation where my gender identity became an issue for evaluating my intelligence. However, neither before nor now, have I ever experienced any negative emotions in this regard. Yet, for global changes it’ll need more time.

I really like the trend of supporting women in technical fields. Movements like “Girls, who Code”, “Systers” community, annual Grace Hopper Celebration conferences, all of this talks about how the number of women who have found themselves in exact sciences will only grow.

What advice would you give to girls who decide to work in science?

I would suggest that regardless of the type of activities you study, who should always study something that you like. This is one of the main aspects of our lives. How we see life and how others see us, greatly depends on our love for our work.


Anna Veklich, Head of the Strategic Communications Department

Anna Veklich
Anna Veklich

Why did you decide to work in science and not business or another field?

While studying at the Faculty of Journalism at St. Petersburg State University, I also worked for four years in different fields, from non-profit organizations to large businesses, and today I can say with confidence that I am in my place, at ITMO University. My love for science started with my work at university. I’m surrounded by incredible, talented, smart, ambitious people with a terrific sense of humour and charisma, which before working at university seemed completely out of reach.

Basically, there are two things that need to come together, one is your desire to do something and the other is that the university gives you a space to implement your ideas. When these two things come together, a scientific explosion takes place, in a good sense! Often these explosions turn into a separate laboratory, research areas or even a department or faculty.

Who, in your opinion, is the most outstanding world-class female scientist and why?

I think every woman who dedicates themselves to science is an outstanding woman. At the same time, there are examples when husband and wife together engage in science, support each other and are a source of inspiration for each other.

Recently I read an amazing story of Maxim and Arina Buzdalov, scientists from ITMO University who have been together since their student days. They write articles together for the world’s top journals, they travel to conferences together, present and teach. In my opinion, these kinds of stories in the modern world should deserve public attention. They are outstanding examples for young people. There it is, love and science in one vial.

What do you think about gender stereotypes associated with women in science?

I don’t think there is such a thing in the modern world. Science is open, it’s outside of politics and outside of stereotypes. Girls can become scientists and dedicate their lives to science, win grants, publish articles and get awards.

What advice would you give to girls who decide to work in science?

Follow your desires, pursue your dreams and be in the right place at the right time.

And if something doesn’t work out, you can always find a young scientist, for example, at ITMO, we have a lot of young and promising scientists which we call “eligible bachelors”: they don’t smoke, don’t drink, love science, get married to him and your life will be connected to science in a completely different way.

A more complete version of this article was originally published in Russian on Ria News.

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