From 'blind kitten' to 'the guy who does good things': a Skoltech journey
Ivan Volodin, MSc graduate / Materials Science
Meet Ivan Volodin: graduate of the Materials Science Master's program and Skoltech Ambassador. For as long as he can remember, Ivan was fascinated with the field of mathematics, physical chemistry and...materials science, of course! Ivan used every opportunity at Skoltech to work on his research, and now he shares his experience with future students. Enjoy!
about me
I received my Bachelor's degree from the Mendeleev University of Chemical Technology, Chemical Engineering department, Innovative Materials and Protection against Corrosion sub-department. That actually was a lot of fun (and maybe slightly pressuring). I've changed my living place 3 times during my studies, made engineering drawings in an A1 format in a 7m2 kitchen, studied integrals in a train from Podolsk to Moscow and so on. The hardest but also really favorite subjects were mathematics and physical chemistry.

I began to find some real free time in my schedule since the start of the 3rd year in my Bachelor's studies. This opportunity, in cope with the financial pressure, made me look for a source of money. I was never attracted to classic student jobs like a delivery guy or a tutor, so I've made some attempts to find myself in science or industry.

After trying a couple of places, I started to work in SEM.M company on the development of cadmium and nickel anticorrosive coatings. There I found that I really like electrochemistry, however, I didn't like the fact that nearly the whole field of protection against corrosion is already covered. Whatever new appears in this field is not more than 0.(infinity of '0') 1% contribution to the global knowledge and application. You can argue that there is always something to develop, which is an absolute truth. However, frankly speaking, I'm too vainglorious to be satisfied with that.
why I chose Skoltech
I found Skoltech on the internet, and that was like a fountain of inspiration. As if you are flying in a universe and bored with black and cold vacuum always surrounding you and then you smash into the star and become a part of a nuclear reaction!

I could get new scientific experience, work in emerging fields where my contribution would count as a big one, get financial support, professional experience (in the face of industrial practice, entrepreneurship courses, internship abroad), and personal growth (in the face of soft skills courses and interactions in student communities). It was far more than I even looked for, so without any doubt, I pressed apply.

Materials Science
Modern industry is in great need of professionals in materials science, ready to develop new materials and devices for application in renewable energy, consumer electronics, healthcare, and other areas. Our practical approach gives our graduates the opportunity to gain knowledge and skills for success in electronics, energy, chemicals, automotive industry, and other sectors. Learn more
studying at Skoltech
Every case at Skoltech is special, and so is mine. I've chosen the "redox flow battery" field. I was told that at the moment there was nearly nothing except for money. No knowledge, no specialists, no working cell. So, I felt like a pioneer in the flow battery field in my scientific group.

To be honest, it is really a challenge when you need to do the work starting from designing and producing a working setup and there is nobody experienced around. My opinion was considered, I was provided with the budget and could speak with anybody in the lab. However, no one had a clue why the thing isn't working. So I had a chance to be the first to discover the answers.
Combining my experience in electrochemistry and engineering aspects of batteries and new redox substances synthesized by my colleague Elena Romadina, we did nice work, that was a contribution to the new branch of organic active substances for flow batteries.

For me that was a very serious lesson. It was the point when I started to estimate my own resources much more strictly, and the point when I understood that really good work is done, when you cooperate. Working alone instead of finding any source of experience through cooperation is too long and frustrating to be worth it.
Skoltech: the aftermath
Skoltech opened for me an area of entrepreneurship. I've passed through the evolution from "a blind kitten" through "a guy who wants to cheat the world and earn some money" to "a person who wants to do a nice job and has couple ideas about that".

In short, my time at Skoltech:

  • Totally was not easy, it was a lot of work and even sleeping in the Uni sometimes;
  • Was always interesting. There were lots of opportunities and students need to switch on "planning regime" so that you work effectively instead of energy dissipation;
  • Was about doing the job, not competing, not boasting, not sitting silent, but doing the job so that the team is in profit;
  • Was about understanding "what do you do?", "why?", "how?
  • Gave SO MUCH experience in any direction that a young person can imagine: science, entrepreneurship, traveling, oratory, negotiations, finances, friends, culture, etc.

It was an unforgettable experience and immense honor to work and study at Skoltech.
life after Skoltech
Now I'm a PhD candidate in AG Schubert, Jena, Germany. In my opinion, it is one of the two best research groups working on organic substances for water-based redox flow batteries, which is the most attractive area for me currently. I'm still dealing with flow batteries, but I've already studied a lesson about cooperation and have a bit of experience, so I expect to do a nice job here.

Plans for the future? The first thing is to finish my PhD :) I have some ideas that can cause a breakthrough in flow battery industry. Though we all want to make a breakthrough and you never know how it'll go. Anyway, I want to establish a startup in the flow battery field or to join the "Jena Batteries" startup that exists already and balances between fail and success during last couple of years. Eventually, for me it is either industry and entrepreneurship or nothing.

advice for students in STEM
Just believe me: start considering any problem as an opportunity to develop further. Because there will be a lot of problems. Not in bad sense, no. Problems are just a follower of enormous amounts of work that are waiting for you. Be conscious, be inspired, be energetic, be self-confident and being in Skoltech would be so much fun, that you'll never forget it.
and now about Skoltech
We are Skoltech – a new international English-speaking STEM university that was founded by the group of world-renowned scientists in 2011 in Moscow, Russia. In just 8 years, we united dozens of researchers and globally renowned professors, built a stunning campus, set up world-class labs and made it to the top 100 young universities in the Nature Index. Read more >>
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