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The Faculty of Computer Science was created with the goal of becoming one of the world’s leading faculties for developers and researchers in data analysis, machine learning, big data, theoretical computer science, bioinformatics, system and software engineering, system programming, and distributed computing. In cooperation with major companies like Yandex, Sberbank, SAS, Samsung, 1C, and many others, the Faculty provides both deep theoretical knowledge and hands-on practical experience in many branches of contemporary computer science.
We continue our series of interviews with the winners of the Ilya Segalovich Scholarship who talk to us about the award, their studies and their projects.
I have been studying and working at the Faculty since it was found in 2014. I received Applied Mathematics and Information Science bachelor's degree and Data Science master's, and then entered the PhD School of Computer Science. My teaching career at the Faculty began as a teaching assistant in my third year of bachelor studies. At that time I was also encouraged to write my first research paper, which led to research work at the International Laboratory for Intelligent Systems and Structural Analysis.
I am particularly fond of logic and graphs, my thesis includes both. It is based on ontological data access, which uses ontologies to answer queries about complexly structured incomplete data taken from different sources. We consider the problem of extending the expressiveness of the ontological approach by working with an ontology that contains a covering axiom (A -> F or T) that is not described in OWL 2 QL language. Such ontology is researched for practical needs, as it is often found in the description of real data. I also did a project on the analysis of publication graphs that stems from an assignment in a master's course on network analysis. Consequently, this topic has become one of my main research interests.
Winning is always a feeling of jubilation. It is also the last academic scholarship for which I am eligible, so it's a bit sad that I won't feel this sort of excitement anymore.
My advice to the future laureates is to take coursework and theses more seriously - not only as part of the curriculum, but also as an opportunity to do research on a favourite subject, to gain an enjoyable and relevant experience, and to participate in research events.
I have just started at the Faculty: in 2020, I went to graduate school and became a junior researcher at Yandex Lab. Essentially, the work at the Faculty is a continuation of my research activities at Yandex.
For a long time I have been working on efficient search on big data and I managed to achieve some interesting results. At the moment I am mostly working on improving neural network generative models. For example, one of my most recent works is on accelerating normalisation flows in speech synthesis and super-resolution tasks for pictures.
In my view, the most important thing at the award ceremony is not to forget after whom the fellowship is named, and I am very glad that a large part of the ceremony was devoted to the story of Ilya Segalovich. I have been working at Yandex for almost four years and for me it is an absolutely unique place that has its own special atmosphere, where one wants to create and develop, and which concentrates many free and talented people around it. And although I haven't personally lived through those times, I believe that Ilya made a big contribution to shaping the "soul" of Yandex, for which I am very grateful.
To be honest, I realised that I had a good chance of getting a scholarship, but I didn't count on anything, as we have many worthy young people, and only three could get a scholarship. In the end, of course, it was nice that someone appreciated my modest research achievements.
I am hardly the kind of person who should be giving students advice. I can only say for myself: it has always been important for me to find a field in which I would invest my most precious resource - time - and, if possible, benefit society. I believe that while you are young, you should not chase titles and high salaries and that it is much more important to find a place where you will be most productive.
I enrolled in the Applied Mathematics and Information Science programme in 2018 through the intellectual competition for high school students. However, I still wanted to take part in such competitions, albeit as a university student now. I joined study groups in mathematics and programming that aimed at solving the most difficult tasks. I still have not regretted this decision: it was a unique experience that gave me a lot of useful knowledge and skills, for which I am grateful to our awesome teachers. Now I am finishing the third year, and I can proudly say that I tried many interesting things, and even succeeded in some of them. I've taken part in various competitions, worked as a teaching assistant, taught at field schools for schoolchildren, and worked as an industrial developer for a major company. Since my first year, I am trying to be the top student, and I almost always succeed. It is a very difficult path, but it opens up all kinds of opportunities.
My case is unusual, for I received a scholarship for a mixture of various activities and achievements. Nevertheless, I am also doing research: I am currently writing coursework on the statistical theory of learning under assistant professor Bruno Bauwens. For the first time, I'm working with purely theoretical mathematics, and I have to have an original result. I'm working on estimates of sample complexity. This is a value that tells how much data is required to make a machine learning algorithm more likely to produce more correct predictions. I've already been able to improve the constant in one of the best-known estimates, but the initial proof is complex and partly artificial, so now my supervisor and I are looking in a slightly different direction, which could presumably produce a more "beautiful" proof and improve the estimate even more.
When I went to the award ceremony, it was not yet clear to me whether I would be a prize winner. Although I had good baggage of achievements, I knew quite a few guys with more valuable achievements. The ceremony itself was excellent, it was a breath of fresh air in an endless stream of online lectures and seminars. Thanks to Elena Bunina's story, I learned interesting and inspiring details about Ilya Segalovich's life. At the ceremony, I was sitting next to two of my classmates, and when the three of us were called to the awards ceremony in a row, it came out rather spectacularly.
I would like to give some advice to younger students, especially those just starting out as freshmen. In addition to the core curriculum, we have a huge number of opportunities in the department to develop and do interesting things. But in order to take advantage of these opportunities, you must not be afraid to take the initiative and take responsibility.
Before university I had studied at a STEM school, and initially I didn't know which field of study to take. Teachers advised me to consider Applied Mathematics and Information Science, so in 11th grade, I was lucky enough to attend an Open Day of the Faculty of Computer Science. I made a decision right then. The "only" thing that left was passing the exams, for I was not particularly successful in student competitions. Getting good grades is not very difficult for me. It becomes much more difficult when work and other projects add up. They are all very interesting, but it's really hard for me to switch between a lot of activities and stay productive. In the future, I want to write my first paper on algebra and algorithms.
I was nominated by the teacher I was assisting. It was incredibly nice that he noticed and appreciated my efforts, took the time to write letters of recommendation, to nominate me. It is difficult to know in advance how many students are nominated and what the criteria are, so I did not hold out much hope. The ceremony was one of my first visits to the HSE University campus this year, it was great to see the actual people around. I especially liked the talk by Andrey Sebrant.
Globally, my path to the Faculty started back in 7th grade, when I attended a maths club in my native city of Nizhny Novgorod. For me, it wasn't a problem to get to the Faculty of Computer Science. The most difficult thing was to choose between several universities. I was choosing between HSE University and Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, but in the end, I chose HSE University because I like the policies of the university and the Faculty, in particular the student policy. Nikita Kalinin and Artem Gadetsky (also winners of the Ilya Segalovich prize) also helped me make my choice.
So far I have no serious research works on my account - I received a scholarship for my success at the student competitions. At the moment I am mostly interested in theoretical aspects of computation and algorithms and data structures. It was no secret to me that I was nominated for the scholarship because I myself related my strengths to the professor.
I was most impressed by the speeches made by the speakers. First, there was a very moving story about Ilya Segalovich from Elena Bunina. Ilya Segalovich also comes from Nizhny Novgorod, and I was doubly pleased to learn new facts about his biography and attitude to life. Then there were interesting speeches by Vadim Radaev and Ivan Arzhantsev about the Faculty and the scholarship itself. But most of all I remembered Andrey Sebrant's speech about the cooperation of us programmers with other people. I was listening to a Sebrant's podcast during the self-isolation and it was nice to learn that he is a great speaker in real life too. After the ceremony I got his autograph; it was unforgettable.
When Elena Bunina came on stage to start the award ceremony my heart was beating with excitement. Thankfully my last name is not at the end of the alphabet, and I was called second, so I didn't have to worry for long. At this point, I was wildly stressed, went on stage as a fog, tripped, forgot to take off my mask, felt like a sack of potato. Then, until Saturday morning, I was haunted by the unreality of what was happening.