Interview of the Rector M.P. Fedorov, "Bulletin of Higher Education", May 5, 2010

National status of the Polytechnical University



Polytechnical University has received a National Research University status. What are the pros and cons which you see for yourself, being in this status?


M.P. Fedorov: The first advantage, which is the main and which is included in the program of development of the Polytechnic University as a national research center is the creation of joint scientific and technological institute. It is not a secret that today many universities are losing to academic institutions that are engaged only in research work: the daily routine in such facilities is built up only for scientific work. And in high schools, as a rule, the science is a part-time job. The university core activities is education. However, modern science today requires special management that is based on interactions with customers, with industry and integrates many other economic factors. Therefore, science at the university should become professional, otherwise it can not develop within the university. Thus, the status of research university will allow to change significantly the organization of scientific activity at the university. First and foremost it involves the innovative orientation. It will be carried out on fundamental and applied research basis, the results of which we will be able to offer to our partners from various industries. This is the main problem that now faces our university, and it should primarily be supported by the status of the institution, and secondly, by equipment and material resources and qualified researchers. To do this, we obtain a five-year additional funding.

Of course, the realization of this ambitious project requires a huge amount of work both inside and outside the walls of our university, the more so in today's legislation, there are many restrictions. They, on one hand, lead to cost savings, which are sent to scientific and educational activities, and on the other – make it difficult to implement these funds. For example, Federal Law No. 94, which establishes the need for auctions and tenders, which, in turn, leads to the auctions and tenders benefit only for those providers who give the minimum cost of services and equipment. However, under such circumstances, as a rule, quality suffers, because our scientific research requires exclusive, unique equipment, which we must use in carrying out our research.


Mikhail Petrovich, you are a major environmental scientist, a specialist in processing and recycling solid waste. What exactly for your scientific work gives the status of a research university?


M.P. Fedorov: If we talk about the fundamental value of our research, it is as follows: people actively affect the environment, introducing there pollution in the form of waste, including solid. Therefore, there is a negative feedback, which causes a change in environmental quality. Until recently, we stopped at this point and sought means to reduce this negative impact on the environment. However, it is clear that it is impossible to completely eliminate this effect. Even driving this process into supposedly permissible limits, the remainder of it will still adversely affect human health. Thus, the Techno sphere impacts the environment, which in turn gives a negative response, which ultimately affects the human being. That is, figuratively speaking, that a person affects nature, and some time later receives a back blow.

Therefore, our study goes further, we now study how these negative processes affect health and the human body. That we need to understand that the performance of standards and maximum permissible concentrations of harmful substances or harmful discharges is not the end result of the study. We go ahead and proceed to the investigation of these factors of influence to human health, as well as future generations. This chain is complex, requiring the expertise of different levels, not just engineering or environmental focus, but also biologists, physicists, physicians, and the use of unique equipment.


Most recently, you were visited by a large delegation from Vietnam headed by the Minister of Education. Why the choice has fallen on your university and how do you develop your university's relations with this country?


M.P. Fedorov: Behind this visit there is a great story, which has more than forty years. At the beginning of this relationship, I was at its very start, when our joint scientific and educational activities were just beginning to form. Once the war in Vietnam ended the help of civilian specialists was demanded, the staff of the Polytechnic Institute was the most directly involved.

Today a new stage has started, which is associated with an effective economic development, which requires, in turn, solving a number of problems, including those related to energy, economy and environment. Our Vietnamese friends have offered to build in Hanoi a University of Technology at the most advanced level. It is expected that we will assist in its creation.

In the near future we plan to sign the corresponding contracts and get to work, which will have significant economic value, including for our university. In addition, a number of our teachers according to the intercollegiate treaties visit Vietnam, give lectures, are engaged in scientific work or carry out expert assessments of various projects. However, today this activity is sporadic. Now, our challenge is to establish relations with this country on a sustained basis.


It is well known that the Polytechnic University has a number of agreements with various foreign universities, including leading universities of the USA, UK, Germany, Spain, France, Japan and China. And how today do you build relationships with the CIS countries and Ukraine in particular?


M.P. Fedorov: This is a Good question. I've always been a supporter of the restoration and establishment of good neighborly relations between our university and the universities of East European and Baltic region, with which before we had a very good scientific and educational relations. Today again there is an opportunity to expand them, and identify new growth points of our cooperation. As for Ukraine, with this country, unlike the Baltic countries and Eastern Europe, our relationship was never interrupted. Maybe not as strong as we would like, but the exchange of scientists and students is carried out continuously. Today, of course, we plan to expand our cooperation in various fields. I recently met with our student activists who have requested that we spend more joint activities with the neighbors of Ukraine. I think that is the direction we will take in the most recent future.

Today the Baltic States does not go out of our sight, especially the technical universities. Besides, I want to add that there is now a platform of East European capital technical universities, which establishment was initiated by three institutions: Warsaw University of Technology, Technical University of Berlin and St. Petersburg State Polytechnical University.

Already in the short period of time, the participation in this platform has increased significantly, and several universities joined it. Until recently, the presiding officer of the platform was a Technical University of Berlin, but this year its president is the Rector of the SPbSPU. Therefore, in the first half of June the session with my colleagues will be held on the basis of our university. Many rectors of technical universities from East European and CIS countries will come to us. The main agenda of the session will be dedicated to quality training of young professionals.


As we noted above, your institution has received the status of national research university. How in this regard will be developing the research in the field of nanotechnology?


M.P. Fedorov: Of course, this is the most important sphere of our studies. In this direction today it is done a large number of fundamental discoveries. Studies also have practical value, but this does not mean that it is the only scientific field, which we must deal with. While speaking about nanotechnology, I want to highlight two main directions: first – new materials, the second – nanobioresearch that is, research on the nanoscale of biological processes, including within the cell. In particular this applies to drug delivery into the cell by using nanostructures. This is a fundamentally new direction in medicine. Today, we actively participate in physical and biological research.


At the end of April on the territory of your high school was opened a unique monument in the history of our city – a monument to the student. Please tell us the story of its creation.


M.P. Fedorov: The opening of this memorial was held by the initiative group of graduates of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering. First of all, it is its present professors and teachers. Exactly they came with an idea of new architectural forms that were able to emphasize modernity of our university. This primarily concerns its relationship with history. Last year before the 1-st study building there was opened a fountain in the form of a complex sculpture, called "We". We are students, teachers, graduates of our university, as well as future entrants. The monument to the student was installed near this fountain. In our country there are many monuments to public policy makers, great scientists, artists and military... however, I think, there has never been a monument to the student. Sculptural composition depicts a student-polytechnic, in the uniform of the beginning of the twentieth century. Today this monument is very popular: everybody wants to sit on a bench together with our student of bronze.


Interviewed by Dmitry Kuznetsov

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