Last May the University of Strasbourg and Kazan University signed a supplement cooperation agreement. It confirms the foundation of joint Master's programme in chemoinformatics. The first two holders of double diplomas have recently returned from France; they are Dinara Chubukaeva and Timur Guimadiev. We have asked them to share their impressions.
- Could you tell us, please, what were the selection criteria for this programme?
Dinara: The selection procedure was rather simple. First of all, they consider one's academic progress during the first year of the Master's programme course (author's note, the first year of the Master's programme graduates study at KFU). Timur and I were the best students of the course. Language proficiency is of the same importance. A number of subjects at the University of Strasbourg were taught in French, but we defended our graduation works in English. An interview was also obligatory. Professor Alexandre Varnek, the programme coordinator from the University of Strasbourg, came to KFU to interview us. Our stay in France was funded by the Algarysh Programme of the Government of Tatarstan.
- Have you noticed any essential differences in the educational process at the University of Strasbourg?
Timur: Teaching methods used in Russia and France differ fundamentally. Here in Russia, we've got used to being controlled all the time. Our point rating system considers attendance, practical activities and exam results. In France they treat education in a different way. All subjects are divided into groups. One group includes subjects a student is allowed not to attend but the examination at the end of the course is obligatory. Another group includes classes where a student should conduct certain activities according to the plan, thus, getting points. In this case there is no exam.
Dinara: However, it does not mean that studying there is easier. According to Bologna system, to successfully finish the course, one should have not less than 10 points summary rating of all marks (author's note: max possible 20 points), not less than 7 points for each subject.
- Was it easy for you to communicate with other students and university staff?
Dinara: Yes, it was. People are very sympathetic there. Staff members gladly help once one asks. Professor Roland Stout was my academic advisor. He is a man of Big Science, so that he is very busy. Nevertheless, I could always come up to him with any question and he always gave due consideration. He could spent two hours explaining what and how should be done at a certain stage of working on my thesis. It was the same pleasure to work in the Institute of Molecular Biology and Genetics during my internship there.
Timur: We had an impression that it is normal for France. Staff members of any age thou each other, and the team is more like a big close-knit family where everybody will cover up for a friend. I was in training in a chemoinformatics laboratory. It was very interesting. We were testing a new method of chemical space compression. I felt a team member from the very beginning; we were closely cooperating with the laboratory staff.
- What about the accommodation?
Timur: Dinara was renting an apartment near the university, almost in the downtown. But it is not necessary. The programme participants are provided with housing in the students? campus. I was living in one of such rooms, very comfortable and cozy, I should say.
- And finally, how did you like Strasbourg?
Dinara: It is a wonderful city, located in Alsace region, and its culture differs significantly from truly French one. It is rather a mix of French and German traditions. It is evident from people's behavior, the style of city community events, and traditional Strasbourg cuisine. In general, France is an amazing country. It is best remembered for its bright colours. In spring everything starts flourishing very early and the city is discoloured to pink, yellow, and green. We travelled a lot when we had spare time. It is unforgettable experience. We are very lucky to enter Kazan University and take part in the programme. Thanks for the given opportunity!
The guys are planning to take the postgraduate course and work in the university laboratory. Timur Gimadiev has been supported by France to become the first joint postgraduate of Kazan Federal University and the University of Strasbourg. During the conversation the guys were modest and reserved. However, Igor Antipin, the head of the KFU Department of Organic Chemistry, the head of Master?s Programme for Chemoinformatics and Molecular Modeling, a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Science, emphasized that KFU students had been ones of the best at the diploma defense.
- Ten students were defending diplomas in this major. Our students achieved striking results. Their theses were highly evaluated. It's worth saying that the double diploma programme is rapidly developing. Two more our students start their studying at the University of Strasbourg in September. I want to add that chemoinformatics is a promising field of science. It will suffice to mention that last year chemistry Nobel Prize was awarded for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems.