Double degree program for one student


By Anna Matiushenko

Meet Radmir Karamov, Skoltech and KU Leuven PhD-3 student. Radmir initiated a double degree program by himself, and Skoltech supported his idea. Enjoy his story!
my background
I graduated from Ufa State Petroleum Technological University with a BSc degree in Petroleum Engineering. However, I was fond of theoretical mechanics while studying in Ufa and wanted to develop in this direction.

For this reason, I have obtained a MSc degree from Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology and now there I am pursuing PhD degree with double affiliation with KU Leuven (Belgium). And now I work on composite material mechanics.

Mathematics & Mechanics PhD Program
why I chose my supervisor
When I came to Skoltech, I had little research experience but a great desire (to do science). At the very beginning of the master’s studies, we could choose a desired research direction. And I chose mechanics of composite materials. After another faculty meeting it was agreed that prof. Ivan Sergeichev and prof. Iskander Akhatov would become my research advisors. As a PhD student, I continue to work with Iskander Shaukatovich and Ivan Valeryevich as my supervisors from Skoltech.
why I chose science and not industry
I think curiosity is one of my brightest personal qualities. There are ones encourage their curiosity and research what has not yet been explored, and the others who look for practical application of their skills. I believe I am in the first category.

All my life I wanted to create something new, literally on the edge of technology. The modern science fully provides such opportunities allowing us to conduct relevant research that expands not only the fundamental knowledge useful to future scientists, but also develops the industry as a whole. Moreover, for me a great advantage being a researcher, that science gives more freedom for creativity and allows you to delve into completely new methods and tools in different areas of research.
how I became a double degree student
In the second year of the master's studies, Skoltech gives an opportunity to spend several months at any university over the world as a part of the program. After the student selection, I decided to go to KU Leuven to prof. Stepan Lomov, who had come to Skoltech to give lectures on experimental mechanics of composites, and they really impressed me.

After I completed a three-month internship in Belgium working with both prof. Lomov and prof. Yentl Swolfs, our close partnership began. We continued this cooperation after my enrolment to Skoltech PhD Program “Mathematics and Mechanics”. Then I proposed to make this partnership more official in the form of a double degree program.

Despite the fact that the task turned out to be rather non-trivial, after many months of negotiations between Skoltech and KU Leuven, my official enrolment to KU Leuven and the approval of funding, a new double degree program was created with a single student and four supervisors.

about joint academic supervision
I do not think that the double degree program is much different from studying at a one single university. However, it teaches to work in a team and consider several meaningful points of view at once, analyzing them in detail. Our work is based on mutual agreement on topics which should be included in my research project and what topics will be prioritized. We also have a certain system - we meet online once a month and discuss the research concepts, our results, and next steps to be taken. I really like this format, it is very productive and clear for all interested parties.
my work routine at KU Leuven
At the moment most of my work is related to programming, so my work routine was arranged almost the same as at Skoltech. As for courses, I was lucky enough, because I had already completed all Belgian courses online during COVID restrictions. And this year I devoted myself entirely to research. I have been creating an algorithm for improving the quality of images of composite materials obtained by a micro computed tomography. The extensive database of micro-CT images of KU Leuven let us get good results during the trip.
does science in Russia differ from science in Belgium?
I can only compare Skoltech to KU Leuven. There are only few differences, but there is one great similarity – everywhere you have to work hard. :)

Besides, it depends very much on the field, and different fields require different approaches. In general, my opinion is that science has long become something global, and it makes no sense to compare science of one country to science of another country. Some bureaucratic and administrative policies do differ, but science itself remains science.
my advice to applicants for a PhD program at Skoltech
Of course, be proactive, figure out what scientific fields are offered, talk to colleagues, write emails, and make an appointment with a potential supervisor. Moreover, you should definitely not be afraid, the administration and faculty at Skoltech are very warm to young researchers.