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Working with light: Starting your career at ITMO University

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One of our previous articles featured an overview of our photonics department students’ work lives. Today we’re going to expand on this topic by looking at four related MA programs: “Light Guide Photonics and Programmable Electronics”, “LED technologies and optoelectronics”, “Photonic materials” and “Laser technologies”. We sat down with some of the folks currently enrolled in these programs, as well as recent graduates, to talk about the role ITMO University played in kickstarting their careers.

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Lab work

ITMO University does commercial research for a number of high-profile manufacturers. Our students are always welcome to contribute to various R&D efforts underway at our labs. This helps them make some extra money, get to know the industry and develop practical skills.

I’m an engineer at the light guide photonics lab. I help develop, test and tune fibre-optical devices. I got this job at the beginning of my second year in ITMO University, following the suggestion of my academic advisor. For me personally, it was a great move — I could study and work at the same time.

— Evgenii Kalugin, Light Guide Photonics program graduate, class of 2019

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Our students’ research is being overseen by the industry’s leading scientists. Here’s what Artem Petrenko, a graduate of our “LED technologies and optoelectronics” MA program had to say about his experience working in our labs:

I started doing lab research during my senior year as an undergrad. My earlier work involved laser processing of silicon. When I started studying for my master’s degree, I was asked to join an R&D team that was developing a laser module for use in additive manufacturing. Working on an actual commercial product proved to be very exciting, so this became my full-time job. At the moment, I do a lot of prep work to ensure my Ph. D application gets accepted. I want to pursue a career in academia.

— Artem Petrenko

We understand that commercial work related to one’s academic pursuits makes studying easier. So, our curriculum was designed with this in mind. According to Artem Akimov, a graduate of our “Laser Technologies” MA program, even if you miss some classes, “the faculty is very understanding, and you can easily make up for the time lost”.

Job interviews

The experience and knowledge gained during students’ time at our labs helps them get hired by our country’s top employers. For example, Ilya Krasavtsev, who studied “LED Technologies and optoelectronics” at ITMO, says that the university provided him with all the skills businesses in the field are looking for. Upon his graduation, Ilya assumed a managerial position at SEAES — a company that manufactures and sells nautical lighting solutions. And he’s not alone — listen to his former classmate Evgeny Frolov:

I am an engineer at the Elektropribor national research centre’s fibreoptic gyroscope lab. I connect optical fibre to lithium niobate based optical ICs. My knowledge of theoretical optics, as well as my experience working with optical fibres at the university helped me nail the interview.”

— Evgeny Frolov, class of 2019

Job hunting is made easier by the fact that people working in the industry are often invited to ITMO University as guest lecturers. Executives and researchers alike introduce our students to their businesses’ work and equipment.

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For example, the students of our “LED technologies and optoelectronics” program get to learn from high-ranking employees of Hevel Energy Group — one of Russia’s most prominent manufacturers of solar equipment, “ATC Semiconductor Devices” — a laser manufacturer, and “Inter RAO LED” — an LED manufacturer.

ITMO students can get hands-on experience with everything they learn about in class at the labs and manufacturing facilities of actual businesses.

— Dmitry Bauman, head of scientific supervision at one of the subsidiaries of the General Satellite Group

Our graduates have all the skills necessary to be considered proper professionals. All they have to acquaint themselves with upon landing their first job is the business side of things. Nobody’s being asked to ‘forget everything you’ve learned in school’.

Our curriculum includes everything the employers are looking for. We take part in serious research, get hands-on experience with laser equipment and other bleeding edge tech, and develop a working understanding of industry-standard software: AutoCAD, Mathcad, OPAL-PC, Trace Pro, Adobe Photoshop, CorelDRAW, StatGraphics Plus, etc.

— Anastasia D. Tavalinskaya, a “Laser technologies” MA program graduate

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Even the very status of being an ITMO graduate is beneficial. According to Ilya Krasavtsev, he was often asked about his teachers during job interviews, because the people interviewing him knew them personally.

International cooperation

Many international organizations are fond of our graduates.

I’ve been lucky to collaborate with Siemens while working at one of their partner companies. The Siemens employees I’ve met hold our university in great regard, and have high expectations of our graduates. Given our university’s reputation, it is only natural that they expect a lot from us.

— Artem Petrenko

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Many ITMO University students enter international exchange programs while studying for their masters’ degrees. Our graduates receive offers of employment from both local and foreign organizations.

The benefits of higher education don’t end at the classroom’s door. We want ITMO University to be a launch pad for our students’ careers. Our faculty aims to create a nurturing environment that allows our students to excel at both theory and practice. And not just any practice — practice tied to real-world, technologically relevant business needs, just like that of commercial researchers world around.
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