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The University of Amsterdam (UvA) and ITMO University (Saint Petersburg, Russia) will continue their long-time tradition of cooperation after extending their partnership agreement for another five years. The document noting the two universities’ collaboration was recently signed by UvA Executive Board President Geert ten Dam and ITMO Rector Vladimir Vasilyev. In addition to continuing working on collaborative projects, both universities will strengthen their cooperation in regards to training postgraduate students on a shared educational programme.

The UvA delegation with ITMO staff during their visit to St. Petersburg (credits: ITMO)

The meeting was also attended by Calluna Euving, secretary general of the UvA, Vicky van den Elsen, executive secretary and administrator of the Netherlands Institute in St. Petersburg (NIP), Daria Kozlova, vice rector for International Relations at ITMO, Alexander Boukhanovsky, head of eScience Research Institute and other ITMO representatives.

Pioneer in computation science

The UvA is considered a pioneer in the field of training specialists in Computational Science and has been collaborating with the eScience Research Institute since 2007. In 2012, the university started to take part in a double degree programme with the High-Performance Computing Department. The selection process for participants in the programme is strict, yet each year more and more of ITMO University’s students receive two diplomas from both universities. In 2016, nine such students graduated from the programme. The Master’s students have a well-coordinated study plan: the UvA knows which subjects the students have already studied at ITMO and recognises the 60 ECTS credits they received in their first year of education. For the students’ thesis defence, a committee is formed from representatives of both universities.

UvA Executive Board President Geert ten Dam and ITMO Rector Vladimir Vasilyev sign the extended partnership agreement (credits: ITMO University).

Scientific collaboration

The UvA-ITMO partnership has its roots in scientific collaboration. The two universities originally developed a project on the topic of distributed emergency computations for decision support in critical situation, led by Alexander Boukhanovsky and Peter Sloot, professor at UvA, ITMO University and the Nanyang Technological University (NTU Singapore). At the same time, the Advanced Computing Lab (ACL) was created.

In 2013, the TROIKA (Technology and Research on Information-Driven Knowledge Alliance) was founded under the umbrella of eScience Research Institute and includes a number of international universities, with the core members being the UvA, ITMO and NTU.

Over the past five years the partnership has resulted in several notable scientific accomplishments. For instance, in December 2016 the universities presented the “virtual artery”, a multiscale computer model of the human artery that combines several sub-models of the cardiovascular system in different levels of complexity. In that same year, researchers from UvA, ITMO, NTU and the Indian Institute of Science conducted the massive Kumbh Mela Experiment in which they collected data on crowd behaviour at the world’s largest festival. These are just a few of the projects that are created by staff and students from both universities.

Aside from research, the UvA and ITMO also collaborate in the field of education. Since 2012, for example, the universities have been organising the annual International Young Scientists Conference in HPC and Simulation, as well as a corresponding summer school.

Shared postgraduate programme

Going forward, the partnership will focus on the development of a shared postgraduate programme. All postgraduate programmes at ITMO University are unique and are formalised by a three-party contract in which two parties are the participating universities and the postgraduate student represents the third. These programmes entail the assignment of two scientific supervisors, the conducting of experimental testing on the grounds of both universities and a double thesis defence with certification committees from both universities.

The signing ceremony also coincided with the twenty-year anniversary of the Netherlands Institute’s work in Russia.