Impressive Results and Promising Outlooks: ISC Members Highly Praised Operation of SUSU Laboratories

South Ural State University presented result of operation of its unique laboratories to the International Scientific Council. These laboratories solve the most topical issues in development of digital industry technologies, research of migration processes, food industry, stress mechanisms, enhancement of properties of materials, and other prospective research directions.

In the course of discussion, members of the ISC got introduced to results of operation of eight SUSU laboratories, headed by leading scientists from different countries.

Presentations included description of goals and objectives of the laboratories, as well as the global risks and modern challenges which are to be prevented and overcome due to activity of one or another of the laboratories. Moreover, speakers represented by leading SUSU scientists presented a brief summary of activity of laboratories, the level of publication activity of the team of researchers involved into projects of a certain laboratory, a list of current research and industrial partners, and participation in research conferences. Also, they determined prospects of development for each laboratory: they identified potential directions of development and determined the pool of research and industrial partners with whom relations can be established in the future.

“I can see that right now the university is acting as some kind of an incubator of international research laboratories, activity of which is connected with solving the problems which are the most topical nowadays. In my opinion, the university also should actively and persistently promote, develop and support operation of these laboratories, which, without a doubt, will allow SUSU to become the leader in certain research directions not only in Russia but around the world as well,” concluded the President of Emerson Corporation, Chairman of the SUSU International Scientific Council, Michael Train.

Rector of the university, Aleksandr Shestakov, noted that such an experience in presentation of laboratories’ accomplishments is unique for SUSU, first of all, because this is the first time from the moment of establishment of these laboratories that scientists summarize results of their activity not just in front of the leadership and administrative staff of the university but in front of the leading scientists and directors of the largest transnational corporations.

“Experience of working over establishment and development of these laboratories showed that results can be different: there are advanced laboratories and there are those which due to some reasons are at the beginning of their path. The most important thing is that all of them have proved to be relevant and in-demand for both scientific and industrial communities. Therefore, we have to keep carrying out persistent support in development of all the international research laboratories that have been presented today,” emphasized Aleksandr Shestakov.

Self-Validating Sensors, Systems, and Advanced Instrumentation International Laboratory

The first research centre to be discussed by the ISC members was the Self-Validating Sensors, Systems, and Advanced Instrumentation International Laboratory. It is supervised by Director of Technology Centre at the University of Oxford, Professor Manus Henry. Its purpose is researching theoretical fundamentals of creation of intelligent devices and producing their prototype models with the use of advanced technologies of the Internet of Things. Researchers are solving the problem on development of sensors and control elements which not only can perform certain functions but are also able to carry out diagnostics and correction of their own state. The Rector Aleksandr Shestakov is SUSU’s representative in supervising the Laboratory.

“We are facing the challenge to develop algorithms and prototypes of next-generation devices which would comply with requirements of Industry 4.0. The main focus of work is in development of temperature, pressure and flow rate sensors which perform the complex functions of self-control and self-checking. This is what allows us to know not only the precise value of a certain variable, but the correctness of a sensor’s operation as well. There are few of such sensors being produced, and we need to understand that they are a part of the control system. Today we are at the threshold of a change in our lifestyle pattern when the customary control systems get replaced with digital ones, based on big data analysis. This results in the increasing number of sensors. In this regard, new metrology problems come into existence, and it is now already that we are trying to solve them,” said research fellow of the Laboratory, Associate Professor of the Department of Information Measuring Equipment, Oleg Bushuev.

Overall in two years, there were 22 research articles published in journals indexed in Scopus database. The Laboratory conducts projects for large industrial partners such as Metran Industrial Group, which is a part of Emerson transnational corporation, ElMetro Group LLC, and others.

Special attention at the Laboratory is paid to development of Coriolis flowmeters. In 2016-2018, the Laboratory conducted a project on development of a Coriolis flowmeter working under conditions of two-component medium flow (liquid with gaseous fraction). The project was financed by Minobrnauki and co-financed by its industrial partner, ElMetro Group LLC.

Specialist of the Laboratory, Head of the SUSU Department of Engineering Mechanics Pavel Taranenko added: “Within the project, we elaborated Coriolis flowmeter DU15 (its max. mass flow ratio equal 3 t/hour), which allowed measuring the mass flow of a liquid with inaccuracy no more than 2,5% at the volume ratio of the gas in the flowing medium being up to 25%. As a result of completing this project, 13 research articles have been published in journals indexed in Scopus, 3 Certificates of Software Registration and 2 Patents of invention have been received, and one Candidate’s dissertation was prepared for defence.”

Presently, the Laboratory is working on improvement of characteristics of a domestic three-phase flowmeter designated for petroleum industry. Two Candidate’s and one Doctor’s dissertations are being worked on in this direction.

Director General of SMS Group Inc., Honorary Professor of SUSU, Pino Tese provided the following recommendation to the research team of the Laboratory: “I think you need to focus on the scientific, diagnostic and predictive components of the developments. This will allow accelerating development of the laboratory as well as establish new collaborations with scientists and large industrial partners from other countries, who are also interested in development of sensor devices.”

International Laboratory of Problem-Oriented Cloud Computing Environments

Then the experts were introduced to intermediate results of operation of the International Laboratory of Problem-Oriented Cloud Computing Environments, supervised by Professor at the Centre for Scientific Research and Higher Education (Mexico), Andrei Tchernykh. Researchers of the Laboratory carry out breakthrough research in the sphere of distributed computing and cloud technologies in order to comply with challenges of Industry 4.0 and Big Data.

Operation of the Laboratory is targeted at solving problems connected with supercomputer calculations. Supervisor of the research team from the university is Gleb Radchenko, Director of the SUSU School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science.

“The main global challenge that the Laboratory is facing is introduction of technology of the industrial Internet of Things. Five years ago we didn’t work on this problem, but now we understand the need to unite multiple devices into a single network with the use of various communication channels. This allows obtaining and analyzing big volumes of data.”

The Laboratory carries out research in the following directions: planning of computational resources in the frameworks of cloud and fog computing mediums under conditions of uncertainty; research of cloud support systems of digital twins of production processes; research in the sphere of information security of distributed computing systems, cloud systems, systems of production process control; and application of cloud technology for support of “Smart cities”.

The SUSU Laboratory is equipped with three supercomputers whose performance is at the level of the world’s leading computational systems. One of the main type of equipment used by researchers at the Laboratory is supercomputers called Tornado SUSU and SKIF-Aurora. Supercomputers at SUSU are among the most powerful computers all over the world. Many projects get implemented in cooperation with the Centre for Scientific Research in Ensenada, with the University of Klagenfurt in Austria, and with other partners from abroad. 2016 through 2019, research fellows of the Laboratory published 25 articles, one of which got included in TOP-10, and three of them made it to journals of the first and the second quartile.

Chairman of the ISC, President of Emerson Corporation, Michael Train, highly praised the Laboratory’s potential; he also proposed making these technologies more available for students in accordance with global trends.

“I saw the amazing supercomputer power at SUSU, but I would like to note that some companies in the US, Korea and other countries grant access to this technology to ordinary users. There are special spaces for study and discussion organized for them. If similar locations get opened for students at your university, this will become an additional boost for their development.”

This idea was supported by Doctor Jaewan Kim, Professor of the Korea Institute for Advanced Study: “Such an integration of education and science is very rare, so students should have access to brand-new technologies.”

The Rector of SUSU thanked the experts for this idea and explained that active work is being done at the university in order to create such spaces. There already exist various study labs involving students, and a special attention is to be paid to this direction.

International Laboratory of Mechanics, Laser Processes and Digital Production Technologies

The Council also evaluated activity of the Laboratory of Mechanics, Laser Processes and Digital Production Technologies, which was carried out under the leadership of Professor of the National Engineering School of Saint-Étienne (France), Philippe Bertrand. Specialists of the Laboratory work in such spheres as creation of multi-functional and gradient surfaces using the method of laser cladding; laser synthesis – growing-up – of volumetric items; development of research works; professional training of academic and engineering cadres, etc.

“The Laboratory has the most unique equipment for not only research activity but also for production of industrial samples. All universities and research laboratories, working in the sphere of additive manufacturing, got focused on 3D printers, but we, in our turn, have targeted our research activity at development of multi-functional and gradient surfaces. Our global goal is to introduce this manufacturing at industrial enterprises of the Chelyabinsk region, all over Russia and around the world. We are the technology centre of our partners, the SMS Group company. For them, we carry out repair and recovery of machine parts and metallurgical equipment units. They are going to adopt the repair techniques that we use for 14 technology centres around the world,” noted Director of the Laboratory on behalf of SUSU, Marina Samodurova.

Right now, the Laboratory is working on a joint project with Kompozit Research and Production Association, the leading enterprise in the sphere of materials science of the Roscosmos State Corporation. Two research articles are going to be published and two patents are going to be obtained upon results of this work. Also, research fellows are planning to combine two techniques of detonation spraying in order to solve serious problems for largest corporations in the sphere of aviation, space, oil- and gas-processing, and metallurgical industries.

The President and Director General of SMS-group Inc. (USA), Honorary Professor of SUSU, Pino Tese noted that inventions of this Laboratory are extremely topical in the modern world, but in order for the university to claim oneself as a leader in development of multi-functional and gradient surfaces using the method of laser cladding, SUSU scientists need to take part in the most important research conferences on this topic. The nearest conference is to be held in Vienna, and Professor Pino Tese expressed his readiness to provide assistance to our researchers in arrangement of their participation in this conference.

International Electronics International Laboratory

Then the ISC members listened to a report by the Head of the Molecular Electronics Laboratory, Fedor Podgornov. He noted that the uniqueness of the Laboratory is in the fact that it serves as a bridge between fundamental research in the sphere of physics, chemistry and materials science and their prospective applications in electronics.

“Primary goal of the Laboratory is researching highly symmetric organic materials in order to create the element basis for electronics of the future, as well as in development of new methods of electrical characterization of materials and the element base of electronics. The Laboratory recruited young talented specialists who already have a considerable experience in conducting research in this sphere. We are planning to further extend the interdisciplinary cooperation with research groups from SUSU, as well as with other universities and companies.”

Over 2017–2018, researchers of the Laboratory determined the mechanism of influence of metallic nanoparticles on electric and optic properties of highly-ordered chiral materials; explained the mechanism of reduction of time for the electro-optic switching in liquid-crystal display cells doped with nanoparticles; and proposed a capacitive principle for measurement of ion electric conductivity of materials in cells with blocking electrodes. These results have been described in articles published in such leading international journals as Applied Physics Letters, Journal of Molecular Liquids, and Liquid Crystals. Also, the scientists are planning to get a project on research of non-linear dielectric properties of highly-ordered organic materials.

Professor, Doctor Jaewan Kim expressed a sincere interest in presentation of this laboratory and offer its group of researchers to visit the Korea Institute for Advanced Study in order to discuss possible research collaborations.

International Laboratory for Migration Studies

The members of the International Scientific Council also appreciated the work by the International Laboratory for Migration Studies. The laboratory aims at creating a scientific-and-research cluster for studying migrations. It is headed by Professor of Carleton University, Canada, Jeffery Sahadeo, who is author of more than 100 scientific works devoted to the history of migrations and the fate of the Eurasian peoples in the post-Soviet space.

On behalf of SUSU, the International Laboratory for Migration Studies is supervised by the Head of the Department of Russian and International History of the Institute of Social Sciences and Humanities Olga Nikonova. She presented the latest laboratory's achievements. Thus, they published nine articles in journals indexed in Scopus and Web of Science, four articled were included in TOP 25, and four more – in TOP 50. The laboratory is striving to develop international collaboration to fulfil projects jointly with foreign experts.

"Among the promising ones are such fields of research as archaeology of the transition zones in Eurasia; problems of social and cultural changes in Eurasia in the Late Middle Ages and Modern Era; migration processes in modern era; and current migration processes. These fields will be worked on within new partnership agreements with Institute for Migration Research and Intercultural Studies, Germany, and Northwestern Polytechnical University, China," noted Olga Nikonova.

For the period of 2019-2020 the internship for international doctoral students from Carnegie Mellon University and University of Wisconsin are planned. Currently, preparations are underway for signing of a Memorandum of SUSU's entering the Alliance for Preserving the Cultural Heritage of the Great Silk Road and Science-and-technology Innovations. The scientific developments by the Laboratory for Migration Studies and its staff can be applied while fulfilling the project on Interactive Electronic Application on the Historical Reconstruction of the City of Chelyabinsk. With the participation of the laboratory's specialists an International Conference on Eurasia in Global World: Migrations, Intercultural Communications and Security will be organized in May of 2020.

The presentation of this laboratory sparked heated discussion among the members of the International Scientific Council. The main issue discussed was the one on how to unite natural-sciences and humanities knowledge.

Doctor of Sciences (History), Chief Research Fellow of the SUSU Eurasian Studies Research and Education Centre, leading research fellow of Institute of Archaeology of the Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences Andrey Epimakhov noted: "This is a very complicated task, and it took us much time to think on its solution. In May 2018, an article was published in Nature journal, which came as a result of vast research studies on the Eurasia scale. The authors of the idea were Scandinavian scientists, and it was them who were responsible for the high-technology part of this huge scientific work. Scientists from University of Cambridge, University of Copenhagen, and a whole number of scientific centres in Sweden, Denmark, Russia, Kazakhstan, and other countries took part in this big-scale project. Namely this work served as a starting point for us in understanding the processes of combining digital and humanities technologies and knowledge."

We should mention that this already the second Nature article for this SUSU scientist. The previous work with the consolidation of all the paleogenetic analyses was devoted to the origin of the Indo-European peoples. Nature scientific journal is one of the most respected publications in the academic community, and can only be compared to the world-famous Science journal.

International Laboratory of Polyfunctional Compounds

In the course of the meeting the intermediate results of the activity by the Multiscale Modelling of Polyfunctional Compounds Laboratory were summarized. It was formed at the SUSU's Faculty of Chemistry and is headed by Artem Masunov , Professor of University of Central Florida. The laboratory's key vector is the fundamental research in the field of structures and properties of chemical compounds. According to the laboratory's supervisor on behalf of SUSU, Doctor of Sciences (Chemistry) Ekaterina Bartashevich, for the scientific team it is a great challenge to close the gap at the scale of designing the properties of new materials and modelling of physical-and-chemical properties of atomic-molecular systems, as well as develop information technologies in chemistry.

"We are studying how to influence the atomic-molecular structure of substances to obtain the required physical-and-chemical characteristics, which could provide for useful properties of materials. The field of our interests includes obtaining quality predictions of properties namely in multi-component, and possibly, nanohybrid systems. The laboratory has huge experience in studying the properties of chemical bonds at the fundamental level: we know how to assess and predict the way different compounds will be interacting in different physical states," explained Ekaterina Bartashevich. "It is important to use digital and supercomputer technologies because the algorithms of searching for the required property are based on very resource-demanding computations. The new skills on being able to work with digital chemical information and turning it into new knowledge are becoming more and more in demand. This is the domain of chemical informatics, and we would like our students to be trained to meet the relevant modern cross-disciplinary challenges involving chemistry, informatics and materials science."

The laboratory's scientists are studying the nature of chemical bonds, deal with the designing of organic materials with non-linear optical properties, and explaining plasticity and elasticity of molecular crystals; they also study biological activity and allosteric effects, using modern methods of molecular-dynamic modelling.

The laboratory's accomplishments include several successfully fulfilled projects on quantum chemistry and crystallography. In particular, thanks to active collaboration with Professor Masunov, they managed to improve the methodology of predicting the structure and nonlinear and optical properties of iodine-containing molecular crystals. Further on, the scientific team is planning on expanding this approach towards the tasks related to the mechanical properties and elasticity of organic monocrystals. The work's results are documented in scientific articles published in scientific journals of the first quartile, which are devoted to the interdisciplinary issues of chemistry and computer sciences.

The presentation of this laboratory received positive feedback from the Council and left no issue untouched.

"I'd say, this is one of the most promising laboratories; though, undoubtedly, all the previous ones also demonstrated high level of efficiency. The relevance of the Polyfunctional Compounds Laboratory's developments and projects is that it is working with the technologies of the future: many big enterprises are currently searching for the possibilities and means for creating new materials of the future. This laboratory could help the world community in this search," noted Michael Train.

Synthesis and Analysis of Food Ingredients International Laboratory

The members of the International Scientific Council were presented the results of the work by the Synthesis and Analysis of Food Ingredients International Laboratory, which was opened at the SUSU School of Medical Biology in 2016. The activity of the laboratory's specialists aims at searching solutions for the tasks in the field of developing technologies of synthesizing food biopolymers through exposure to ultrasound. The laboratory is headed by Professor of National Institute of Technology, India, Shirish Sonawane.

The scientific team is developing the principles and technologies of obtaining bioactive substances by using ultrasound, and is working on modifying the properties of those for better functionality. They are also engineering an integrated technology of extraction and strengthening the biocomposites of bioactive substances in the unified zone of equipment. The laboratory's supervisor on behalf of SUSU is the Head of the Department of Food and Biotechnology, Irina Potoroko.

Within the course of two years, two projects are being fulfilled at the laboratory. Studying of the molecular mechanisms of adaptogenic effects of such medicinal herbs as Sambucus ebulus (or dwarf elder) and Lonicera caerulea L. (blue-berried honeysuckle) is carried out jointly with Medical University in Bulgaria. Five articles were published with the results of this work. The second project is the engineering of nanocontainers, using sonochemical approach, for efficient delivery of bioactive substances, and it is being conducted in collaboration with scientists from India, Brazil, and China. In 2018, as part of the joint research, two scientific articles were published in a journal indexed in WoS TOP 10, Scopus.

In the year of 2018, the research team of the laboratory headed by Irina Potoroko and Shirish Sonawane won a grant by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research in part of the joint initiative Russian-Indian scientific projects on Ultrasound-assisted Encapsulation of Bioactive Compounds to Be Placed in the Food Matrix.

"The prerequisite for developing a solution for this problem was the necessity of determining the principles of building bioactive substances into the food matrix to preserve their bioaccessibility with consideration to physical and chemical properties of food," noted Irina Potoroko.

SUSU Rector Aleksandr Shestakov drew the attention of the members of the International Scientific Council to the fact that this laboratory is currently among the most efficient ones in the university. This efficiency is manifested not only in the commercialization of its innovations, but also in the level of its scientific articles and the status of the highly ranked journals where these are published.

Neurohepatology International Laboratory

After that there was held a presentation of the results of work by the Neurohepatology International Laboratory, which aims at studying the molecular mechanisms of chronic stress. This laboratory is headed by Director of the Institute of Molecular Physiology and Genetics of the Slovak Academy of Sciences and a famous neuropharmacology scientist Eliyahu Dremencov.

According to the head of this scientific subdivision on behalf of SUSU, Director of the School of Medical Biology Vadim Tseilikman, the goal of this laboratory is to obtain new and globally priority knowledge on the role of liver in regulating the normal functioning of the central nervous system in conditions of chronic stress and in case of the caused-by-stress diseases, which shorten the life expectancy.

"We have obtained new data related to studying the molecular mechanisms of the regulating functions of liver influencing the activity of brain neurons in case of chronic stress. We have discovered the nature of resistance to drug therapy in case of the post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) syndrome, and suggested a method of non-drug correction of the PTSD syndrome," reported Vadim Tseilikman on the results of the laboratory's work.

The activity of the Neurohepatology Laboratory is supported by the grant from the Russian Science Foundation. The laboratory's work results are made public in the federal mass media. According to the its staff, the prospects of the laboratory's development are related to carrying out the innovative research aimed at implementing hepatoprotectors and functional nutrition to correct diseases caused by chronic stress, and at development of new medicines.

"This laboratory is unique because the fields being explored by the scientists can act as a completely separate branch of science. In this case, the main mission of the university is in creating optimal conditions for successful functioning of the Neurohepatology Laboratory," noted SUSU Rector.

"The university is open for collaboration with different people from around the world. And it's a very important strategy. SUSU has 3 priority fields of development. First, it is the digital industry; second, these are the materials sciences, which is an especially strong side of the university; and third, it is the ecology (clean water and clean air). These fields are crucial. We, as members of the International Scientific Council, are ready to further encourage and support SUSU's development in these fields," commented the results of the presentation of the achievements by the international research laboratories Michael Train.

Establishment of the International Scientific Council is one of the crucial initiatives within the frameworks of fulfilling the university's Road Map program. Among the Council's members are the world's leading researchers with rich scientific-and-research experience in fundamental and computer sciences, engineering, and medicine. The International Scientific Council aims at coordinating the scientific-and-research and educational activity of the university in compliance with the best world practices under Project 5-100.

Olga Vazhenina, Azaliya Sharafutdinova; photo by: Oleg Igoshin
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