Apart from leading foreign scientists, “Machine Learning for Discovery Sciences” workshop hosted by the Foundation for Armenian Science and Technology (FAST) and the US National Science Foundation (NSF) also brought to Armenia young Armenian specialists, who continue their scientific career abroad.
Mediamax talked with these young scientists about the opportunities the foundation created so far, as well as the problems and prospects of Armenian science and their potential place in its advancement.
FAST is really trying to use the potential fully
Erik Aznauryan, PhD Candidate, ETH Zurich
I’m very happy to see a foundation such as FAST in Armenia. It’s an honor for me to represent the FAST NextGen Council, where I am currently the Chairperson. We brought together 15 young scientists from all over the world to assist the foundation in its activities.
The fact that Armenia now has an agency like FAST is a big success. Apart from professional discussions, we also had an introduction to the foundation’s efforts during this workshop. Financing for science and young specialists, organization of large-scale scientific meetings and engagement of international experts will play a significant role in advancement of Armenian science.
Professor Arnak Dalalyan, ENSAE/CREST
It’s very important that a non-governmental organization wants to develop science and technology in Armenia. In that regard, I have big hopes for FAST.
Advancement of technologies will have an important impact on the economy, but I’m especially happy to see that the foundation ties technological development to advancement of science. It’s important for the science-technology-economy chain to exist. If one of the elements or the connection between them isn’t there, no system can operate.
Davit Buniatyan, PhD Candidate, Computer Science Department at Princeton University
What attracts scientists to other countries is that there’s no issue of financing and resources there and they can do their research without thinking how to find means for it. FAST can play a key role in keeping researchers in Armenia by allowing them to focus on their work, the results of which can later be used in manufacturing. I think the second part is more important. If we direct results of scientific researches to industries, the profits will become a funding source for the science, and it will be possible to involve much more people.
Machine learning doesn’t require big resources
I often visit Armenia and try to become involved in local scientific life, so I know the current problems. The biggest problem, at least in my field (biomedicine, biotechnology) is scarcity of resources and equipment, which leads to brain drain.
Other fields that don’t need much infrastructure, such as computer science, machine learning, neural network, mathematics, etc, always developed actively in Armenia.
Machine learning doesn’t require big resources, people can make conclusions and prove theorems on paper. Currently, Armenia’s main problem in that field is digitizing the data. Initial data has to be gathered and provided to computer scientists, who will be able to apply and analyze that information correctly. If the data resources are provided in the next 5 years, we’ll make big steps forward.
Young people should be able to realize their full potential
In order to attract young scientists that work abroad to Armenia, we need to create programs where they can realize their full potential. We need to create conditions for them, and it’s not only about financing.
Young Armenian scientists that work abroad can help Armenian science in two ways. The first way is to exchange their experience and knowledge with local specialists through various workshops and meetings, cooperation. The other way is to establish ties abroad and then allocate resources to Armenia.
Global market decides where science heads
Global success would require for results of Armenian scientists’ theoretical work to find practical use.
That’s exactly one of FAST’s goals: to ensure financing for the scientific works that can translate theoretical science into products we can sell.
The direction that Armenia should take and move along with the world will appear by itself. All tech companies in Armenia can see what the world currently needs. The global market decides that direction and we should be competitive in the international scientific environment.
There are good machine learning experts in Armenia and we can have great success on the global stage if we provide Armenia’s potential with corresponding environment now.
Photos courtesy of FAST