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The Magnificent 7: Russia's Scientific Balance of Beauty and Brains (Part III)

It's a difficult balance to achieve, but Russia seems to be having more than its fair share of luck in striking the right balance

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

"KP" asked scientist-beauties about their work, what benefits it will bring to mankind, and also about each one’s scientific approach to preserving her beauty. In the first part of our series, we had a Q&A session with the winner of the President’s Prize for Young Scientists, Yekaterina Proshkina, the Head of the Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Technologies at Moscow Physics-Technical Institute, Yelena Peterson, and a biologist and leading expert in a major international scientific and medical project, Polina Mamoshina.

In the second part, a graduate of the Physics-Technical Institute working at the world’s only institute specializing in research on aging, Maria Konovalenko, and a research associate in mathematical modeling at the Kharkevich Visual Systems Laboratory of the Institute for Information Transmission Problems, Yelena Kuznetsova, told us about their work and their "scientific" beauty secrets. Today, in the final part of the project, we interview two more heroines.

<figcaption>Leading researchers told journalists about their work and shared their beauty "know-how". </figcaption>
Leading researchers told journalists about their work and shared their beauty "know-how".

Evgenia Schastnaya: Avoiding baldness

This brunette with luxurious hair to just above the knee (!) looks like a fairytale beauty. When you meet her, the first thing that comes to mind is that it’s no accident that Eugenia Schastnaya  studies hair changes: it would be a sin not do everything possible to save such a mane. Speaking seriously, she works on major international biomedical projects that change human lives.

1. Your education and place of work?

“I graduated with honors from the Department of Bioengineering of the Biological faculty of Moscow State University, and now I am doing a Master's degree in the same department. After my Bachelor’s degree, I was hired as a research associate in the Insilco Medicine bioinformatics project based at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore (one of the world's leading research centers - Ed.). I am also a scientific consultant for a number of other projects.”

2. Your field of research?

“We use computer analysis of various biological data to study aging and age-related diseases. We recently managed to develop the world's first model to determine the sex and age of a person with a very high level of accuracy, using biochemical blood analysis. I solve many interesting problems, but the main one is the study of hair follicles to fight against age-related hair changes, which may begin in the twenties. I use data associated with gene activity in the cells that make up hair follicles. We compare this data from people with thick hair to those who suffer from some kind of baldness. Deep analysis allows us to find the areas that need to be targeted in balding people to restore healthy hair growth.”

Евгения Счастная.

3. What would you like to achieve, and what uses will it have?

“I want, as much as possible, to explore the life process of hair follicles to influence it and eventually find a successful method to fight hair loss.

At the same time, studying the aging mechanisms of hair follicles will help scientists better understand the aging process in general, accelerating the development of treatments for other age-related diseases. Hair follicles are a also unique target for regenerative medicine, as they are a source of stem cells from which, for instance, skin can be grown.”

4. Your “scientific” beauty recipe?

“In terms of hair care I try not to make any sudden movements ??. I want to draw the attention of readers to the fact that to date, the FDA (the Office of the Food and Drug Administration, United States - Ed.) only approved two anti-hair loss substances: Minoxidil (for men and women) and Finasteride (for men with androgenetic alopecia). These drugs have a number of side effects, visible changes start only after six weeks of use, and after discontinuation, the effect stops.

“Most pharmaceutical products against hair loss contain Minoxidil. Other products for hair growth often contain no active ingredients at all, despite the fact that they attract shoppers with their catchy names. I advise you to refrain from such purchases. And although no new effective products have been developed, this may sound corny, but science has proved that there are five ways to improve the condition head skin and hair: a healthy, varied diet, good sleep, giving up smoking, wearing hats during the cold season to protect the skin of the head, and UV protection of hair in summer, most reliably by  wearing a hat.

Евгения Счастная.

“Also I do not recommend that girls with long hair constantly use hairstyles that put pressure on the roots of the hair (tufts, ponytails). I advise them not to use heavy bath towels to roll up hair after a shower. Cut off split ends often and apply a conditioner every other time on the lower two-thirds of the hair. You can find a suitable conditioner for 100 rubles.”

Anastasia Georgievskaya: Working in the "Laboratory of Youth"

This graceful, beautiful woman can often be found at international conferences on beauty technology, youth, and scientific research on prolonging a healthy life. Biologist Anastasia Georgievskaya’s place of work speaks for itself: "The Laboratory of Youth."Анастасия Георгиевская.

1. Your education and place of work?

“I graduated from the Biological faculty of Moscow State University of Lomonosov,  Department of Bioengineering. I am a postgraduate at Moscow State University, and also work as a research associate in the international project "The Laboratory of Youth."

2. The field of your research?

My scientific work at Moscow State University is associated with biotechnological synthesis: we work on obtaining natural antioxidants from microalgae. This could be an effective and safe material for the production of medicines and cosmetics. Currently, there is no production in Russia, and all products have to be purchased abroad. My goal is to create systems for the industrial production of natural antioxidants in our country.

“At "The Laboratory of Youth", I research aging, developing computer algorithms that can recognize the signs of aging and age-related diseases from a photograph of a human face. These algorithms exist in mobile apps for smartphones. For example, you can already download for free the RYNKL application for iOS and Android that allows you to evaluate your appearance and the effects of cosmetic products by taking selfies. The program is designed to identify and evaluate wrinkles in certain areas of the face. This algorithm analyzes the effectiveness of creams and other products, and the impact of your lifestyle on your appearance.”

3. What would you like to achieve, and what will it bring to people?

“We collected a large database of human faces, and are planning to create a highly accurate biomarker of face aging, as well as a series of markers of specific age-related diseases. Ultimately, artificial intelligence will learn to determine how fast an ages, and how effectively certain anti-aging technologies work. These visual markers of disease will be a simple and affordable way to monitor health. Computer algorithms will make it possible to correct trouble in the early stages, suggesting a visit to the doctor.”

4. Your “scientific” recipe of beauty?

“Appearance is primarily a reflection of internal processes, so I carefully monitor my diet. Counting calories, I try to eat 5 portions fruits or vegetables a day, for vitamins and dietary fiber.  In the West, this concept is called «five a day» and is based on extensive studies by the World Health Organization. I drink about 1.5 liters of pure water a day. In skin care, moisturizing and delicate cleansing are very important. I always use a moisturizing cream for face and body. Hyaluronic acid is a good moisturizer, and for cleansing I prefer clay masks.

Starting in May, I always use a sun protection cream - the city has about 15t SPF, and on vacation I use 50. It has been shown that solar radiation makes the skin dry, wrinkled, and causes pigmentation spots to appear. I care for my hair with masks and apply argon oil on the ends. Also, I exercise regularly, mainly by swimming. Exercise improves mood and improves brain function.”


We asked why among famous researchers are there so few female names, and what is the future of women in science?

Head of the Institute for Computational Biology in Shanghai, Professor of the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skolkovo Tech), Philip Khaytovych:

“Among  science Nobels there are more men, but there are also many more of them in prisons. In a way this is connected to the biological features of the male and the female brain.

By nature and evolution, the male brain is much more focused on competing than the female brain. Males who win in competitions get access to a larger number of females, and thus, can leave more offspring. But to win a competition requires not only more powerful arms and legs, but also the adoption of unconventional, creative solutions. The same is required for discoveries in science. So we can say that scientific work is the manifestation of male brain features focused on competition and domination.

The female brain is more focused on identifying which of the males has the potential to become a leader, attracting him and creating a union, thus also rising on the hierarchical ladder. By the way, this is not an easy task. The female brain wins in its ability to recognize emotional states and opportunities for psychological manipulation — in a positive sense.

Women have always played a major role in science. The ratio of  “Nobel Prize” male and female winners in itself says nothing - just as it is incorrect to judge the well-being of a country based on the number of skyscrapers.

Now there is feminization and emancipation, growing employment and influence of women in all areas, including science. The other side of this process is the falling birth rate. Because of this, societies with greater emancipation can ultimately be driven out by populations with greater feminization and higher birth rates. But something else could happen: in the latter type of society, emancipation also could win. Then there would be more women in science. Will this endanger reproduction? Most likely,  but breakthroughs in science and technology  will allow humanity to avoid such a grim scenario.”

“Girl-Scientists have a crushing score"

Alexander Zhavoronkov, Candidate of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, Head of International Analytical Center for the Study of Aging, Head of the Laboratory for Regenerative Medicine in FNKTS Pediatric Hematology, Oncology and Immunology of D. Rogachev, a visiting Professor at MIPT:

“Many promising female scientists get married early and have children. And no matter what they say, citing those rare women who succeed both in science and in family life, children require care and time, and the main burden of care and education falls on women. This is why science often ceases to be a passion, becoming a work routine.

At the same time, new technologies in reproductive health allow women to bear healthy children at a later age. I’m convinced it’s time to start thinking about a new paradigm, inspiring women to have scientific careers rather than imposing on them outdated rules of the game.

Another problem standing in the way of women in science is sexism. In one very prestigious European company, it was made clear to me that management did not like a presentation given by “the little Russian bio-informatics-girls”. The next time only "little girls" were presenting. huh? Now these girls are leading that client’s most innovative projects, leading to serious scientific publications and useful new products.

Actually, people have often criticized me for having mostly scientists, who are mostly girls, in my team, and not enough business people. Recently, in an experiment, experienced businessmen-developers competed with young scientists on the number of contracts (or patents?) obtained for scientific innovation. And the “girl-scientists" defeated experienced adult men by a wide margin.

I also note that female scientists have a very responsible attitude toward their work. They are less hot-tempered, have more team loyalty, achieving what they need through flexible, diplomatic behavior, always bringing projects to conclusion.”

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