Interview: Dr. Artem Oganov, a Distinguished Professor at Skoltech, Russia

It is my honor to interview Dr. Artem R. Oganov, a world-renowned scientist whose expertise spans chemistry, crystallography, mineralogy, and materials science. He is the winner of many awards, including the prestigious European Mineralogical Union medal. And since 2017, he has been a proud member of the European Academy of Sciences.

Dr. Oganov’s academic journey began in 1997 when he graduated with honors from the Geological Faculty of Moscow State University, specializing in Crystallography and Crystal Chemistry. He then earned a PhD in Crystallography from University College London in 2002, followed by another PhD from the Zurich Polytechnic Institute in 2007.

After a period of living and working in the United States for some time, Dr. Oganov took the helm of a laboratory at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology and, in 2015, became a Professor at Skoltech. Together with his students, he is pushing the boundaries of science by predicting new materials with extraordinary properties before they are even created.

Despite his busy schedule, Dr. Oganov kindly took the time to sit down for an interview with us. Please find our insightful conversation below.

What initially sparked your interest in Crystallography, and what motivated you to pursue it as a career?

Crystallography is a very beautiful and mighty science. It combines the two subjects I was passionate about since early childhood – chemistry and mineralogy.

How does the formation of aquodiium ions at high pressures and temperatures compare to the behavior of water under normal conditions? Ref- Aquodiium Ions Stabilized by Pressure

At normal conditions this ion is impossible, being energetically too unfavorable. Pressure and acidic conditions change this.

How significant is the role of an acidic environment in facilitating the addition of a proton to the hydronium ion?

It’s almost as essential as the role of pressure. When there is excess of protons (which is the case of acidic environment), it’s much easier to protonate anything.

Could the findings about aquodiium ions under high pressure and acidic conditions have applications or implications beyond planetary science?

Certainly, at least in basic chemistry. This ion is beautiful enough to find its path to textbooks of chemistry.

What are the emerging trends or innovations in integrating ab initio methods with evolutionary algorithms, and how might they shape future research in computational chemistry or materials science? Ref- Crystal structure prediction using evolutionary algorithms

The main challenge today is takling very complex crystal structures, with thousands of atoms. This will most likely require new ideas, old ideas and brute force approaches will not be sufficient.

What are your other interests besides academic commitments … reading, painting, gardening, skiing maybe?

History, doing experiments with my children and traveling with my children and wife.

Someone comes up to you and says, “I wanna be just like you. I want to be an Interdisciplinary Materials Scientist”, what advice would you give?

I’ll be flattered, but will advise that person to be oneself. We are at our best when we are ourselves.

Quick bits:

What is your favourite movie quote?

“It Ain’t About How Hard You Hit, It’s About How Hard You Can Get Hit And Keep Moving Forward.”

If you were a superhero what would your powers be?

The power to understand people.

Your favourite scientific innovation of the 21st century?


What will your TED Talk be 10 years from now?

It would be about the new materials that have been predicted using my methods and then revolutionized society

If you could solve one global issue, what would it be?

Improving education

What books should I read in 2023?

The Apocalypse 🙂

(Wow! Thank you, Dr. Oganov, for an incredibly inspiring conversation! Your work is a true source of inspiration. We eagerly anticipate our next visit to witness more of your innovative research. Until then, we extend our best wishes for your continued success in all your future endeavors.)

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