Sergey Kuznetsov tells about how he came up with the idea of Science & Vacation Program:
I graduated from Moscow State University. It used to be one of the best educational establishments in the entire country. My grades were good; I had a genuine interest for everything we were taught, which was mainly chemistry, but also lots of physics and mathematics. Yet throughout my student years I couldn't get rid of this slight but nagging feeling that something was amiss. It wasn't how I had imagined one's student years. I kept craving for something to make my search for knowledge exciting, to stimulate me, but it was mostly just routine devoid of passion and energy.
I gave up science and became a journalist, and lots of water passed under the bridge. In my early thirties I was awarded the Knight Journalism Fellowship and got to spend a year at Standford University. Stanford gave its fellows access to everything they possibly needed to study, explore and experiment. We could attend any lectures and seminars; we could use the university’s libraries and ask its Professors for advice.
That was exactly what I was lacking back in my Moscow student years. Of course, we also worked with all sorts of information back then. But Stanford was where I saw how new information could actually change me and affect my life. I found myself in an international multicultural environment, surrounded by people who were as mature, smart and inquisitive as I was. Our communication was unobstructed by competition or by the need to take sides which often occurs during group work. This was unexpected and important. It allowed us to form unique connections, ones that allow people to exchange experiences for sheer mutual benefit and fun. It's been fifteen years, and I still keep in touch with the friends I made there. We all agree about that year we shared in Stanford that it had changed both our minds and our lives.
In fact, that year changed the life of my entire family. My wife and I came to realise that communication is the most important thing that happens between people. We all have a deep need to share experiences and create new things together, and it’s important to handle this need thoughtfully. So over the next ten years we arranged multiple events and held small conferences on different subjects, exploring methods of passing information and getting people to interact in a way that would be useful and memorable.
A few years ago we moved to Paris and discovered that people here are very much interested in science even if it’s not connected directly to the field they work in. They try to keep up with the latest news in biology, genetics, physics and other things they find interesting, but nobody really has the time to look into these subjects in depth because there are other urgent things to pursue in life and business. Nevertheless, it’s obvious that science is back in the spotlight like it was in the fifties. Everybody is curious about what’s going on.
Unfortunately, no amount of TED lectures or MOOCs can fully help you catch up: very few of us are capable of sitting through several hours of video lectures and texts driven by nothing but sheer curiosity. Studying works much better in groups. That's the thought that brought us to remember that year back in Stanford. It was exactly the break everybody seems to lack: a fun and mind-nourishing time with companions who are on the same wavelength. So we came up with the idea of S&V, a program for people just like us: successful, energetic, inquisitive, but always too busy to learn a new subject thoroughly. We really want to make it possible for others to experience the excitement of discovery through learning; something many of us don’t even believe is achievable anymore since adulthood lacks the brand new eyes of studenthood.
We decided that our first two programs should be about simple topics that are equally meaningful for everybody, like food and smell. Our Science of Food and Vibration Theory of Olfaction courses will both start in October. We are also currently negotiating with several professors from major world universities and hope to surprise you with amazing new courses next year.