The UP Faculty of Science celebrated a silver graduation. After twenty-five years, more than sixty alumni have retaken their academic pledge, repeating the ceremonial act they first attended when graduating in 1994.
The invited graduates radiated smiles and a good mood. One of them was Lenka Orságová, who came from Bruntál for the ceremony. “I like to reminisce about my school days, it was a very beautiful five years. It’s nice that the faculty still thinks about us and that we can repeat the academic pledge after twenty-five years. The first time we met with the girls was after thirteen long years. Now we see each other every three or four years in the autumn. We meet, we chat, have a ladies’ night, and return home,” said Orságová, a Mathematics – Descriptive Geometry graduate.
The ceremony, during which the graduates received honorary diplomas, was performed by Vice-Rector Pavel Banáš and Vice-Deans Karel Lemr and Karel Hron. “The silver graduation, organised by the Faculty of Science for years, is a wonderful tradition, which enables alumni to meet after all these years, stay together and reminisce about their studies. I wish them only the best in the upcoming years,” said Vice-Rector Pavel Banáš, on behalf of the university rector.
After the ceremonial pledge in the auditorium, group photos, a toast, and lunch, the silver graduates shared their impressions. “It was an incredible and dignified experience. It all came back to me, how it was those 25 years ago. The only difference was that for the first graduation ceremonies, we wore gowns,” added Alma Ciprysová, a Mathematics – Descriptive Geometry graduate, who came from Tvrdonice in South Moravia.
The silver graduation ceremonies, during which graduates renew their university pledge after a quarter of a century, have been held at the faculty since 2009. Alumni celebrating their 50th and 60th graduation anniversaries will attend gold and diamond graduation ceremonies on Friday, November 8.
Together with Fort Science, the Faculty of Science will participate in the European Heritage Days, a traditional annual event, during which the doors of the most interesting monuments, buildings, properties and premises, including those that are otherwise partially or completely inaccessible, are opened to the public. On Saturday, September 7, people can visit newly refurbished laboratories of the Department of Optics and the Department of Experimental Physics, explore the main building of the Faculty of Science and discover the colourful world of fungi in the interactive science museum.
“During the European Heritage Days we have prepared tours of our laboratories that boast exacting parameters in terms of microclimates, which provides us with completely new, unique conditions for carrying out the most demanding experiments. We will try to show the visitors what we are doing here,” said Jaromír Fiurášek, head of the Department of Optics. The Faculty of Science will also make accessible its main building, including a terrace with a view of the historical Olomouc town centre.
The popular science centre Fort Science also encourages people to visit, and offers a peek into the world of fungi. “In the Fort we want to unveil the microscopic structures of fungi to the visitors, familiarise them with the broad spectrum of fungi’s effects and help people understand how and why fungi cause plant diseases,” said Barbora Mieslerová, from the Department of Botany. The lecturers will also focus on the phenomenon of country cottages, the subject of psychedelia, and fungal diseases of the human body, including a Sunday mycological identification centre with Prof Vítězslav Bičík. Those who are interested can bring mushrooms that they do not know, or are not sure about their edibility. “The programme will also include an unusual exhibition called ‘Mykokosmos’ and a lecture by mycologist Jiří Polčák entitled ‘Fungi wherever you look’. Film lovers certainly should not miss the screening of the short film ‘Who’s Who in Mycology’. This film, by Marie Dvořáková, was awarded a student Oscar in 2017,” Martina Vysloužilová, said, inviting all to the programme.
The European Heritage Days are a Europe-wide learning and social activity aimed at protecting cultural heritage. In Olomouc they are associated with a rich cultural programme. The Czech Republic joined the European Heritage Days in 1991 and the event is held under the auspices of the Association of Historical Settlements in Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia.
Palacký University has achieved the best positions in its history in the prestigious ARWU Academic Ranking of World Universities, the Shanghai Rankings. Among the one thousand evaluated universities, UP placed between the 501st and 600th positions, improving its score by one hundred places compared to the previous year. In the country, UP is second best after Charles University in Prague, but it has surpassed Masaryk University in Brno. The best scores were achieved by UP in Natural and Medical Sciences.
The Shanghai Rankings is together with the QS World University Rankings and the THE World University Rankings one of the three most prestigious international rankings. The ARWU ranking is focussed mainly on the academic and research activities of the universities, using six indicators, including the number of articles published in the journals Nature and Science, the number of cited researchers in the Highly Cited Researchers database, and the number of Nobel prize-winners affiliated with a given institution. Palacký University was first listed in the rankings three years ago (601st–700th) and defended that placing two years ago. UP has however significantly improved its score in the last edition of the rankings.
Academic ranking of world universities 2019total score
“The placement of Palacký University on the verge of top 500 universities in the world is a sign that we have come a long way in the last few years. My thanks go to all employees, because this success stems from collective efforts. I consider the results of one of the most prestigious global rankings as a confirmation of our great work, and being second best in the country makes us obligated. It has turned out that we are capable of entering the club of top global universities for good, however, we need to keep up the hard work,” said UP Rector Jaroslav Miller.
The Czech Republic is represented in the rankings by seven universities. Olomouc’s university has bettered its standings in one half of monitored indicators: in the number of highly cited researchers according to Clarivate Analytics, the number of publications in Nature and Science, and its academic performance.
“To succeed and significantly improve one’s score within a few years in these prestigious rankings, dominated by the U.S. universities and often criticised for its criteria letting the financially secure institutions prevail, is proof that the quality of a university’s work does not rely exclusively on the amount of financial means at hand. This result is a positive stimulus as well as an obligation for the future years to maintain these positions,” said Hana Marešová, Vice-Rector for Strategic Planning and Quality.
The Shanghai rankings also rank universities in individual disciplines within the natural sciences, medical sciences, technical sciences, life sciences, and social sciences. Palacký University has placed in seven areas; the only Czech universities that have placed more often were Charles University (30) and Masaryk University (13). The oldest Moravian university has placed highest in agricultural science, placing globally in that category between the 151st and 200th positions, and domestically tied for first in the country, together with Charles University and the Czech University of Agriculture Prague. In physics, UP occupies the 301st–400th positions (no. 3 in the country after Charles University and Czech Technical University). Its first ever ranking in chemistry, biological sciences, pharmacy, and ecology and public health has resulted in placement between 401st–500th positions. The rankings are available HERE.
The ARWU ranking was originally produced by Shanghai University and since 2009 it has been published by the Shanghai Ranking Consultancy company. The dominance of American universities in the top fifteen is broken only by British universities: the University of Cambridge in third place, the University of Oxford in 7th place, and University College London in 15th place.
Advanced driving assistance systems are no guarantee of traffic safety. This has been proved by an investigation by experts from Palacký University and the Czech Academy of Sciences, who have created a new instructional system for drivers, driving schools, and automobile dealers.
In the project “Adaptation of people to advanced assistance systems for drivers of motor vehicles”, experts from the UP Faculty of Arts and the Institute of Information Theory and Automation, Czech Academy of Sciences, mapped what positive and negative impact driving assistance systems have on traffic safety. These include adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, lane departure warning systems, blind spot monitors, driver drowsiness detection, parking sensors, and automobile navigation systems.
“We determined that the newly-developed intelligent systems do not necessarily increase traffic safety. The theory of risk compensation of states that drivers count on a certain level of risk while driving. If there are safety systems in use, it can happen that drivers unconsciously behave in a more dangerous manner. A typical example of this is ABS,” said Matúš Šucha, Head of the Department of Psychology at the UP Faculty of Arts and the project leader. According to Šucha, too much information from intelligent systems can significantly influence the driver’s attention and his or her immediate reactions.
The goal of the extensive research project by UP and CAS experts was to develop instructional materials for drivers and thus improve traffic culture in the country.
“And we did. The result of our work is an effective knowledge foundation which can be used for information campaigns by state institutions, driving schools, and automobile manufacturers. These campaigns ought to accompany the introduction of advanced driving assistance systems in automobiles. We are making available to their creators – and everyone else – unique interactive educational software, educational videos, handbooks for driving schools, and lots of information for automobile dealers,” the UP transport psychologist added.
The project was created in cooperation with the Department of Psychology, UP Faculty of Arts, and the Czech Academy of Sciences. The research, in which 526 people in various age groups took part, was funded by the Czech Technology Agency. More information is available here (in Czech).
Palacký University has improved its position in the international Nature Index ranking of universities and research institutions, which evaluates their publication outputs in the area of natural sciences. Thanks to its results last year, it advanced 6.3% and moved from the 251st to the 237th position in Europe. In terms of numbers of articles, it is in 189th place; its highest number of publications are in the physical sciences.
The rankings are made by the Springer Nature publishing house on the basis of the 82 most prestigious journals according to the Web of Science database. This is a small but highly cited subset of the total number of publications in natural sciences. The Nature Index ranks according to four scientific disciplines: life sciences, chemistry, the physical sciences, and Earth and environmental sciences. Outputs are not standardized according to the size of institutions.
“Palacký University today is one of the five most important research institutions in the country. In supporting science and research, with an emphasis on quality and massive internationalisation, we are rising not only in global rankings, but we are also fulfilling a basic strategic goal which university leadership has established – to secure UP a place in the elite club of research universities. This is why I am pleased that our results in the recently published Nature Index show the quality of our publication outputs and prove our position among the best research institutions in the country,” Rector Jaroslav Miller said, commenting on the results. He also emphasised that this ranking only takes into account a selection of the best outputs, which means roughly one percent of all natural science journals contained in the Web of Science – all of which have gone through the most demanding peer review processes.
UP scientists in the physical sciences boast the greatest output of highly cited papers published in prestigious journals in the past year (62). These were followed by papers in chemistry (16), life sciences (10), and Earth and environmental sciences (4).
The Nature Index ranked 4,800 institutions. The Czech Republic was in the same place as last year, in 26th place (15th in Europe), but as opposed to last year however it dropped 3.6 percent. Czech institutions in the Top 500 were the Czech Academy of Sciences and Charles University Prague. Masaryk University in Brno also bettered UP in the ranking. For more information, click here.
Czech scientists have joined their international colleagues in calling on the European Parliament and the European Commission to change legislation regarding the use of modern methods of plant genome editing, which will free them to carry out research to benefit agriculture, the economy, and society as a whole. They published their Open Statement exactly one year after the European Court of Justice (ECJ) decided that plants bred by these methods fall into the category of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). Ivo Frébort, Director of UP’s Centre for the Region Haná (CRH), and Jaroslav Doležel, CRH’s scientific director, both joined the appeal.
According to the signatories, the ECJ decision means that crops with slightly improved genomes, which can also occur spontaneously in nature, fall under restrictive European regulations which forbid these improvements in practice. Leading biologists and scientists disagree with this ruling and voiced their opposition to the possible negative impacts of it one year ago. The text of their statement is available here.
Representatives of the leadership at CHR, which unites teams of the UP Faculty of Science, the Institute of Experimental Botany of the Czech Academy of Sciences, and the Crop Research Institute, have joined in. In reaction to the decision by the European Court of Justice, they called last December on the Czech prime minister and other politicians to push through changes in EU legislation in this area.
According to professors Frébort and Doležel, there are fears that the existing situation could permanently damage EU countries: “While throughout the world there are more and more countries allowing this modern technology, Europe remains rigid. Each month the gap between EU countries and progressive countries widens, which can have very negative impacts on European agriculture, production, food quality, and also on the environment.”
EU Legal regulations on GMOs do not reflect the current state of scientific knowledge, according to the experts. Plants which have undergone simple and targeted genome improvements through the help of precise CRISPR breeding and which do not contain foreign genes are just as safe as if they were obtained from classic breeding techniques. The scientists are calling on European authorities to react quickly and amend the legal regulations so that the use of these methods does not fall under mandates on GMOs. CRISPR has huge potential in the area of research and innovations, and last but not least, it can help in confronting acute challenges, especially in conjunction with climatic changes.
The main initiator of the European initiative is Dirk Inzé, Scientific Director of the VIB-UGhent Department of Plant Systems Biology. “This is one of the rare examples in which the scientific community across the entire EU has united and unanimously calls for a revision of the European legislation affecting genome editing. The initiative is supported by 121 leading European institutions, and currently, this topic is a buzzword for politicians at the European, as well as national levels. Our endeavour is supported by most of the agricultural ministries across EU countries. It is necessary to move to the level of the European Parliament now.”
His words were also supported by Czech Minister of Agriculture Miroslav Toman. “In general, the Czech Republic supports these new methods, provided that the findings of plant and animal breeding shall not be subjected to patents. The reason for this is to protect new Czech small and middle breeding companies, as well as the breeders, so that they are able to continue using breeding material during the creation of new plant varieties,” the minister said.
In the Czech Republic, the initiative is supported by CEITEC at Masaryk University in Brno. “Plant breeding may contribute significantly to new crop varieties that are less susceptible to pathogens and more resilient to drought. This will enable farmers to produce high yields, while decreasing the use of chemicals and water,” emphasised Karel Říha, Deputy Science Director at CEITEC, who carries out research in the area of plant genetics. He also pointed out that the European Union is surrounded by an ever-growing number of countries that are more open and responsive to the genome editing issue. “The ECJ’s decision means that the core of research will be pushed outside of Europe. As a consequence, control over such progressive technology, which will significantly form new approaches to agriculture and medicine, shall be lost, whether or not we want it to,” Říha warned.
The initiative is also supported by the directors of relevant institutes of the Czech Academy of Sciences (CAS) and other representatives of leading Czech scientific institutions and universities:
Prof. Vojtěch Adam, Vice-Rector of Mendel University in Brno
Doc. Eva Bártová, Director of the Institute of Biophysics of the Czech Academy of Sciences (CAS)
Prof. Jaroslav Doležel, Science Director of the Centre of the Region Haná for Biotechnical and Agricultural Research (CRH)
Prof. Ivo Frébort, Director of the Centre of the Region Haná for Biotechnical and Agricultural Research (CRH)
Prof. František Foret, Director of the Institute of Analytical Chemistry of the Czech Academy of Sciences (CAS)
Prof. Libor Grubhoffer, Director of the Biology Centre of the Czech Academy of Sciences (CAS)
Prof. František Marec, Deputy Director of the Biology Centre of the Czech Academy of Sciences (CAS)
Dr. Karel Říha, Deputy Science Director of CEITEC Masaryk University
RNDr. Martin Vágner, CSc., Director of the Institute of Experimental Botany of the Czech Academy of Sciences (CAS)
Seventeen students of a two-year Master’s programme International Development Studies – GLODEP had their graduation ceremony at the Faculty of Science Assembly Hall. This joint master programme is provided by the Palacký University Olomouc in cooperation with foreign universities.
„I consider getting a Master’s degree as a significant step in my life. The possibility of sharing with others the situation in my country regarding democracy was also important to me. I want to return to my previous employment as a disaster preparedness officer, where I was responsible for prevention, conducting analyses and disaster assessment in the office of the Prime Minister of Uganda. I want to use my newly acquired knowledge. In case it fails, I will look for other options based on my previous experience to improve my job position,“ said Raymond Kirungi from Uganda.
The GLODEP study programme offers the opportunity to study at three European universities that implement programmes regarding development studies and development economics. In addition to Palacký University there is also the University of Clermont Auvergne in France and University of Pavia in Italy. The aim of this programme is to prepare students for work in the area of development policies, therefore other non-European universities are also involved in the cooperation.
Romina Palacios from Ecuador will look for job in an international organization or non-profit organization (NGO). „At GLODEP we have learned many quantitative techniques that are important in order to monitor and analyse development programs. I would like to work in the field of human rights, good governance or democracy or the environment. I will search all over the world and I want to choose the best offer.“
Professor Jean Francois Brun and professor Maria Sassi from partner universities in France and Italy also took part in the graduation ceremony of the International Development Studies at the Faculty of Science. They were also present at final state examinations and at diploma theses defences.
„We are glad that we could welcome these esteemed guests in Olomouc. Their speeches and anthems of both countries were heard at the graduation ceremony. Since almost all students were from distant places, such as Bhutan, Pakistan, Uganda and other countries, it was difficult to invite the closest family. Nevertheless, this moment was very important for all students,“ said Miroslav Syrovátka, director of a consortium of three universities from the Department of Development and Environmental Studies, FS UP.
Martin Golec from the Department of History at the Palacký University Olomouc Faculty of Arts, Petr Zajíček from the Cave Administration of the Czech Republic, and Ivo Světlík from the Nuclear Physics Institute at the Czech Academy of Sciences have announced a unique discovery. They have determined that Catherine’s Cave in the Moravian Karst contains the oldest cave drawing in the Czech Republic. The origin of the geometrical patterns, made by charcoal on the walls, was determined by radiocarbon dating to be more than six thousand years-old.
There are more than one thousand caves in the Moravian Karst, and five of them contain numerous relics, especially signatures of people who used to enter the caves from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries. These caves have been the object of interest for a team of scientists in their research of cave drawings supported by the UP Internal Grant Agency.
“I have been studying the Moravian Karst since 2007, and the signatures of people, mostly tourists, who visited the caves, start in the eighteenth century. However, in Catherine’s Cave, we found among them a group of lines that differed. Our suspicion that they originate from a different era was confirmed by radiocarbon analysis,” said Martin Golec from the Department of History. The analysis revealed that the drawings located in Catherine’s Cave are the oldest in the Czech Republic. They were created in the Early Neolithic age, 6200 years ago.
“Carbon-14 dating with low-mass samples is a great contribution for archaeologists. Ivo Světlík from the Nuclear Physics Institute significantly helped our discovery by enhancing the method of taking cave drawing samples. The samples gathered on a piece of cotton wool soaked with a special solution were cautiously prepared for measurements in a special device and sent to Debrecen, Hungary, for final measurements. The loss of radioactive carbon can be used to measure the period when the work was created. The new method of extraction damages the drawings to a minimal extent, which is very important in terms of their protection,” the UP archaeologist added.
The meaning of the paintings, however, remains unclear. Their location deep in dark recesses, on prominent protrusions and crevices, may be explained as a way of marking the place where spiritual rituals related to higher entities occurred. Martin Golec rejects the idea that they might have been made by a person who was idling with a piece of charcoal. He believes that their author saw something deeper behind every structure of the pattern; however today’s science simply cannot decode their meaning.
This unparalleled discovery will become part of a Bachelor’s thesis by Lucie Minaříková, whose adviser is Martin Golec. The data will be subsequently published in various journals; scientists hope to publish their extraordinary findings in the prestigious British journal Radio Carbon.
“It is beyond belief. Every year, up to 70 thousand visitors visit Catherine’s Cave. Generations of scientists and tourists have been passing by these six-thousand-year-old paintings without taking any notice,” the UP archaeologist added.
Palacký University Olomouc has been included in the international QS World University Ranking for the fourth time. In the 16th year of the rankings, UP placed between the 601st and 650th position, achieving its best result so far. The Czech Republic is represented in the rankings by nine universities; seven of them are in the top 800. The best Czech school is Charles University in Prague (291st place). The rankings include 1000 universities from 82 countries.
Palacký University appeared for the first time in the prestigious rankings in the 2017 edition within the 651st to 700th positions. It occupied the same place last year, however its position has improved.
“I am very pleased for having stepped up again in such prestigious rankings. The results have once again confirmed that Palacký University is still among the five most successful universities in the country and that the gradual adjustment of the system of assessment at our university, which allows to analyse in detail the individual performance indicators of our activity, has brought visible results. At the same this score has been proof of the tireless and diligent work of our academic and non-academic workers, to whom we owe our thanks,” said Rector Jaroslav Miller.
QS World University Rankings evaluate universities according to six metrics. The assessed areas include the global reputation among academics and employers, the number of published academic citations per faculty member, the student-to-faculty ratio, the international faculty ratio, and the international student ratio. In the criterion of Proportion of International Faculty, Olomouc’s university is number one in Czechia. In comparison to the previous year, it has also improved in the indicators of Faculty/Student Ratio (78 positions) and International Students Ratio.
“During the last year, in order to further develop the system of quality assessment, we have introduced systemic international and national benchmarking, which helps us find out in which factors influencing our performance and quality in all activities our university still has reserves in comparison with the international ones, and which areas require systemic work to enable us to enhance our performance. That has been shown for example in the improved parameters of regional collaboration, collaboration with international and national partners, and in a proposal for improving performance indicators in the educational and creative activities of academic employees. We expect that the results of these analyses will become evident in the coming years, and Palacký University Olomouc will thus maintain its positions in international rankings,” said Hana Marešová, Vice-Rector for Strategic Planning and Quality Control.
The Czech Republic as a whole has also improved its score compared to the previous year. While last year’s rankings included five Czech universities, their number has almost doubled this year. In this year's national comparison, Palacký University is ranked fifth behind Charles University, the University of Chemistry and Technology Prague, Czech Technical University in Prague, and Masaryk University in Brno. The Brno University of Technology and the Technical University of Liberec were also included in the TOP 800.
QS World University Rankings 2019QS World University Rankings 2020Charles University in Prague313291University of Chemistry and Technology Prague-355Czech Technical University in Prague531–540498Masaryk University571–580551–600Palacký University Olomouc651–700601–650Brno University of Technology651–700651–700Technical University of Liberec-751–800Czech University of Life Sciences in Prague-801–1000University of Ostrava801–1000
The global academic arena has been dominated, for the eighth time in row, by MIT, followed by Stanford University and Harvard University. The complete rankings results are available here. The international QS World University Rankings® are considered the most prestigious international university rankings along with the Times Higher Education World University Rankings and the Shanghai Rankings.
About one hundred students in all age groups from various countries are coming to Palacký University Olomouc to study Czech. They will cultivate their Czech language skills from July 20 to August 18 during the Summer School of Slavonic Studies (SSSS), organised by the UP Faculty of Arts.
The preparations for the 33rd year of the Summer School of Slavonic Studies are in full throttle, and according to Pavla Poláchová, the SSSS director; around one hundred students have confirmed their attendance. “The number is not final yet, because they can apply until June 30,” she explained.
Perhaps the oldest student this year will be a seventy-three-year-old lady from the U.S., while the youngest, a nineteen-year-old, is coming from China. The applicants include students from Europe, Japan, China, Vietnam, and also Azerbaijan, Taiwan, Columbia, and Argentina. Germany is the country with the most students coming.
Whereas the previous years the took place in the UP Arts Centre, this year’s intense courses in Czech and afternoon lectures, seminars, and workshops will be held in the renovated premises of the Faculty of Arts.
“Students will have at their disposal classrooms with modern equipment, quiet study rooms, a relaxation zone connected to the gardens at the city ramparts walls, and the new university bistro. One of the novelties this year is the collaboration with student clubs which allowed us to offer a bike tour of Olomouc sights, theatre and movement workshops with the theatres Nabalkoně and Divadlo na cucky, and a workshop on Czech poetry,” said Poláchová.
The one hundred foreign students will be taught Czech by Faculty of Arts teachers as well as external teachers who are usually alumni of the faculty. “This year, we have Czech teachers who have been teaching Czech during the school year in London, Dijon, Bucharest, and Vienna; one Czech teacher will even arrive from Taiwan,” added Poláchová.
In addition to classes and an accompanying educational programme, SSSS participants will also attend the Faculty of Arts film club, a traditional folklore night with hammer dulcimer music, an abundance of leisure time sport activities, and weekend field trips to other Moravian towns.
“During the summer school, students will not only learn the language, but also Czech culture and lifestyle in general. Dozens of them are fond of regularly coming back, because although it involves studying, it is a for them a pleasant way of spending their summer in the Czech Republic, in a beautiful town where they both improve their Czech and make new friends,” said Poláchová. More information is available HERE.