Dear students, esteemed colleagues, allow me to greet you upon the occasion of the new 2020/2021 academic year.
I’d like to wish you all much success, motivation and enthusiasm, despite the fact (or perhaps because of it) that we may be facing similar, non-standard circumstances as we did in the spring. We cannot exclude, in case the epidemiological situation worsens, the fact that the university might have to massively shift to the distance model of teaching this semester. If such a situation does come to pass, I firmly believe that we will handle it better than in the spring. We will not give up on the joy we get from education, no matter in what form it takes place.
Palacký University has gone through many difficult situations in its long history, and I remain confident that we will pass this “test” successfully, too.
So please, behave responsibly to one another, and maintain all safety and hygiene rules – because the health of each one of us depends upon the rest.
Rector, Palacký University Olomouc
New substances that have a chance of becoming part of cancer pharmacotherapy in the future have been developed by scientists from the Regional Centre of Advanced Technologies and Materials (RCPTM). The new group of copper coordination compounds contains natural substances in their structure isolated from the fruit maclura pomifera. The new substances show marked effects against cancer cells along with low toxicity to healthy human cells. The discovery has been already protected by a national patent.
One of the team’s long-term goals is to extend, by innovating the composition and mechanism, the range of anticancer agents with those that will be more effective than metal compound-based drugs, especially platinum, which are commonly used today. At the same time, they will a have noticeably greater effect against cancer cells, while being almost non-toxic to healthy cells and producing lower adverse side effects.
“The development of a third generation of copper coordination compounds is our latest, notable achievement in this area. These compounds differ significantly in composition and structure from previously presented copper-containing substances, which received patent protection in 2012 and 2017. These are complexes containing small organic molecules, or ligands, from the group of natural isoflavones. Specifically, these are osajin and pomiferin, which were originally isolated from the fruit tree maclura pomifera,” explained the team’s leader, Zdeněk Trávníček.
In terms of the scope of their effect on human tumour cell lines, these compounds are comparable to their predecessors from the RCPTM ‘manufacturer’. The most efficient substances surpass the effect of the most widely used complex drug—cisplatin—by up to 100-fold, with their toxicity to healthy human liver cells appearing almost negligible,” said another member of the research team, Ján Vančo.
The use of the new and unique copper complexes in cancer therapy, specifically in the treatment of malignant tumours in the ovaries (including those resistant to the most commonly used drug cisplatin), breasts, prostate, colon, rectum, bones or lungs, has been protected since last July by a patent entitled Heteroleptic copper complexes with osajine or pomiferin and their use in preparing medicaments for treating cancer (CZ 308426, inventors: Trávníček Z.; Vančo J.; Dvořák Z.)
However, the patent’s originators point out that the road to using the prepared substances as pharmaceuticals is still long and rather bumpy, and many more experiments and collaborations with strong partners from both biomedicine and the pharmaceutical industry will be still needed for their possible application.
The development of the substances took about five years. Substances with an anticancer effect have been of interest to Olomouc scientists for a number of years. Overall, Professor Travníček’s team has already obtained 17 national and two European patents that protect the biomedical use of a range of compounds based on gold, copper, iron, platinum or tantalum. They all have distinct anti-tumour and some of them simultaneously anti-inflammatory effects.
The requirement to wear masks inside UP premises, which went into effect on 10 September, will as of Friday, 18 September also extend to classes. As the Czech Ministry of Health confirmed to UP management, students and teachers will be required to wear masks or other personal protection equipment for respiratory passages during lectures and seminars, in lecture halls and seminar rooms alike. We ask you to observe these rules and respect your colleagues and fellow students. This requirement affects not only regular classes but also the University of the Third Age.
At the same time, we are asking everyone to be responsible and use hand sanitizer, ventilate interior spaces, etc. UP will keep you informed as to any eventual further restrictions to the regime at UP; in the meantime, the rules and information published on 7 September remain in effect.
Furthermore, individual faculties may still issue their own supplemental measures with respect to the specifics of their organisation, above and beyond the recommendations of UP management. Therefore, you should regularly check the webpages of your faculty.
In mid-August, Palacký University Olomouc was the first Czech university to express support for Belarusian citizens striving for liberal and democratic development in their homeland. At that time, UP also promised to devise special scholarships for Belarusians interested in studying in the Czech Republic. The project is now taking real shape. UP is offering selected students and academics extraordinary scholarships for study or research internships in Olomouc, in the total amount of €33,000. The first scholarship holders will be able to arrive in Olomouc during the beginning of the summer semester of this academic year, i.e. in February 2021.
“I have been following the disturbing developments in Belarus from the very start and I believe that Belarusian society will eventually embark on the path of freedom and democracy. In these difficult times, we should try to offer Belarusians solidarity and any kind of help. UP is strongly involved in Scholars at Risk, which helps endangered academics anywhere in the world. And Belarusian students and scientists do fall into this category. I am glad that we can help them,” said UP Rector Jaroslav Miller, in appreciation of the newly established scholarship programme.
UP has prepared scholarships for a total of five students and three or four academics from Belarusian State University in Minsk and Yanka Kupala State University in Grodno. A scholarship for four months is being prepared for individual students, in the amount of 800 euros per month. As for academics, they can come to Olomouc for a monthly internship with a stipend of 3,500 euros. Both students and academics will receive a travel allowance of 275 euros.
“In the past, especially after 1989, Palacký University experienced the support and generosity of Western universities, and thanks to them UP was able to develop into today’s modern academy. I am glad that we are in a position today where we can help other universities in a similar way. Helping Belarusian students and academics is a joyous duty for us, but also a symbol of responsibility,” added Martin Kudláček, Vice-Rector for International Affairs.
It is not for the first time that UP has offered a helping hand to academics and students from countries that have gone through complicated political events. In 2016, for instance, UP employed two persecuted Turkish academics who lost their jobs during President Erdogan’s purges. In 2014, during the “Euromaidan”, UP offered scholarships to seven Ukrainian students who came to study law, medicine, and philosophy.
New substances that have a chance of becoming part of cancer pharmacotherapy in the future have been developed by scientists from the Regional Centre of Advanced Technologies and Materials (RCPTM) at UP. The new group of copper coordination compounds contains natural substances in their structure isolated from the fruit Maclura pomifera (Osage orange, hedge apple). The new substances show marked effects against cancer cells along with low toxicity to healthy human cells. The discovery has already been protected by a national patent.
One of the team’s long-term goals is to extend, by innovating the composition and mechanism, the range of anticancer agents with those that will be more effective than metal compound-based drugs, especially platinum, which are commonly used today. At the same time, they will a have noticeably greater effect against cancer cells, while being almost non-toxic to healthy cells and producing lower adverse side effects.
“The development of a third generation of copper coordination compounds is our latest, notable achievement in this area. These compounds differ significantly in composition and structure from previously presented copper-containing substances, which received patent protection in 2012 and 2017. These are complexes containing small organic molecules, or ligands, from the group of natural isoflavones. Specifically, these are osajin and pomiferin, which were originally isolated from the fruit tree Maclura pomifera,” explained the team’s leader, Zdeněk Trávníček.
In terms of the scope of their effect on human tumour cell lines, these compounds are comparable to their predecessors from the RCPTM ‘factory’. “The most efficient substances surpass the effects of the most widely used complex drug—cisplatin—by up to 100-fold, with their toxicity to healthy human liver cells appearing almost negligible,” said another member of the research team, Ján Vančo.
The use of the new and unique copper complexes in cancer therapy, specifically in the treatment of malignant tumours in the ovaries (including those resistant to the most commonly used drug, cisplatin), breasts, prostate, colon, rectum, bones, or lungs, has been protected since last July by a patent entitled Heteroleptic copper complexes with osajin and pomiferin and their use in preparing drugs for treating cancer (CZ patent no. 308426, authors: Trávníček Z.; Vančo J.; Dvořák Z.)
However, the patent’s authors point out that the road to using the prepared substances as pharmaceuticals is still long and rather bumpy, and many more experiments and collaborations with strong partners from both the biomedicine and pharmaceutical industries will be still needed for their possible application.
The development of the substances took about five years. Substances with an anticancer effect have been of interest to Olomouc scientists for a number of years. Overall, Prof Travníček's team has already obtained 17 national and two European patents that protect the biomedical use of a range of compounds based on gold, copper, iron, platinum, and tantalum. They all have distinct anti-tumoral, and some of them simultaneously anti-inflammatory, effects.
Palacký University Olomouc is ranked 601st–800th in the prestigious international ranking of universities THE World University Rankings 2021. UP has thus confirmed its position from previous years. In the domestic comparison, UP shares second place with Masaryk University in Brno; domestic leader Charles University in Prague occupies the 401st–500th positions once again.
In five monitored areas, UP performed best in the International Outlook category, where it finished in 432nd place.
“This year, we have so far managed to maintain last year’s positions in all monitored rankings, including the THE rankings. Without overestimating the importance of these results, which should be viewed in a broader context, this indicates a certain trend of stabilisation of our performance, for which our employees deserve thanks again. What I find positive compared to last year is the improvement in research productivity and income from science and research, which are important parameters for us, given that in the future we are forced to look for ways to be more independent, especially in relation to European subsidy programmes,” said Hana Marešová, Vice-Rector for Strategic Planning and Quality.
The oldest Moravian university is making its sixth appearance in the evaluation. In this year’s edition, along with Charles University and Masaryk University, it has maintained its positions in global and domestic comparison. Czech higher education is represented by 18 universities in the THE rankings; the University of South Bohemia in České Budějovice has also managed to be included among the one thousand best universities in the world.
The indicators monitored by THE World University Rankings are divided into five areas: International Outlook, Citations, Teaching, Research, and Industry Income. UP has improved its position in the Research category compared to the previous year, as it leaped from 681st to 572nd position, and defended the third position in the Czech Republic after Charles University and Masaryk University.
Traditionally, UP has high standings in Citations, with a score of 49.5 points compared to 46.9 last year. Among Czech universities, only Charles University had a better result (56.3 pts). For example, the University of South Bohemia scored 40.4 points and Masaryk University 33.9 points. The rest of domestic universities did not even reach 30 points.
The rankings, which are one of the three most recognized global rankings of universities and higher education institutions, have been published by the British newspaper Times Higher Education since 2010. The THE rankings are dominated by the University of Oxford, followed by Stanford University and Harvard University. For example, neighbouring Poland is represented by nineteen universities, Slovakia by six, Hungary by nine, and Germany by 48. More detailed information is available here.
Palacký University, after consultations with experts in the field who consider the epidemiological situation in the Olomouc region to be stable, is at present not planning to make any across-the-board tightening of universally valid measures on its premises. However, it is still valid that individual faculties may (just as during the spring wave of the Covid-19 pandemic) issue their own supplemental measures with respect to the specifics of their organisation. Therefore, you should regularly check for information from your faculty (the link page for individual faculties is at www.upol.cz/en/covid-19). Information on the developing situation can change, so please check these pages repeatedly.Consideration, responsibility, collegiality. If you don’t feel well, stay home!
After a debate with consulting specialists (including: MUDr. Růžena Haliřová, M.D., Director of the Regional Health Authority epidemic department; Prof Roman Havlík, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the Olomouc University Hospital; Jarmila Kohoutová, M.D. Director of the crisis staff at Olomouc University Hospital; Prof Milan Kolář, M.D., Ph.D., Vice-Dean of the UP Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry; Doc. Eva Klásková, M.D., Ph.D., Vice-Dean of the UP Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry) Palacký University at present is not introducing across-the-board restrictions on physical instruction. At present we are also not requiring a statement from students that they are disease-free before arriving at the university. However, you are required to follow the instructions of specific faculties, according to your affiliation.
Nevertheless, according to the experts, it is crucial that all students and employees act responsibly, and in a situation when you feel any kind of symptoms of illness, that you remain away from the collective; and in the case of persisting symptoms, you contact your doctor or (if you are a student from outside the Olomouc region) the emergency room of the Olomouc Military Hospital (Vojenská nemocnice Olomouc).
We would like to remind international students that you still are required to announce your arrival to the Czech Republic/Olomouc in the appropriate places (details).
Based on the information given above, UP management is advising faculties to consider increasing the number of allowed student absences, without students having to state a reason.
UP management is asking all in the coming weeks to respect risk groups of our colleagues and students – whether they be colleagues advanced in age, pregnant women, or employees or students suffering from chronic illnesses. If, for example, some teachers ask that students in their seminars wear masks or other respiratory protection, please respect their wishes in the spirit of collegiality and cooperation.
In case the number of students/attendees at a seminar/lecture/course nears one hundred, we recommend considering splitting the group, or as a last resort, moving the teaching to an on-line environment. If it is not possible to put the above recommendations into effect, then the Czech Ministry of Health regulations go into effect, requiring personal protection equipment for all those in groups of over 100 persons.UP preparedness and the procedure in the case of individuals who test positive
If a UP employee or student tests positive for Covid-19, the Regional Health Authority will be informed and will be in close contact with the university, and together they will take further measures such as preventive quarantine for selected individuals (on the basis of contact tracing).
Dormitories are also prepared for the above situation, as regards preventive quarantine and/or isolation (of those who have tested positive), with special, separated rooms at the Envelopa and Neředín campuses. International students will also be housed there until they show negative test results (details).
UP is understandably prepared to immediately and flexibly react to any changes or escalations in the situation. The Czech Ministry of Health advisory for the Olomouc district regarding Covid-19 will be the determining factor in the situation.
At the same time, experts agree that the best natural protection against Covid-19 (and not only against Covid-19) is a healthy immune system, a healthy body, and a “good mood”. So don’t forget to exercise in your spare time, play sports, or do other activities to keep you in good physical and psychological shape.
A more detailed, itemized list of recommendations for students and employees can be found below.Contact, updates
If UP students and employees have any questions, ideas, or comments connected with Covid-19 and the measures at the university, you can e-mail us at email@example.com.
All up-to-date information is continually updated and published as soon as possible on the web pages at www.upol.cz/en/covid-19. In the days to come, it will serve as a link page for specific information at individual faculties.Recommendations for students, if:
A new LTQ XL linear ion trap mass spectrometer was acquired by the Department of Analytical Chemistry of the Faculty of Science. This modern device will allow researchers and students a more detailed structural analysis via molecular fragmentation. It will tell scientists what structural units they are composed of. The mass spectrometer, along with several other instruments, will be gradually installed in the department laboratories.
All devices will be acquired within the project Operational Programme Research, Development, Education: Improving the Study Environment. “We already have several spectrometers in the department, but this new unit-resolution LTQ XL device includes an ion trap analyzer, a special device that allows ionized molecules to be captured and worked with for some time,” described Petr Fryčák from the Department of Analytical Chemistry.
Depending on how the bonds between the atoms are arranged in the molecules studied, the scientists fragment them in a specific way. “Thanks to the way the molecules are fragmented in the ion trap, we can, for example, distinguish two molecules with different structures, even if they have the same elemental composition, and therefore the same mass. There are ten degrees of breakage that the new LTQ XL allows. We break the molecule into fragments, which we can further isolate and break. In this way, we literally split the molecule into pieces gradually,” said Fryčák. This method finds practical use in structural analysis. “We can measure the mass of fragments. In many cases, we can deduce from this which atoms are in a given fragment,” he added.
Together with the spectrometer, a liquid chromatograph was purchased, which allows scientists to examine one desired substance from a mixture of several substances. “The liquid chromatograph can divide the mixture so that only the one substance we want to focus on enters the device. Both new devices will be used to teach students who will perform analyses with their help, and gain practical experience on this type of instrumentation,” said Fryčák.
Molecular spectrometry instruments
In the field of spectral methods, the Department of Analytical Chemistry will be enriched by three more new instruments. “Two of them are basic equipment and will be used by Bachelor students in particular. One is an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer, which will be the first portable instrument at the department. It will be possible to go into the field with it to measure e.g. the composition of soil, geological samples, steels or alloys,” described David Milde from the Department of Analytical Chemistry.
Another instrument is a molecular fluorescence spectrometer designed for the analysis of fluorescent substances. The most important and at the same time most expensive instrument for molecular spectrometry will be the new infrared spectrometer, which will be installed in the laboratory at the beginning of September. This device is a great help in identifying unknown organic matter. “It is basically the latest type of infrared spectrometer. This instrument is mainly used in the field of organic matter analysis. We anticipate its use not only for Bachelor students, but also for Master’s theses and doctoral dissertations,” said Milde.
An infrared spectrometer can also be used to determine the concentration of certain substances. “We want to embark on the analysis of microplastics in environmental samples. This device should help us identify the specific microplastic and the source from which it was released,” said Milde.
Another addition to the Department of Analytical Chemistry will be a device enabling capillary electrophoresis. It will be designed for teaching students and scientific purposes. “It can divide substances based on their different velocities in an electric field. We use it to analyze optical isomers, most often medications. For example, the allergy medication Cetirizine can also be purchased as Levocetirizine or as a mixture of two isomers. The pharmaceutical industry therefore needs to have a reliable quality control tool to determine whether or not the drug in question contains the particular isomer. And we are actually developing methods that can be used in practice in this way,” said Jan Petr from the Department of Analytical Chemistry.
These devices will also be used at the Department of Analytical Chemistry by students in the new field of Chemistry –Analyst Specialist, introduced with the support of the OP RDE project Modern Teaching Methods for Comprehensive Education. It is a three-year, full-time Bachelor’s programme, which aims to prepare students for practical work in laboratories in a wide range of fields – from the pharmaceutical industry to healthcare, forensics and environmental control, to agricultural and food laboratories. “It is conceived as a professional field. The first students will be able to enroll in it in 2021/2022,” added Fryčák.
Palacký University in Olomouc will significantly strengthen its position in the European Biotechnology Federation (EFB). Ivo Frébort, Director of the Centre of the Region Haná for Biotechnological and Agricultural Research (CRH), was elected Vice President of the non-profit organization associating national biotechnology societies, scientific societies and institutes, universities, biotechnology companies and individuals. At the same time, he will lead the newly established Plants, Agriculture and Food Division. Michaela Holecová also from CRH became a member of the EFB Executive Board.
"I very much appreciate being elected a Vice President of EFB, it has come as the result of our research center's long-term cooperation with this organization. I am really pleased to be able to contribute to the fulfillment of the main goal of EFB, which is to promote and support the development of biotechnology in Europe," said Frébort. CRH, led by him, which brings together scientific teams from the Faculty of Science of Palacký University and Olomouc branches of the Institute of Experimental Botany of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic and the Crop Research Institute , has been a member of EFB since 2011. It also works closely with the Asian Biotechnology Federation.
As a member of the Executive Board, Professor Frébort also participated in the recent change in the organizational structure of the EFB, the aim of which is more efficient management and better coordination of activities. The existing sections have been replaced by seven divisions. One of the new divisions is Plants, Agriculture and Food, whose establishment was significantly supported by the Olomouc representation. As the division leader, Professor Frébort plans to organize conferences, summer schools and popularization events in this area. "Under the auspices of the division, we will continue to organize the international conference Plant Biotechnology: Green for Good, which takes place every two years in Olomouc. Other events will be organized mainly by partners from Germany and Switzerland. I also consider it very important that the major biotechnology companies Syngenta and Novozymes will participate in the activities of this division," adds the biochemist, who is also a supporter of the regulation of existing European legislation on GMOs.
Professor Frébort, along with other vice presidents, will work closely with the new EFB President. Jeff A. Cole, Professor Emeritus of Microbiology at the University of Birmingham, who is also a member of CRH Scientific Board, will start his presidency in January 2021. He will replace Swedish microbiologist Mathias Uhlén, who has led the non-profit organization since 2015. EFB has 80 members from institutions across Europe and over 25,000 expert members. It promotes the safe, sustainable and beneficial use of basic research and innovation in the biological sciences, while providing space for interdisciplinary and international cooperation.
The 501st to 600th place in the world and second place in the national comparison of universities – these are the results of Palacký University in the prestigious Academic Ranking of World Universities 2020 (ARWU). The oldest Moravian university has repeated its historically best placing made last year.
“Palacký University’s placement in the global rankings is a sign that the path we have taken is successful and clearly leads to the goal. The fact that UP is second in the Czech Republic in this prestigious ranking and that it is capable of competing in a number of areas should also be our obligation in the future. However, this also means that further advancement will require the enormous efforts of the entire academic community, especially in areas where we are lacking. Therefore, I perceive the result as the fruit of our joint long-term work, but at the same time as a commitment,” commented UP Rector Jaroslav Miller.
ARWU, also known as the Shanghai Rankings, compares one thousand world universities, focussing on their scientific performance. As in the past, Harvard University dominated the rankings; second and third place were defended by Stanford University and the University of Cambridge, respectively. In the TOP 15, U.S. universities confirmed their dominance. Czech higher education was represented by seven universities. Charles University is the best Czech university in the rankings (201st to 300th positions). Masaryk University (601st to 700th) again occupies third place after UP; UP was ranked for the first time four years ago (see table).Overall Placing
First in material sciences and agriculture in the Czech context
The Shanghai rankings also rank universities in individual disciplines within the natural sciences, technical sciences, life sciences, medical sciences, and social sciences.
“An important indicator that helped us secure the second position in the rankings of domestic universities was particularly our numbers in the Highly Cited Researchers database. At the same time, it is gratifying that in the evaluation of results in some fields, we got to the first position in the country, such as in Materials Science & Engineering and in Agricultural Science, where we share first place with Charles University. This confirms the quality of scientific work at our university, so we owe thanks to all those who contributed to these results,” added Hana Marešová, UP Vice-Rector for Strategic Planning and Quality.
In the new category Materials Science & Engineering, UP occupies the 301st to 400th positions in the world. In Agricultural Sciences, UP excels at the 151st to 200th places in the world. In Physics, UP ranks 201st to 300th in the world; in the national comparison, it shares the second place with Czech Technical University after Charles University. The second position in the domestic comparison has also been achieved in Chemistry, globally ranking on the 401st to 500th positions in this field. In Ecology, UP has moved up a hundred places compared to the previous year, and now ranks 301st to 400th. UP further ranks 401st to 500th in Biological Sciences as well as in Public Health, in which it ranks second in the Czech Republic after Charles University. The same position was achieved in the global comparison in the field of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences, where UP is third in the country after Charles University and Masaryk University.
The history of the very first international ranking of universities goes back to 2003. Initial analyses took place at the University of Shanghai, and since 2009 the data have been processed by Shanghai Ranking Consultancy. Together with QS World University Rankings and THE World University Rankings, ARWU is one of the three most important rankings that compare the quality of universities on the basis of several indicators, including the number of articles published in the journals Nature and Science and citations from publications. ARWU also monitors, among other things, the number of the most cited scientists in the Highly Cited Researchers database and the number of Nobel Prize winners associated with the institution.
This summer, which has been richer in rainfall than in recent years, was also beneficial for the Botanical Garden of the Faculty of Science – a popular oasis of calm near the centre of Olomouc. These days, the garden is beautified not only by the extremely rare Veratrum nigrum (the black false hellebore), but also by various North American Asteraceae plants of the genera Helianthus (sunflower), Solidago (goldenrod), Vernonia (ironweed), and Silphium perfoliatum (cup plant) growing up to a height of two and a half metres.
“We do not evaluate precipitation data until the end of the year, but it is already clear that there has been more rain this summer than in previous years. Rainfall is welcomed by every gardener with gratitude and we are no exception in this regard. The vegetation is lush and gives a fresh impression. In addition, rainwater is much more suitable for watering than any other. The negative side of the rainy weather are the enormous snails, who are not only fond of vegetables, but also some rare plants from our garden,” added Václav Dvořák, head of the Botanical Garden.
One fascinating and currently flowering herb is the Veratrum nigrum, which by its appearance evokes prehistoric plants similar to those seen in the famous Karel Zeman film Cesta do pravěku (A Journey to the Beginning of Time). According to Dvořák, alpine plants are among the plants that require the most care. However, they are prone to weather fluctuations. The July rains also complicated the ripening of seeds in some Edraianthus (rockbell) species, which are bell-like plants with an evolutionary centre in the Balkans. The rainy weather did not favour the growth of some gentians, for whom excessive soil moisture caused the roots to rot.
“Personally, I also enjoy the various insects occurring in the garden. Blue-flowered plants, such as Eryngium or Echinops, are attractive for insect suborders of Apocrita (wasps, bees, ants), Scoliidae (scoliid wasps) and Sphecidae (mud dauber wasps). We also have one of our largest hoverflies imitating the appearance of a hornet – the hornet mimic hoverfly,” described Dvořák.
A regular cycle of environmental programs for kindergarten children and the public is planned for September. “We are also planning another outdoor photography exhibition. It will follow up on the pop-up exhibition ‘On the Fence’, with which we commemorated the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Litovelské Pomoraví Protected Landscape Area. According to the response, the exhibition was very popular,” Dvořák added.
So far, the smallest species of Thismiaceae has been discovered on Borneo by a team of scientists from the Faculty of Science of Palacký University and the Crop Research Institute. Thismia minutissima has a very special appearance and does not resemble any species of Thismiaceae growing in Borneo and other parts of the world. Scientists have noticed the tiny plant thanks to its bright white stem.
A description of the new species was provided by Kew Bulletin. “Zuzana Sochorová was the first to notice this plant. On our joint trip to a mountain forest in Borneo, she was looking for mushrooms and noticed white, sponge-looking fruits. As a mycologist, she sees slightly different shapes and colors than we botanists do,” said Martin Dančák from the Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences.
Thismia minutissima is unlike any other species, not even those described in Borneo. According to Martin Dančák, this is probably the smallest Thismiaceae that has been discovered so far. The name chosen by the team of Olomouc and Prague biologists also corresponds to this.
This Thismiaceae is also interesting in that its flower has three elongated pendants of petal on top, which are upright and often crossed. “The internal structure of the plant and the stem is also unique. The stem is pure white, which is not known in any other plant from Borneo. Mostly the Thismiaceae are brown, sometimes even black. The flower is only a few millimeters in height,” added Martin Dančák.
Thismiaceae often occur in only one locality or a group of nearby localities. But the newly discovered species grows on an area about 700 kilometers long. “It occurs in both the northern and the southwestern part of Borneo. We assume that it is also located elsewhere in the interior,” said Michal Hroneš from the Department of Botany.
The plant grows in mountainous areas at altitudes from 500 to 1200 meters, while the whole interior of Borneo is mountainous. “The local mountain forests are currently largely preserved, unaffected by logging. The problem is that we cannot get to those potential localities to explore them,” added Michal Sochor from the Crop Research Institute.
Thismia minutissima is the thirteenth new plant species that scientists have found in Borneo. Experts from Olomouc have been going on expeditions to the rainforest in Borneo for several years. Among the last “caught” Thismiaceae were Thismia ornata and Thismia coronata.
Palacký University Press has added another world-famous personality to its team. Charles, Prince of Wales, son of Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, has written the introduction to a book by heraldist Jiří Louda, Coats of Arms of the Knights of the Order of the Garter, currently in press at UP.
The publication, with more than 600 pages, portrays one thousand illustrations of the coats of arms of the oldest European order of knighthood, and the third most important British decoration. It will arrive at bookshops in autumn as a tribute to the centenary of the birth of Jiří Louda, the renowned heraldist, and also the author of the Czech national insignia.
The book Jiří Louda: Erby rytířů Podvazkového řádu / Coats of Arms of the Knights of the Order of the Garter will be published in a bilingual English-Czech edition under the auspices of UP Rector Jaroslav Miller. “The Most Noble Order of the Garter was founded in 1348 by Edward III. The Order is headed by the Queen, and Prince Charles is a member. This is why we approached the Royal Family. UP Vice-Rector Jitka Ulrichová was instrumental in arranging a meeting with Otakar Fojt, who works at the UK Embassy in Prague as a scientific diplomat and is also the chair of the UP Board of Trustees. We asked him for advice, and he pre-negotiated with the British Ambassador to the Czech Republic, His Excellency Nick Archer, former secretary to Prince Charles, so that we could present the book to him,” said UP Press director Aleš Prstek.
Once the opportunity to introduce the book to Prince Charles arose, a flurry of activity began. “With great effort on our part we quickly prepared a facsimile of the book including translations of the biographical portions. We put it together in house, with a stretched canvas binding. We personally delivered the copy to the embassy with a letter of introduction. A few days ago, we got back a positive answer, which greatly pleased us. The ambassador brought a letter signed by Prince Charles which we would be allowed to publish in the book unedited as an introduction,” the UP Press director added.
Prince Charles: “Publication of this remarkable book by Jiří Louda, the centenary of whose birth it celebrates and to whose expertise and dedicated efforts it bears witness, is an extraordinary event. It is, perhaps, somewhat unexpected that such a history should emerge from Moravia, and it is wonderful to discover that the interest and expertise to produce it in such an authoritative and elegant way has quietly existed so far from home, at Palacký University Olomouc. (…) This publication can only serve to deepen an understanding of British history in the Czech Republic, about which Jiří Louda, and those who have now put together this book around his striking legacy of heraldic painting, were, and are, so obviously extremely knowledgeable. So I can only commend its publication and express my warmest admiration for Jiří Louda’s distinguished scholarship.”
Quote from the letter which will form the book’s introduction.
Jiří Louda considered Coats of Arms of the Knights of the Order of the Garter as his masterpiece, working on it almost up until his death in 2015. Louda was a heraldist who got to know Britain and its traditions personally during WW2, when he left his home country for Great Britain, where he graduated from officer’s school and became a parachutist, to join the war effort from abroad. Injuries incurred during training prevented him from becoming part of the parachutist units who were dropped back into their homelands during the Protectorate. Instead, he served as a radio operator, including communicating with rebel radio operators during the Prague Uprising. After the war, he returned to Czechoslovakia and became a professional soldier. He worked as an artillery instructor at the military training grounds in Olomouc until 1947, when like other Czechs who fought for their country in exile, he was turned out of the army, and later even arrested and imprisoned on ideological grounds. In 1968, Jiří Louda was reinstated into the military and promoted to the rank major; in 1991 to retired lieutenant. In 2004, he was given an honorary doctorate by UP.
The book, which will be handsomely printed and will also introduce the life and times of Jiří Louda, is being prepared by a team of authors. Michal Šimůnek, of the Institute for Contemporary History at the Czech Academy of Sciences, who has long been interested in the fate of the father and son Zdeněk and Jiří Louda, is one. The author and editor of the heraldic portion of the book is Karel Müller, a friend and colleague of Jiří Louda, also a graduate of UP, a historian, archivist, heraldist, and Director of the Regional Archive in Opava. Radim Měsíc, the book's designer, is another UP graduate. Scanning and colour correction of Louda's original illustrations and pre-print of the publication were conducted under the able eyes of long-time technical editor at UP Press, Jiří K. Jureček.
The book will be published this autumn in time for Jiří Louda's centennial, accompanied by an exhibition at the Olomouc Regional Museum, which houses Louda's original illustrations in its collections. For more details on the book, see louda.upol.cz/english/.
The SOLARBOX device, with which the laboratory of the Department of Analytical Chemistry has now been equipped, enables experts from the Faculty of Science to simulate the ageing of paintings and various materials. Thanks to the device, scientists are able to more accurately characterise the current and original composition of colour layers on paintings hundreds of years old.
“The new device allows us to perform artificial ageing of samples. It emits light of a defined power and spectral properties simulating solar radiation on an object that is inserted into it. The temperature and humidity are also set in the device chamber. During ageing, these parameters are maintained or changed by the device according to the selected programme,” said Assoc Prof in Analytical Chemistry Petr Bednář, describing the principle of the device.
The department acquired the device mainly for the Arteca project, which is focused on the study of pigments and binding agents in old paintings. A painting hundreds of years old, despite being carefully stored in a gallery or depository, is still ageing, and the substances contained in the pigments which were used by the artist in its creation are gradually being transformed. “We are trying to find out what processes have taken place over the centuries as the paintings age. With the help of this device, we will be able to trace the substances contained in the original paintings,” said Bednář.
In addition to the study of pigments and binding agents used in the artworks, the SOLARBOX can also be used to study the long-term effects of intense radiation, temperature, and humidity on plant materials. It also allows the description of the ageing of technologically important organic materials, plastics, inorganic materials, and fabrics.
“For example, in the automotive industry this technology can be used to monitor changes in body paint exposed to long-term sunlight. With these materials, it is therefore possible to evaluate whether they are stable and suitable for long-term use or whether after a short time there are undesirable changes in their properties,” added Bednář.
Routledge, the prestigious British academic publishing house focussed on the social sciences, has published a book called Psychological Perspectives on Walking. Its authors Matúš Šucha from the UP Faculty of Arts Department of Psychology and Ralf Risser, a visiting professor at the same department, worked on it for two years. The new publication provides a comprehensive overview of how walking is beneficial and at the same time it shows how to motivate people to walk even more on the basis of psychological principles.
The more than 200-page work, in which psychologists from Palacký University Olomouc investigate walking as an attribute that improves health and positively affects the environment, is about psychological motivations that support walking. The arguments are based on walking research and include both theoretical considerations and everyday concerns.
“The book is intended for both professionals and students, as well as the general public interested in the issue. It can be interesting especially for those who are somehow involved in the areas of transport, mobility, public space, urbanism, and architecture,” said Matúš Šucha. At the UP Department of Psychology, he specialises in traffic psychology; his research focusses on traffic safety and sustainable mobility. His work thus perfectly complements the work of visiting professor Ralf Risser, who is interested in similar topics.
The authors of the new book, which focusses on walking from psychological perspectives, explore as well as provide information on motivations that may lead to a greater need and desire to walk. They advise on how to build habits that help walking and recommend strategies for decision-makers in promoting change that enables walking. The book also contains stories of “walkable cities”, mainly to show how such initiatives can be successful in the end.
“If I had to comment on the city of Olomouc, I would say that it is quite accommodating to walking needs. It can easily be considered a walkable city and as such could be compared to Salzburg or Bruges. Its strength is in having a limited mode of car entry into the historic city centre and at the same time having good public transport. Parking could certainly be improved here, especially in the wider city centre; also, sufficient parking capacity on the outskirts of the city could be provided and connected to public transport. Olomouc would certainly be helped by better interconnection and cohesion of individual modes of transport, especially for people who commute to the city from the surrounding areas,” said Šucha.
The book Psychological Perspectives on Walking, among other things, contributes to solving social problems and supports microeconomics, and thus will appeal to anyone interested in a sustainable lifestyle. It provides an ideal background for those who want to have a deeper understanding of the issues of sustainable transport. It is available here.
European scientists are again calling for a change in European legislation on GMOs, which they say is essential for the further development of sustainable agriculture, ensuring sufficient food for a growing population and protecting the environment. The statement has been issued by the European Initiative for Sustainable Agriculture through Genome Editing (EU-SAGE) on the second anniversary of a controversial ruling by the EU Court of Justice that plants obtained using modern genome editing methods are genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
The call was also joined by the management of Centre of the Region Haná for Biotechnological and Agricultural Research (CRH), which brings together research teams from the Faculty of Science of Palacký University and Olomouc facilities of the Institute of Experimental Botany of the AS CR and the Crop Research Institute.
The ruling of EU Court of Justice from July 25, 2018 means that even plants obtained via methods of precision breeding using genome editing by CRISPR are genetically modified organisms (GMOs). "This means that even crops with the smallest genome modifications, which can occur spontaneously in nature, are subject to restrictive European regulations, which practically prohibit these modifications," warns Jaroslav Doležel, scientific director of CRH and head of the Olomouc Institute of Experimental Botany of the Academy of Sciences.
European scientists are therefore recommending to the European Council, the European Parliament and the European Commission a revision of the existing GMO directives, as they run counter to current scientific knowledge on plant genome editing.
"In addition, genome modifications leading to changes that may also occur spontaneously in nature and which do not introduce foreign DNA should be excluded from the application of GMO legislation," said the EU-SAGE statement, which brings together members from 132 European researchers, institutions and associations. Targeted genome editing, on the other hand, is considered by researchers to be a suitable tool for breeding crops with sufficient yields that will be resistant to climate change, be less dependent on pesticides and fertilizers, and can have health benefits for consumers. The benefits of targeted genome editing have already been described in expert literature. New breeding technologies have contributed, for example, to the development of powdery mildew-resistant wheat, grapevine resistant to fungal diseases, the breeding of low-gluten or high-fiber wheat and many other applications. The full text of the open statement is available here.
According to scientists, current EU regulations on GMOs are in fierce contrast with the growing area of land on which GMOs are grown in the world and with the growing number of countries where new crop varieties obtained through genome editing are not regulated. "The current situation is damaging for EU member countries. While restrictions apply in Europe, genome editing is used in other parts of the world. This significantly reduces our competitiveness and hinders us in breeding economically important crops with the necessary properties, such as higher resistance to drought or pests and diseases. This may have a major impact on European economy, the environment and the health of the population in the future," said CRH Director Ivo Frébort, who has been drawing attention to these risks for a long time. The European Federation of Biotechnology, with its Regional branch office being CRH, has also joined the statement.
"We fully support the statement, which is why we have published it on the website of the European Federation of Biotechnology and we have drawn attention to it in our newsletter," confirmed EFB Vice President Jeff Cole.
According to Prof. Doležel, the European Union also ignores the positive impact of genetically modified crops on the environment. "In 2018 alone, 23 billion kilograms less of carbon dioxide was released into the atmosphere thanks to the cultivation of genetically modified crops. The cultivation of resistant varieties obtained through genetic modification led to a reduction in the world's consumption of toxic pesticides by 776 million kilograms between 1996 and 2018. We can only hope that the EU will hear the voices of experts, including those represented in EU-SAGE, and regardless of political pressures, will allow the use of targeted methods of crop breeding based on the latest scientific knowledge," added Česká Hlava Laureate Jaroslav Doležel.
The aim of the EU-SAGE initiative is to inform about genome editing methods and to seek to change EU and Member States' policies so that they can be used to support sustainable agriculture and food production. The Czech Republic is represented in this network by seven institutes of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, CEITEC, CRH and Mendel University in Brno.
The peer-reviewed journal European Studies – The Review of European Law, Economics and Politics, created and published by experts from the UP Faculty of Law, has been included in the prestigious abstract and citation database Scopus. Scopus is one of the key tools for bibliometric evaluation of the quality of scientific journals. The inclusion was approved by an international evaluation commission.
The Scopus database now contains a total of six professional law journals published in the Czech Republic. Two of them are closely connected with the UP faculty. Last year, the faculty peer-reviewed journal International and Comparative Law Review was included among the elite scientific titles, and this year the journal European Studies – The Review of European Law, Economics and Politics succeeded. “It is a great success for our law school as well as a proof of strengthening our excellence in science. Inclusion in this database not only reflects the content quality of the journal but is also based on several years of diligent editorial work. My thanks go to the editorial team of the journal, especially Editor-in-Chief Naděžda Šišková and Executive Editor Ondrej Hamuľák,” said the faculty Dean, Václav Stehlík.
The journal European Studies – The Review of European Law, Economics and Politics is published by the Czech Association for European Studies and the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence at UP FL. Editor-in-Chief Šišková is also Chairwoman of the association and Head of the Olomouc Jean Monnet Centre. “I see the inclusion in Scopus as a great success. It is definitely the success of the entire collective, especially the editorial board. At the same time, it is a confirmation that our decision to establish this journal years ago was the right one, and it is also an evaluation of the scientific quality of its content. Among other things, our content quality was highlighted in the decision of the evaluation committee,” said Šišková. She especially appreciated the work of Executive Editor Ondrej Hamuľák, a colleague from the Department of International and European Law.
European Studies – The Review of European Law, Economics and Politics was first published in 2014. It is published in English by the leading international publishing house Wolters Kluwer. “We originally conceived the journal as a yearbook of the Czech Association for European Studies. From the beginning, I tried to involve our faculty, our experts, in its publishing. And we have succeeded,” Šišková recalled, adding that the journal will be published twice a year.
Since its inception, the journal was conceived as an international scientific interdisciplinary forum. “We strive for diversity in terms of authors as well as the thematic scope, which is definitely broader than just European law. We give space to political, economic or historical topics that relate to the European Union,” said Šišková. The editorial board consists of top experts from various countries. These include world-renowned EU law expert Peter-Christian Müller-Graff of the University of Heidelberg, Jorg Monar, Professor and former Rector of the College of Europe, Miguel Maduro, former Advocate General of the European Court of Justice and Professor at the European University Institute in Florence, and Takis Tridimas, acclaimed professor at King’s College London.
Given the fact that inclusion in the prestigious database is not permanent, but on the contrary is subject to regular evaluation, the editorial team will continue to strive to increase the quality of the journal. “Increasing the number of our citations is important. We will try to achieve a higher assigned value in the Scientific Journal Rankings index and thus move higher within the quartile,” said Šišková.
Scopus is an abstract and citation database of peer-reviewed literature accessible by registered users. It contains abstracts and records from nearly 20,500 peer-reviewed journals from more than 5,000 publishers worldwide. There are almost 200 titles by Czech publishers.
Social responsibility, sustainability, digitalisation, cultural diversity. These and other key issues will be addressed by Aurora, an alliance of nine universities from across Europe. Palacký University Olomouc is also a member of this prestigious project, approved and supported by the European Commission on July 9.
Universities that have decided to join the Aurora network will focus in the coming years not only on sharing their students, experts and expertise, but also on close cooperation with private, public, and civic organisations. The aim is to direct joint activities and future graduates towards an innovative approach to the issue of sustainable development and social responsibility in various forms. Emphasis will be placed on such regional development that could be easily integrated into larger European structures and systems.
“The issue of social responsibility and sustainable development is one of the key visions of our university for the coming years. I am therefore extremely happy that Olomouc managed to be included in such a prestigious university project. Cooperation with like-minded European partners will help us to develop our science, excellence in research, and society more effectively; it has the potential to advance our university to the European level in so many areas,” said UP Rector Jaroslav Miller.
Other members of the Aurora alliance include the University of Iceland in Reykjavík, the University of East Anglia in Norwich, the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Rovira i Virgili University in Tarragona, the University of Duisburg-Essen, the University of Innsbruck, Copenhagen Business School in Copenhagen, and the University of Naples Federico II. In addition to the aforementioned objectives, the key elements of joint cooperation will also include modernising educational approaches and strengthening the balance in European education, research, and innovation. That is also why universities in Western, Central, and Southern Europe are represented in the alliance, while other Central and Eastern European universities have been assigned to the Aurora alliance as partners.
“Our membership in Aurora is positive for us not only in terms of social responsibility and sustainability, but also in terms of strengthening internationalisation. The development and deepening of the international environment at UP is part of our main strategy, and such a form of cooperation facilitates it all the more,” said Martin Kudláček, UP Vice-Rector for International Relations. Outstanding results in internationalisation were one of the reasons why UP was awarded the prestigious prize of the EIAE 2019 European Association for International Education.
A more comprehensive strategy and plans of the Aurora University Alliance will be presented in the coming weeks and months on the official website. Aurora raised interest among the members of expert jury in the second call of the European Universities initiative, for which 62 potential university alliances applied. The European Commission has selected 24 of them. Last year, 17 alliances succeeded. The project of university alliances is financially supported by the Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020 programmes.
A unique “temperature feeling” map of Olomouc is being prepared by experts from the Palacký University Faculty of Science, who, thanks to this research, will help to propose effective measures to reduce heat stress in the city during hot summer days. Residents and visitors to the city will also take part in the summer research. With their help, the scientists will identify the locations where people are most often exposed to stress from excessive heat. The results of the research, including a temperature feeling map, will be available in early 2021.
“We use a modern method of participatory mapping for the research. The aim of the study is to analyse the locational preferences of residents and visitors to the city during hot summer days and to identify localities that they consider inhospitable during these days. At the same time, we will evaluate the measures preferred by the population in terms of reducing said heat stress,” described Michal Lehnert from the Department of Geography of the Faculty of Science about the research.
The temperature feeling map of Olomouc builds on previous research involving the cities of Brno, Ostrava and Pilsen. Based on spatial analysis of local climatic conditions, scientists from the UP FS Department of Geography and the Global Change Research Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences compiled results that enable the identification of localities threatening heat stress. The results were then passed on to the cooperating cities. The results of the research so far show that high temperatures prevail in Olomouc during the day – for example, in the area in front of the main railway station, in the streets Tovární and tř. Svobody and on the squares in the historic city centre. On the contrary, at night, high temperatures are maintained in the narrow streets of the historic centre, which have poor airflow and cool slowly.
“On top of the physical level, which we have previously studied, such as the bioclimatic conditions to which an individual is exposed, current approaches to assessing heat stress also emphasize the role of physiological and psychological factors and their interaction,” Lehnert explained, regarding the involvement of the city’s inhabitants in the next phase of research: the creation of the temperature feeling map. Researchers need to get information from about a thousand inhabitants and visitors of Olomouc. So far, more than 200 respondents have joined the project.
The results of the research will not only be used for scientific purposes, but will also be handed over to the Olomouc municipality. “The results can then contribute to the implementation of effective adaptation measures,” stressed Lehnert. “Public participation in the development of public spaces is very important for the quality of life in the city,” concluded Jiří Pánek from the Department of Development & Environmental Studies, which is co-developing the PocitoveMapy.cz portal, on which it is possible to fill out a questionnaire on the temperature feeling map of Olomouc.
Neither the complexity of the Czech language, nor the holiday season, nor the recent pandemic of a new type of coronavirus discouraged those of all ages interested in a month-long intensive study of Czech in Olomouc. However, this year’s Summer School of Slavonic Studies at the Faculty of Arts of Palacký University Olomouc will be attended mainly by students from EU countries.
“According to my information, we are the only summer school of Slavonic studies to be held in the Czech Republic this year due to the coronavirus situation. We thank the management of the faculty for allowing us to run the programme once again. From July 18, almost a hundred foreign students will be studying Czech at Palacký University,” said Pavla Poláchová, director of the Summer School of Slavonic Studies at the UP Faculty of Arts. For its 34th year, 69 scholarships were applied for and granted by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of the Czech Republic, while 25 applicants will be paying for the intensive summer Czech language course on their own.
This year, the organisers of the Olomouc summer school noted increased interest among those foreigners who are living in the Czech Republic. The youngest student will come from France, the oldest will be an American who has lived in Hradec Králové for a long time. However, all students from abroad will have to follow certain rules that the school has newly set in place in connection with the recent Covid-19 pandemic.
“Upon registration, participants will have to show proof of a negative test for Covid-19, no more than four days old. During the courses, we will observe increased hygienic measures, especially hand sanitisation; we will provide masks and gloves for those interested. We have also arranged more frequent cleaning and disinfection of the premises,” added Poláchová.
According to her, the extent of this year’s programme is nearly the same and most of the accompanying events will be located outdoors. The only cancelled event is an international gastronomic picnic where students regularly present foods and drinks from their country of origin.
At the beginning of the programme, students will be divided into ten smaller study groups. They will be taught by teachers from FF UP as well as graduates and external students. In addition to studying Czech, they can also look forward to many experiences, for example an excursion to the Chomout Brewery, a distillery in Těšetice, the Rodas candlemaker, and Fort Science. They will also be able to take part in a theatre workshop in cooperation with the Nabalkoně Theatre a workshop of folk dances and songs, and a folklore night with a dulcimer band.
The Summer School of Slavonic Studies at the UP Faculty of Arts cooperates with the university initiative Park It!, which will organise an open-air film screening for the foreign students. The summer school will also join forces with the UP Academic Sport Centre, for morning yoga practice and two sports afternoons. Thanks to an agreement with the STUART student association, the summer school organisers have also prepared two cycling races which will be concluded with roasting sausages over a campfire. Foreign students will be able to take a trip to the picturesque town of Strážnice (known for its folklore), see the local wine cellars, the Moravian Karst, and the Beskydy Mountains. Among other things, lectures entitled “Jára Cimrman”, “Czech Puppet Theatre” and “From Folk Songs to Marek Eben” have been prepared for them. The topic of the recent pandemic will not be left out either.
“We are not leaving anything to chance and, of course, we are also preparing for the possibility that the whole school could remain in quarantine. In that case, we would transfer teaching, i.e. lectures and workshops, to the online space. But I believe this will not be necessary,” concluded Poláchová. This year’s Summer School of Slavonic Studies at the UP Faculty of Arts will take place from 18 July to 16 August.