News from UP

Czech–French project to support wetlands remediation by iron nanoparticles

News: Faculty of Science - Thu, 12/05/2022 - 14:00

A joint seminar kicked off a project bringing together CATRIN of Palacký University Olomouc and Institut des Sciences de la Terre d’Orléans (ISTO) – Université d’Orléans. Thanks to it, researchers will get insight into the long-term stability of iron nanoparticles, alongside enhancing their efficacy towards emerging organic pollutants in waters. Building a network of contacts that may enable, in the future, participation in international consortia is a goal of no less importance.  

The seminar in France presented the progress on nanomaterials and their role in new or improved nanotechnologies and biotechnologies. CATRIN was represented by the leader of the Environmental Nanotechnologies group, Jan Filip, and the project investigator, Veronika Veselská.

“We introduced our research centre, our activities, and the results we achieved with iron nanoparticles. We were introduced to the research infrastructure of the partner university and saw, in their geological institute, unique equipment that enables to monitor the migration of nanoparticles as well as the spread of hazardous substances in the environment. Cooperation within the currently implemented project will run for two years, and in the future, we plan on connecting with other workplaces in Spain and Germany to prepare a major European project,” said Filip. 

In France, CATRIN researchers also performed laboratory experiments, and with the nanoparticles developed in Olomouc, they launched a series of field experiments in local wetlands.

“Since wetlands are considered important hotspots for organic matter production, we will be primarily focusing on the interactions between differently modified iron nanoparticles and organic matter. The effect of organic matter on the nanoparticles’ behaviour will be studied in a specific environment under intense redox dynamics. At the same time, we will be monitoring the nanoparticles efficiency in removing pharmaceuticals as the main emerging pollutants in local areas. This information will be crucial to setting the right conditions for effectively and comprehensively cleaning contaminated wetlands, along with directly impacting further application of iron nanoparticles within the constructed wetlands as part of the remediation processes,” explained Veselská.

The interaction between iron nanoparticles and pure organic matter will also be verified under laboratory conditions. The results will also be important for understanding the specific role of natural organic matter in the efficiency of iron nanoparticles towards pharmaceutical products that need to be removed from the environment.

The two-year project ‘The influence of organic matter on the efficiency of iron nanoparticles in the removal of pharmaceuticals in wetlands’, supported by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of the Czech Republic, will last until the end of 2023.

Categories: News from UP

UP improving its position and historical record in international rankings

News: Faculty of Science - Fri, 06/05/2022 - 09:15

Palacký University Olomouc has achieved a significant success and improved its current position in the international THE Impact Rankings, which assesses how universities around the world manage to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Palacký University has moved up into the 201st–300th places in the ranking of world universities, thus becoming number one in the Czech Republic together with Charles University in Prague. Moreover, UP has improved its previous best achievement in another international ranking by the Center for World University Rankings.

“We have been systematically addressing the issue of sustainable development at the entire university level for a mere year, so we are aware of our deficits and the challenges that lie ahead of us. Many European universities are an inspiration for us, and similarly we hope that our advancements will make us an example for others,” said Tomáš Opatrný, UP Vice-Rector for IT, Research Evaluation and Sustainability.

Times Higher Education Impact Ranking 2022

The Times Higher Education Impact Ranking, first launched in 2019, focuses on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Since the inception of this international ranking, UP has been involved in collecting data on sustainable development. At the beginning, only 465 universities from 76 countries were involved in the evaluation, but in this year’s edition, there are nearly 1000 more universities and 30 more countries. Despite the growing number of universities, UP has managed to improve its position.

Ranking University Best SDGs 201st–300th Charles University Prague 3 8 16 17 201st–300th Palacký University Olomouc 3 4 11 17 301st–400th Masaryk University Brno 3 4 16 17 401st–600th VSB – Technical University of Ostrava 7 8 11 17 1001st+ University of Chemistry and Technology Prague 3 5 13 17

 To be included in the overall ranking, a total of four SDGs had to be elaborated and analysed accordingly. The overall ranking was made up from the top three results according to the scores obtained and from mandatory SDG 17: Partnership for the Goals. UP achieved the best results in SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-being), SDG 4 (Quality Education), and SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) – the mandatory SDG 17 included.

UP’s placement in Sustainable Development Goals

SGD

 

2022 Total score

2022 Placement in Czechia 3

Good Health and Well-being

101st–200th 2nd 4

Quality Education

42nd 1st 8

Decent Work and Economic Growth

201st–300th 2nd 9

Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure

401st–600th 2nd–4th 11

Sustainable Cities and Communities

101st–200th 1st–3rd 16

Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

301st–400th 3rd 17

Partnerships for the Goals

301st–400th 2nd–4th

 

“We’ve achieved a significant advance mainly due to the success in assessment of the quality of education, thanks to improved scores in two indicators. This success has been made possible mainly by the pilot acquisition and recording of data that UP did not have in the past and thus had received a zero score until now. Therefore, entering the corresponding values had a significant positive impact on the final ranking,” said Michal Malacka, UP Vice-Rector for Strategy and External Relations.

Further improvements were achieved in these SDGs: Good Health and Quality of Life; Decent Work and Economic Growth; Sustainable Cities and Communities; and Partnership for the Goals. Further work is required to address the decline in SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure), where UP dropped from the 201st–300th to 401st–600th positions. “Palacký University Olomouc, in order to fulfil the third role of the university and its mission – community outreach – is implementing the Olomouc Region Adaptation Strategy to Climate Change for the years 2023–2030. UP participates in the development of the principles of agricultural land management for the City of Olomouc; internally, it has also implemented the Sustainable Development Strategy and the Action Plan for the UP Sustainable Development Strategy for this and next year,” added Vice-Rector Malacka.

Western Sydney University, Australia, was rated as the world’s number one implementer of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for 2022. The overall ranking is available here.

Center for World University Rankings 2022/2023

The Center for World University Rankings (CWUR) adjusted its methodology for 2019/2020 to place equal emphasis on the educational environment and research. It uses the following indicators: education quality (25%), graduate employability (25%), faculty quality (10%), and research – which includes research output (10%), high-quality publications (10%), number of research papers appearing in highly influential journals (10%), and citations (10%).

In the 2022/2023 edition, Palacký University Olomouc, based on the submitted data, has improved its best achievement to the 566th position (previously it was 572nd) and remains one of the four Czech universities in the top 1000. In the Czech Republic, it is ranked 3rd after Charles University and Masaryk University; it is also number three in the Czech Republic in research development, globally ranked 533rd. Complete results have been published here.

Categories: News from UP

Czech it UP, textbook series for foreigners, is complete

News: Faculty of Science - Thu, 05/05/2022 - 08:00

Czech from A to C. This could be an alternative title for the series of Czech textbooks for foreigners called Czech it UP. The Palacký University Press is now presenting textbooks for intermediate students at the A2 and B1 level, which complete the series, covering the whole range of language education from beginners (A1) to advanced (C1). The textbooks, inspired by the modern Oxford style of teaching materials, have been prepared by experts from the Department of Czech Studies at the UP Faculty of Arts together with Olomouc lecturers of Czech for Foreigners.

The Czech it UP project was commenced in 2020, following up on a more than thirty-year-long tradition of teaching Czech to foreigners in Olomouc. This tradition has been represented by special study programmes and courses for foreigners as well as the popular Summer School of Slavonic Studies, which attracts hundreds of students from dozens of countries around the world every year.

After absolute beginners (A1) and the most advanced students (B2 and C1) were delivered their respective Czech it UP textbooks, the time has come for foreigners at the intermediate level of Czech language skills who can now also utilise their own Czech it UP textbooks. The new A2 level textbook is designed for more proficient beginners who have already successfully mastered the basics of Czech, while the new B1 level textbook will be used by intermediate students.

“Two relatively independent teams have been working on the project since its inception. The overall concept and mechanism of collaboration was designed in such a way that all the materials had a uniform structure and methodological basis and were compatible in their explanation of grammatical phenomena. Judging by the feedback from foreigners whom I teach on the basis of our textbooks, as well as from colleagues among Czech teachers both in this country and abroad, we have succeeded in our mission,” said Darina Hradilová, head of the author team of the B1–C1 textbooks.

“I’d like to thank all our co-authors, including a number of PhD students, for their work on the project. Thanks to their fresh ideas, our textbooks have a pleasant dynamic and include communication topics which are close to today’s young generation,” she added.

Tereza Švarcová, who participated in the preparation of the textbooks for beginners at the A1–A2 level, confirmed her words. “When creating the textbooks for beginners, we paid particular attention to the use of modern natural speech that students will encounter when communicating with native speakers of Czech. In addition, the beginners’ textbooks are unique in the way they work with vocabulary. The emphasis is put on the active use of key vocabulary, which is supported by an unconventional vocabulary list at the end of each lesson.”

The Czech it UP series provides students and teachers not only with textbooks and exercise books, but also with accompanying authentic audio recordings and videos by UP Audio-Visual Productions, available on the czechitup.eu website. Czech it UP reflects the latest trends in teaching Czech to foreigners, with topics geared to the current era and contemporary generations. It facilitates learning by using the Oxford UP “language textbook style”, where all elements necessary for a given language issue are situated on two facing pages.

“Even in a mere two years, the Czech it UP textbooks have become firmly established in Czech language teaching both in this country and abroad, so I believe that the potential of the project will be further enhanced by the current completion of the entire series. I would like to thank all the authors and their often heroic efforts as they have managed to create the entire series of timeless textbooks in just two years; their work will serve us for many years to come,” added Aleš Prstek, the UP Press director.

More detailed information about the Czech it UP series, including the possibility of sampling and/or purchasing the textbooks, can be found on the czechitup.eu website. The entire series will also be presented to the public at Book World Prague 2022 on 9–12 June. At this international book fair and literary festival, UP Press will also organise a public debate on the trends in teaching Czech to foreigners, on Sunday 12 June at 11 am.

Categories: News from UP

UP among those awarded for international education

News: Faculty of Science - Wed, 04/05/2022 - 09:11

The fourth year of the Czech National Agency for International Education and Research (DZS) Awards has its 2021 winners. Among others, projects by the Palacký University Faculty of Arts, Faculty of Education and Faculty of Science funded by the DZS were been awarded.

Nominees were eligible to win the DZS awards in seven categories. Projects by three UP faculties made it to the final selection. According to the DZS director, Michal Uhl, the selected projects are a showcase of the best that has happened in international education during the past year.

“I am very happy that so many excellent projects come together every year. It is proof that we have countless organisations, institutions, and individuals who have the desire and will to actively improve education,” said Uhl.

The UP project European history, politics, culture and memory was among the most successful activities in international education. It is a university network (CEEPUS Programme) led by Radmila Švaříčková Slabáková from the Department of History at the UP Faculty of Arts and is focused on European history, culture, and politics; recently on the politics of memory and the “memory wars” in the region. The network consists of nine partner departments from eight universities in eight countries with the aim to provide regular mobilities of students and teachers. It has long been working towards joint degree programmes – currently being involved in two such programmes.

The CEEPUS network CIII-CZ-0029 is one of the oldest CEEPUS networks, having been in existence for 18 years. As a result, the curricula of the partner institutions have been continuously extended with lectures, seminars, and courses which are not normally included in them. The network is also committed to improving the quality of Central European education and research via joint workshops and summer schools where partners share their latest knowledge. For 18 years, the CEEPUS project has contributed to the internationalisation of the UP Faculty of Arts, as hundreds of UP students have been able to study abroad thanks to the programme. And the Department of History has been crucial in this.

"The award came as a very pleasant surprise. I am glad that the Czech National Agency for International Education and Research decided to grant these awards and that the CEEPUS programme was nominated, as it has been somewhat overshadowed by the ERASMUS programme at Palacký University. I wish we could increase awareness of the CEEPUS programme, as it offers research and study stays and contributes to internationalisation and overcoming provincialism. I’d love to encourage UP students to use this opportunity and go abroad with us. Our network is open not only to students and teachers of history, but also to other disciplines falling under the network’s themes: political science, sociology, culture, memory studies, and others. The deadline for the winter semester of the academic year 2022/2023 is 15 June; applications are available at the web ceepus.info,” said Svaříčková Slabáková.

Palacký University also succeeded in the Digitisation category. The award went to the project called Development of Computational Thinking (CEEPUS Programme) led by Tomáš Dragon from the Department of Technical Education and Information Technology at the UP Faculty of Education. “Winning the award is a great success for us. It is not only an appreciation of our work but also a kind of signal from our circles that we are set on the right path and should continue working on the project,” said the expert from the UP Faculty of Education. In collaboration with seven other universities in five countries, his project team focuses on the development of computational thinking.

“We try to contribute to its comprehensive development – not only with students but also teachers. One of our goals is to implement international intensive courses on selected topics such as programming, robotics, virtual and augmented reality, artificial intelligence, e-learning, virtualisation, 3D printing, and the Internet of Things. As part of the project, an online platform has been created at ceepus.upol.cz to provide potential participants of our international stays with relevant information in English and their native languages. The network also strives to increase the interest of students and academics in virtual mobilities abroad. In collaboration with the network’s silent partner DRAGON Solutions s.r.o., a comprehensive platform E-zdroje.cz has been created; it allows digital educational resources to be shared, reviewed, and commented on. The platform also offers an e-learning system including a video conferencing module. All the portals created in the project are constantly evolving,” added Dragon on behalf of his team.

The UP Faculty of Science was successfully represented by the project Making knowledge together addressing climate change through innovative place-based education and blended learning – EduChange, for short. It is being implemented by universities from Malta, Utrecht, Trondheim – and Olomouc. The project won the Sustainability category.

"The aim of our project is to use a field course to innovate the way we teach about climate change from a local and global perspective. As teaching and learning in the field tends to be traditional and authoritative, our goal is to make this learning environment innovative and creative. We believe that fostering innovation and creativity can be easily achieved through international partnerships and interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches," said Jiří Pánek from the Department of Development and Environmental Studies, who is the main investigator of the award-winning project.

The successful projects were nominated by DZS representatives. Out of the 61 nominated projects, 33 made it to the final round, where the winners in each category were selected by an expert committee. The awards were presented to the winners by the Czech Minister of Education, Youth and Sports Petr Gazdík.

“It is great to see how many schools and other organisations try to contribute to the internationalisation of education in the Czech Republic, to follow trends, and apply new methods. I believe that international education programmes are one of the indispensable tools to achieve the goals of the Strategy 2030+. Therefore, I thank all those who are advancing Czech education,” said Minister Gazdík.

All shortlisted projects are presented in the DZS 2021 Awards publication.

Categories: News from UP

AFO57 winners announced!

News: Faculty of Science - Sun, 01/05/2022 - 12:22

International Competition, Czech & Slovak Competition, Short Film Competition. Plus the student jury prize. All these categories have already announced their winners for the 57th Academia Film Olomouc (AFO), which took place from 26 April to 1 May 2022. Almost 6,000 visitors were accredited to the popular science film festival organised by Palacký University Olomouc. They could choose from 250 programme entries ranging from film screenings to lectures, workshops, concerts, and exhibitions to activities for schools and entire families.

The jury of the International Competition highlighted three films featured in this year’s strong competition. Two thematically very different documentaries received special mention: The Garden of a Thousand Bees builds on the huge success of The Land of Honey in popularising beekeeping; however, it also reflects the pandemic situation and the need to find new passions in a period when ordinary life was put on hold. Pleistocene Park, on the other hand, takes viewers on a fascinating trip to Siberia, where an ageing scientist, Sergei Zimov, and his family try to prevent the permafrost from thawing.

“Nonetheless, the main prize of the International Competition went to the documentary Fathom. Its director Drew Xanthopoulos follows two female scientists who are researching whale communication. The film deals equally with field research, the communication of new scientific knowledge, and the lives of the scientists themselves who decided to devote their professional careers to this subject matter," said the festival’s head of programming Ondřej Kazík.

The jury appreciated it as a beautifully crafted film, extraordinarily shot and recorded by one single person. “It is stunningly moving in many ways and offers rare insights into the emotional and personal challenges of working in the ocean environment. The sound is an element that enhances the film, seamlessly blending the music of the whales with other elements of the environment. The documentary lets its protagonists speak with a rare and immediate honesty,” said the members of the jury in agreement.

 

The Czech & Slovak competition: two award-winning films

Special mention went to the short film Czechia Deforested (Holoseč). This visually captivating student film raises the issue of Czech forests that may be irreversibly damaged by the bark beetle. The winner was Ivo Bystřičan and his episode from the series Industria, entitled Manufacturing War (Industrie – Výroba války). “The series playfully combines commentary by leading Czech experts and work with archival material and animation. The winning episode depicts the operations of Tomas Bata’s factories during the World War I. Far from being a dry analysis of the workings of one company, it is a complex historical excursion that is not afraid to demolish historical myths and to question the nature of the system,” added Kazík.

In the category of short films, special mention was given to festival guest Peter Galison and his moving story Shattering Stars. He delves into the black-hole research, but in animated form and via the story of Indian scientist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, who was the first to discover and describe black holes back in the 1930s. However, his findings were dismissed by the scientific community at that time, and he did not receive any recognition until fifty years later, when he was finally awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics.

The winner of the Short Film Competition was The Problem of the Hydra. This intense experimental short film takes viewers out of their comfort zone through the articulation of existential questions that keep us awake at nights. Who is the creature at the centre of the action? A microscopic animal, the fresh-water polyp a/k/a Hydra vulgaris!

The student jury gave their award to the documentary Carbon – An Unauthorised Biography. Here the gas, today perceived mostly negatively, is the protagonist who presents its life story to the audience.

 

TV host Daniel Stach was awarded for significant contribution to the popularisation of science

Daniel Stach, a top TV host at Czech Television, who gave a talk “Science for Everyone” at AFO57, received the Award for Significant Contribution to the Popularisation of Science. “Thank you very much – not only for myself, but for the whole team, without whom no broadcast could be made, whether it is the Hyde Park Civilisation programme or anything else produced by our science editorial team. Thanks also to AFO – not only for the award, but most of all for helping people think, for giving them opportunities to delve more into the world of science, and for allowing them to see the world differently through the eyes of science,” said the laureate Stach.

A total of 230 people, most of them UP students, were involved in the preparation of the festival, which took place live again after two years on-line. “I admit I was a bit worried during the preparations about whether we would be able to bring AFO back into the limelight after the two-year hiatus. However, since the festival has started, I have been constantly moved, because the screening rooms were full, the debates after the films were extremely inspiring, and guests from all over the world came to compliment me on how great this event was. British producer Archie Baron, who showed his film Vaccine – The Inside Story this year, thanked me that without AFO, this film would probably never have been made. Because it was AFO in 2019 where he met producer Janet Tobias, and together they managed to bring this very challenging film, produced in the middle of the global pandemic, to a successful conclusion,” said AFO Director Eva Navrátilová.

The international festival of science documentary films Academia Film Olomouc (AFO) has been organised by Palacký University Olomouc since 1966. The festival is one of the oldest Czech film events. By the number of accredited visitors, it is one of the most attended film festivals in the Czech Republic. This year it took place in the UP Arts Centre (Convictorium), Kino Metropol, the Sts Cyril and Methodius Faculty of Theology, the Regional Museum in Olomouc, Fort Science, the theatre Divadlo na cucky, the Jazz Tibet Club, and the Za()hrada community garden.

Those who missed the festival in Olomouc can watch the best films on-line from Monday 2 May as part of AFO Echoes on the DAFilms platform.

More information can be found here.

Categories: News from UP

New project at Faculty of Health Sciences focuses on eating disorders and obesity

News: Faculty of Science - Fri, 29/04/2022 - 08:00

The UP Faculty of Health Sciences is participating in the international Erasmus+ project Connected4Health with the focus on eating disorders and obesity in young people. One of its goals is to provide university teachers and lecturers with the knowledge, skills, methods, and tools for a multidisciplinary approach to teaching such topics.

Universities and other institutions from seven European countries are collaborating in the project. Its coordinator is the George Emil Palade University of Medicine, Pharmacy, Science and Technology of Târgu Mureş, Romania, a partner of the UP Faculty of Health Sciences during the recently completed HELP2 project which focused on improving the language competencies of health professionals. Thanks to this successful collaboration, the Olomouc faculty was invited to participate in the current project.

“The two-year project aims to interlink medical and humanities-based perspectives on the issues of nutritional counselling, obesity, and eating disorders. The first result will be a handbook that will summarise the cultural and historical development of the societal approach to these issues in each of the partner countries. Second, a teaching syllabus will be produced, which will be useful for university curricula and for all those who have a professional interest in obesity or eating disorders. It will provide information from medical disciplines such as diabetology, obesity treatment, and endocrinology, but also from physiotherapy, psychology, and communication studies. The third result will be a set of methodological approaches to navigate effective care for young people with obesity or eating disorders,” said Lukáš Merz from the Department of Social Sciences and Humanities at the UP Faculty of Health Sciences.

In addition to the cultural and historical overview for the Czech Republic and testing of the upcoming methodologies, Olomouc researchers will contribute to the joint work especially in the field of psychology and nutritional therapy. One of the members of the team is Czech nutritionist Hana Střítecká from the Faculty of Military Health Sciences of the University of Defence, who also lectures at the UP Faculty of Health Sciences and the UP Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry.

The results of the project will be continuously published on its website.

Categories: News from UP

Volunteers help save unique pipe organ in Sobotín

News: Faculty of Science - Mon, 25/04/2022 - 08:00

A group of volunteers has decided to save the pipe organ in the Renaissance Church of St. Laurence in Sobotín, in the Šumperk region. Among those not indifferent to the fate of this musical instrument from the end of the 19th century is Karel Hron, former Vice-Dean for External Relations at the UP Faculty of Science, together with his successor, Ota Blahoušek. Hron, who is a statistician, participated in the creation of a new church website, designed by Daniel Bazala and Ivo Šmerek, students of the Department of Computer Science at the UP Faculty of Science. Biologist Ota Blahoušek then shot a promotional video about the church and the pipe organ. On the website, people can contribute to the repair of the organ by adopting one or more of its 400 pipes – the amount of the financial contribution depends on the pipes’ size.

“The organ in St. Laurence’s Church in Sobotín is a valuable pseudo-baroque instrument from the end of the 19th century, built by the important Moravian organ company of the Brauner Brothers from Uničov. It is preserved in almost the original condition, which, however, now urgently requires reconstruction due to the overall wear and infestation by wood-destroying insects,” said Hron.

According to him, the Sobotín pipe organ is one of the few preserved instruments of the Brauners in its original and functional state and is characterised by a number of unique technical and aural solutions. “They made exceptionally high-quality romantic one-manual pipe organs with a pedal. Their sound side is especially valuable,” he said.

Historical associations with the witchcraft trials

Although the village of Sobotín has only a little over a thousand inhabitants, it boasts a rich history. The Klein family, who owned one of the largest ironworks in the Austro-Hungarian monarchy in the second half of the 19th century, is indelibly inscribed in the village’s history. “No less interesting, although mostly turbulent, is also the history associated with the St. Laurence’s Church, which has been protected as a cultural monument since 1958,” said Hron.

It was an event in the church in Sobotín on Palm Sunday in 1678 that unleashed the infamous witch trials in the Moravian lands. And at the end of World War II, several dozen citizens were massacred by Russian soldiers in and around Sobotín. Only a few days later, twenty-nine-year-old nun Marie Paschalis Jahn lost her life at the hands of a Red Army soldier when she refused to submit to him. “She is buried right in the cemetery that surrounds the church. Last year, Pope Francis signed a decree recognizing her martyrdom and that of nine other nuns who suffered a similar fate,” added Hron.

Votive mass and benefit concert

An important event will take place in the Sobotín church this June. On Saturday, June 18, at 2 pm, a votive mass will be held to bless Marie Paschalis Jahn, whose beatification is set to take place just the week before in Wrocław. The celebrations will also include a benefit concert on the national holiday commemorating Victory in Europe on 8 May at 4 pm, with the participation of members of the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra and the Moravian Theatre in Olomouc with Jan Gottwald, organologist and choir director at the basilica minor on Svatý Kopeček near Olomouc.

“Because this concert, which is combined with the opportunity to contribute to the repair of our valuable Sobotín pipe organ, was planned long in advance, we had no idea how current and important it would be at this time to be reminded of the horrors of war and the price of purity of conscience,” said Hron. The Roman Catholic parish priest Milan Palkovič, who has been behind the overall restoration of this church monument, equates efforts to reconstruct the organ in connection with another important role of the Sobotín church: “If the resting place of our ancestors looks attractive, and we can admire it not only with our eyes but also our ears, then it is a sign that we have some understanding of what cultural and spiritual heritage is.”

Categories: News from UP

EduChange project introduces modern tools in teaching climate change

News: Faculty of Science - Tue, 19/04/2022 - 08:00

The international project EduChange 2.0 is focused on the use of mobile and web tools and other means of information and communication technologies in the creation of special teaching and awareness-raising activities focused on climate change. The project was prepared by the Department of Development and Environmental Studies of the Faculty of Science for the years 2020 to 2023 for students not only in teacher training. The project also includes annual field excursions. This year, a group of students from four countries travelled to Fort Science.

According to Jiří Chovaneček from the Department of Development and Environmental Studies, teacher training students want to use mobile applications and web tools incl. geographic information systems in teaching focused on climate change, in order to make teaching focused on this important topic as efficient and attractive as possible. “Our project EduChange 2.0 therefore focuses primarily on working with tools that support active citizenship through innovative geoparticipatory methods for solving environmental problems,” he said.

The project also involved experts from the universities of Malta, Utrecht, and Trondheim and from the Finnish start-up company Seppo, which is creating a new type of pedagogical applications combining social learning and versatile ways of using mobile technologies. “With the help of this project, we are trying to develop skills and abilities in the field of creating geoparticipatory mapping platforms and using mobile applications and games,” said Chovaneček.

The first activity of the annual EduChange 2.0 cycle was an international excursion. It was attended by 19 students at Fort Science, who, in addition to lectures and workshops, also focused on the development of their own games and educational activities. The course was praised by Matthew Grech of the University of Malta. “This course is a great way to gain a deeper understanding of the importance of climate change education through a common understanding of the humanity of others. Whether we come from Norway, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, or Malta, no matter which languages we speak, we have a certain background and we have a certain experience. It’s something that unites us all.”

Man-made climate change has become increasingly pronounced in recent years, according to Chovaneček. “We are witnessing bush fires in Australia, rising ocean temperatures and melting sea ice at the North Pole. Surveys of high school students in Amsterdam have shown that most young people are convinced that climate change is underway and that it is man-made. However, young people’s views on the severity of the effects of climate change vary widely, and many think that climate change is more of a problem elsewhere and for the distant future,” he said.

Categories: News from UP

UP announces a collection to aid students and employees who have found themselves in difficult situations due to the war

News: Faculty of Science - Thu, 14/04/2022 - 12:00

They live, study, and work with us; they are members of our university community, and now they need our help. “They” are UP students and employees from Ukraine, whose lives have been completely disrupted by the war. Many of them are now finding themselves without financial means or the support of their families. Thus UP has launched a public collection to support those in need.

There are more than 160 students and employees from Ukraine presently at Palacký University. “They are our colleagues, students, co-workers, who have found themselves in difficult life situations due to war. They are members of the UP academic community, and this is why we consider it our duty to help them. We are using various means to help, and a public collection is one of them. I believe that our alumni and other friends of UP will also be happy to help,” said UP Rector Martin Procházka.

UP students and employees who are Ukrainian nationals affected by the entry of Russian Federation troops into Ukraine and who need help can apply for support from the public fund via completing an online form. Funds will be then disbursed in the form of a contribution from the public fund.

Palacký University is helping students and employees affected by the war in Ukraine by various means. It has already offered students a one-time special stipend in the amount of CZK 10,000, for which they can also re-apply; offered employees interest-free loans; and is also offering them other forms of non-financial aid. UP Management has also decided that during April it will provide students disrupted by the military conflict with free meals in UP dining halls; the tab to be picked up by the university.

Give to the Fund to Aid Ukraine

Support UP students and employees affected by the war by sending donations to a special account at Komerční banka. The amount is up to you. Thank you!

Account number: 123-6502550237/0100

It is not necessary to state a Variable Symbol.

When scanning the QR code via mobile or internet banking, the account details are entered automatically.

Your donations to this public fund are tax-deductible. If you need a donation tax statement (Potvrzení o poskytnutém příspěvku), please contact Mgr. Lenka Doleželová via e-mail: lenka.dolezelova@upol.cz, by telephone: 585 631 018, or by post: Univerzita Palackého v Olomouci, sekretariát kvestorky, Křížkovského 511/8, 771 47 Olomouc.

Categories: News from UP

Updated: Aid to Ukraine

News: Faculty of Science - Wed, 13/04/2022 - 08:00

Palacký University is organising and coordinating aid and support for students and employees from Ukraine who are finding themselves in difficult existential situations due to the war. At the same time, UP is working with the Regional Assistance Centre to Aid Ukraine. Here, we bring you up-to-date information on the ongoing situation. The list is not complete; activities are increasing daily.

 

– The Faculty of Law is offering legal aid to refugees from Ukraine via an online legal advice centre for them. Those interested can send their queries to a special e-mail address: legal.help@upol.cz. Faculty of Law student volunteers will offer free advice and help. More details are available here.

– The Department of Foreign Languages at the UP Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry (FMD) is offering Czech for Foreigners courses with a focus on healthcare through University Hospital Olomouc and Szergej Cápec of the FMD. The courses are led by Dagmar Hrabalová and Lenka Podhorná, who teach Czech to medical students in the English-language study programmes. The goal is to help Ukrainian refugees who are healthcare workers to obtain not only general competency in Czech, but also specialised proficiency in order to integrate them more quickly into jobs in the healthcare profession. The courses are free of charge.

– At UP there are currently seven female students on three-month Erasmus+ practical internships, working for example in the AFO organisational team, at the Faculty of Arts, at the Archdiocesan Caritas Olomouc, and the firm Toma Olomouc.

– Children from Ukraine can give form to their feelings in the Drawing Notebook (Pokreslený sešit), which has been launched by the Faculty of Education. It is available in both Czech and Ukrainian versions online, and is being prepared for book publication. Already it is being used by children in integration groups at nursery and primary schools. More information is available here.

– People have who fled the war in Ukraine are starting to learn Czech at the Faculty of Arts. The first round of the qualifications course was attended by fifteen people. The lessons are taking place in cooperation with the Olomouc Labour Office and are aimed at the job market. We have written about this in more detail here.

– Ukrainian refugees attending middle school are improving their English at the Faculty of Arts, where an English conversation course is aimed at young Ukrainians aged 15 to 18 with skill levels from A2 to B1. Those interested can join the free course at any time. The conversation course is free-form and not based on any textbook. We have written about this in more detail here.

– The Sts Cyril and Methodius Faculty of Theology is asking people to support Ukrainian Catholic University, with which it has had long-term cooperation. The university is currently helping Ukrainian citizens who have been forced to leave their homes. Prayers for the school are welcome; so is financial support, via the webpage supporting.ucu.edu.ua/en/donate.

– Due to the decreasing workload at the physical contact point for UP students and employees who have found themselves in difficult situations due to the invasion in Ukraine, this UP Volunteering Centre service has moved online. They can still be reached by e-mail at dobrovolnictvi.ukrajina@upol.cz and by telephone at +420 736 676 006 (daily from 8 am to 8 pm). More details can be found here.

Categories: News from UP

Breakthrough in the fight against energy crisis—Czech scientists make chemicals and industrial products from sun and minerals

News: Faculty of Science - Tue, 12/04/2022 - 09:00

he sun instead of electric furnaces and a cheap nanomaterial instead of gold. This is, in a nutshell, the fundamental principle behind a new process that can speed up and make cheaper the production of a wide range of pharmaceuticals, chemicals, plastics, or dyes. The technology, which also brings a significant reduction in energy costs and is thus a strong response to the current energy crisis, is based on a nanomaterial newly developed by scientists from the Czech Advanced Technology and Research Institute (CATRIN) of Palacký University Olomouc and the Centre of Energy and Environmental Technologies (CEET) of VSB-TUO, in cooperation with colleagues in Greece and Germany. The composition of the nanomaterial resembles common, naturally occurring minerals, yet it can replace noble metals used so far. Potential investors have already expressed their interest in the material. The discovery was recently published in the Nature Nanotechnology journal.1

“In the current geopolitical situation and the related energy crisis, the European Union has no choice but to look for ways to reduce the costs of industrial production and to make maximum use of new green technologies enabling to end our dependence on energy and raw material resources from Russia,” said Radek Zbořil, the Scientific Director of CATRIN-RCPTM and Head of Materials-Environmental Laboratory at CEET.

A team of Czech researchers, alongside colleagues from the scientific institute FORTH in Heraklion, Greece, and the Leibniz Institute for Catalysis in Rostock, Germany, studied the chemical production processes of aniline compounds, which are widely used in the production of pharmaceuticals, plastics, dyes, and agrochemicals. According to data from MarketWatch, the market for aniline compounds is approximately $12 billion per year, with a significant increase on the way. However, their current industrial production is a very costly process, energetically and financially, as it takes place under high temperatures and pressures, and the acceleration of the chemical reaction requires the use of noble metals such as gold, palladium, or platinum.

“The new technology works with chalcopyrite nanoparticles, a common iron-, copper-, and sulfur-based mineral found not only in the Czech Republic but also in many other locations in Europe, America, and Africa. This nanomaterial is cheap, can be easily produced on an industrial scale, and accelerates chemical reactions more efficiently than the mentioned noble metals, only using solar radiation,” said Zbořil, describing the advantages of the new technology.

The nanomaterial acts as a so-called plasmonic catalyst. This means that it exhibits a number of unique properties when interacting with sunlight. “Sunlight irradiation induces a cascade of chemical processes in the nanomaterial, with some electrons moving to the surface of the material or even leaving its structure. These ‘hot electrons’ very effectively activate chemicals that enter industrial production. Simultaneously, the temperature in the immediate surroundings of the nanomaterial increases, which also contributes significantly to the acceleration of the chemical reaction,” clarified the nature of the functioning of the nanomaterial Aristeidis Bakandritsos, one of the corresponding authors based in CATRIN Olomouc and CEET Ostrava. 

The researchers compared the efficiency of the new system with dozens of commercial materials as well as with recently published catalysts, and observed great results. “The production rate relative to the price of the material is an order of magnitude higher than that of the best competing technologies. Experimentally and theoretically, we have demonstrated that this high efficiency relates to, among other things, the electron structure of the nanomaterial, which harmonically matches the electron structure of other components of the reaction,” added Bakandritsos.

The work of Professor Zbořil’s research team has capitalized upon the recent discovery of a catalyst deploying iron nanoparticles and showing high efficiency in related processes of pharmaceutical and chemical production, which was published by the Czech-German team in the journal Nature Catalysis at the beginning of the year.2 “The new plasmonic material operates on a different principle and has, in our opinion, greater commercial potential, including a dramatic reduction in energy costs, record efficiency, easy and cheap production, and an elegant technological solution. Therefore, before publishing our research results, we decided to protect the technology with an international patent application. This was the right step, and we are already negotiating industrial applications of the technology with potential investors, especially in Germany,” concluded Zbořil.

1Poulose A.Ch., Zoppellaro G., Konidakis I., Serpetzoglou E., Stratakis E., Tomanec O., Beller M., Bakandritsos A., Zbořil R., Fast and selective reduction of nitroarenes under visible light with an earth-abundant plasmonic photocatalyst, NATURE NANOTECHNOLOGY, 2022; https://doi.org/10.1038/s41565-022-01087-3

2 Vishwas G., Senthamarai T., Kadam R., Malina O., Kašlík J., Zbořil R., Gawande M. B., Jagadeesh R. V., Beller M., Silica-supported Fe/Fe–O nanoparticles for the catalytic hydrogenation of nitriles to amines in the presence of aluminium additives”, NATURE CATALYSIS, vol. 5, pp. 20-29, 2022. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41929-021-00722-x.

Categories: News from UP

Vít Hušek elected Dean of the Faculty of Theology

News: Faculty of Science - Thu, 07/04/2022 - 08:05

In the years 2022–2026, the Sts Cyril and Methodius Faculty of Theology (CMFT) at Palacký University Olomouc will be headed by Vít Hušek, the current vice-dean for science and research and permanent deputy to the present dean, Peter Tavel. The faculty’s Academic Senate made this decision by secret ballot. However, the elected candidate must still be approved by the Congregation for Catholic Education in Rome.

The members of the CMTF Academic Senate voted between three candidates. The post was contested by Jaroslav Franc, head of the Department of Communication Studies and chair of the CMTF Academic Senate, who did not participate in the election, and Pavel Kopeček, head of the Department of Liturgical Theology. Vít Hušek received the required majority of votes in the third round of the election, when 9 of the 11 senators present voted for him.

“I have been part of the faculty’s management as vice-dean for three terms, so I dare say that I am intimately familiar with the ins and outs of the job and I take it seriously. I wish to build on all the good things that have been achieved under the current dean Peter Tavel and his predecessor Ivana Vlková. I do not promise any revolutionary changes; we will continue in all key areas such as studies, research and publications, and the third role of the faculty, social outreach. Although many changes in society are expected to come, I want to guarantee the basic security for our students and employees and continue stabilising the faculty,” said Hušek.

He added that in regard to the make-up of his vice-dean team, he wanted to rely on the current members of the faculty’s leadership.

Hušek is expected to take up the office of CMTF dean on 14 September 2022 as the seventh dean since the faculty was re-established in 1990. The faculty has been headed by Vojtěch Tkadlčík, Ladislav Tichý, Pavel Ambros, Petr Chalupa, and Ivana Vlková; Peter Tavel has been its dean since 2014.

However, before Vít Hušek can be appointed dean, the Congregation for Catholic Education in Rome has a say in his election. The faculty asks the Congregation to approve the elected candidate through its Grand Chancellor, Olomouc Archbishop Jan Graubner. Once the approval of the Congregation is granted, a proposal will be submitted to the UP Rector for the appointment of the elected candidate as CMTF Dean.

 

Vít Hušek (b. 1971) works at the Department of Philosophy and Patrology and is the head of the Centre for Patristic, Medieval and Renaissance Texts at the Sts Cyril and Methodius Faculty of Theology. He graduated from CMTF and the UP Faculty of Arts and gained foreign experience during his internships at the Institut Catholique de Paris and Katholische Universität Eichstätt. He was appointed Associate Professor in Theology in 2017. His professional work focusses on early Christian literature and the history of Christian thought. He is a member of the CMTF Scholarly Board and the Evangelical Theological Faculty of Charles University as well as of several professional boards at the CMTF and the Hussite Theological Faculty of Charles University.

Categories: News from UP

Updated: Aid to Ukraine

News: Faculty of Science - Thu, 31/03/2022 - 08:00

Palacký University is organising and coordinating aid and support for students and employees from Ukraine who are finding themselves in difficult existential situations due to the war. At the same time, UP is working with the Regional Assistance Centre to Aid Ukraine. Here, we bring you up-to-date information on the ongoing situation. The list is not complete; activities are increasing daily.

The UP Volunteering Centre currently has 672 registered volunteers. They continue to take an active part in the operations of the Regional Assistance Centre to Aid Ukraine (Krajské asistenční centrum pomoci Ukrajině: KACPU), where eight interpreters work dayshifts, plus four assistants, and one volunteer for crisis intervention. One interpreter works the nightshift and there is also a 24-hr telephone hotline.

– Almost three dozen elementary and middle schools in the Olomouc region have expressed interest in volunteer training sessions, which should help with adaptation groups where there are Ukrainian children. The Volunteering Centre is recruiting volunteers and training them.

– Dentistry students at the UP Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry and employees of the Dental Clinic at University Hospital Olomouc have donated four full boxes of toothbrushes, toothpaste, and other hygienic necessities for refugees at KACPU.

– AC BALUO has refugee children in mind. In conjunction with the child care service Svišti v pohybu, it is offering Ukrainian children aged 5 to 12 regular physical education classes. The programme will take place every Thursday from 2 to 3 pm and will last until June. Details are available here.

– The Volunteering Centre is looking for volunteers for University Hospital Olomouc, where there is a need for help with Covid-positive Ukrainian patients and their relatives. VC is asking vaccinated students of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine & Dentistry for help.

– Ukrainian families who have fled the Russian aggression to Olomouc can take a breather from the suffering caused by war thanks to a solidarity organisation which has prepared offers of free-time activities. Information on the programme is now available via an online database on the Fort Science website. The UP Faculty of Science popular science centre is also preparing the Yarmarok Myru event which will take place on 3 April starting at 9 am in Laudon Hall. We have written about this here (in Czech).

– The Volunteering Centre contact point in the Armoury/Zbrojnice and the telephone hotline for university students and academics from Ukraine remain in operation.

– Thirty-one refugees are currently residing at UP dormitories, of whom 14 are students accepted for studies, 7 are academics hired by UP, and the others are relatives of students or other employees. The majority are paying for their accommodations from monies given to them.

– The Volunteering Centre is accepting material goods for its partner, Chernivtsi National University. We have written about that in more detail here.

Categories: News from UP

Help Chernivtsi University, calls Palacký University

News: Faculty of Science - Thu, 24/03/2022 - 11:57

In response to the desperate situation of the partner Chernivtsi National University and its request for help, Palacký University Olomouc has launched a collection of material aid. From now until 8 April, the collection will take place at the Contact Point of the UP Volunteering Centre in the courtyard of the Armoury in the premises of the UP Student Club.

A detention centre for refugees from war zones has been set up right on the grounds of Chernivtsi University in southwest Ukraine. It currently houses several thousand people. And they are running out of the basic necessities in this makeshift camp.

Help Chernivtsi University!

Where? UP Volunteering Centre Contact Point

What? Material aid

Until when? 8 April

Thank you for your solidarity and willingness to help!

Palacký University together with Caritas Olomouc and the Olomouc District Chamber of Commerce are responding to the request for help. The announced collection is to cover acutely lacking materials. Out of dozens of possible items, the organisers of the event have decided to focus mainly on those that might be owned and easily missed by people, or those that are easy to purchase. The following items will be collected: flashlights (torches), batteries of all kinds, power banks, C-type mobile phone chargers, lightning connectors (for data transfers), extension cords, clean (washed) sleeping bags, canned food, ibuprofen and paracetamol. Please make sure that goods, especially the technical and electronic equipment, are functional and in as good a condition as possible.

The contact point of the UP Volunteering Centre in the courtyard of the Armoury (1 Biskupské Square) in the premises of the UP Student Club will be open for all donors until 8 April, on weekdays from 8 am to 2 pm.

Categories: News from UP

Updated: Aid to Ukraine

News: Faculty of Science - Wed, 23/03/2022 - 13:21

Palacký University is organising and coordinating aid and support for students and employees from Ukraine who are finding themselves in existential situations due to the war. At the same time, UP is working with the Regional Assistance Centre to Aid Ukraine. Here, we bring you up-to-date information on the ongoing situation.

The UP Volunteering Centre is still actively engaged at the Regional Assistance Centre to Aid Ukraine (Krajské asistenční centrum pomoci Ukrajině: KACPU), and is concurrently running a contact point in the Armoury/Zbrojnice and telephone hot lines for students and academics from Ukraine. Our volunteers have already logged in over 7000 hours.

– UP is currently operating under the “Lex Ukrajina” which went into effect in Czechia on 21 March. UP is preparing conditions so that Ukrainian students can attend regular classes.

– The university has announced a financial collection to support foreign students and workers at UP who have been affected by the results of the war in Ukraine.

– The Faculty of Education, in cooperation with the UP Volunteering Centre, is preparing a programme of one-day adaptation groups for elementary schools and afterschool organisations to help Ukrainian children. At the same time, it is also organising entry training for volunteers so that they be better prepared to communicate with children traumatised by the war; in addition, schools have been contacted to ask what kind of help they might need.

– Academia Film Olomouc organisers have accepted three Ukrainian students as interns.

– The UP Faculty of Arts has already launched several courses, incl. English for teenaged refugees aged 15–18, German for refugees, Czech language courses intended primarily for refugees, and a course called Survival Ukrainian for UP students and employees.

– The Faculty of Law has accepted its first short-term resident student in connection with the Russian invasion from Ukraine. We have written about Anhelina Diriavko in more detail here.

– Interested refugees can now register for qualification courses in Czech in order to enter the labour market. The courses are run by the UP Faculty of Arts.

– UP faculties are thinking about free time and cultural opportunities for refugees: at the Faculty of Arts for example a film club has already been launched featuring family films in Ukrainian; it has also come up with an initiative to provide guide services in the Olomouc town centre in Ukrainian and Russian. The Faculty of Education is preparing afterschool activities for Ukrainian children, and fixing up a space in the building’s basement; it is also considering hosting summer camps, offering language courses for children and adults alike, and is completing several teaching materials for teachers and children.

– The Armoury Library is making available forty books in Ukrainian which it has bought to lend to those fleeing the war. Titles include literature, fairy tales, even Harry Potter. Interested persons can contact KACPU for more information. Details are available here (in Czech).

Categories: News from UP

Faculty of Education announces collaboration with National Taipei University of Education

News: Faculty of Science - Wed, 23/03/2022 - 10:00

National Taipei University of Education, which prepares future Taiwanese teachers for their profession, will cooperate with Palacký University Olomouc. Representatives of both schools have signed a Memorandum of Understanding.

The Memorandum is based on the existing cooperation between the Institute of Education and Social Studies at the UP Faculty of Education and Taipei University. The cooperation between the two schools can now develop officially in many areas. Rector Martin Procházka signed the document on behalf of Palacký University, and President Ching-Ho Chen signed on behalf of National Taipei University of Education.

“We are definitely interested in the exchange of teachers and researchers, as well as in student mobility within Bachelor’s, Master’s, and doctoral programmes. We are also interested in the mobility of administrative and professional staff, as well as joint courses, study tours, conferences, and seminars. Among other things, we are also preparing cooperation on joint research projects, and we are interested in exchanging information and resources,” said Jana Kantorová from the Institute of Education and Social Studies.

In addition, she said that the Memorandum has already been followed up by joint scientific and research activities which will further be intensified, and in the wider context will contribute to cooperation between democratic countries.

“We’re already preparing an online conference together on teacher training: ‘Education in the Czech Republic’, which will take place on 13 May 2022,” she added. 

Categories: News from UP

The development of energy storage devices will be supported by a European grant

News: Faculty of Science - Tue, 22/03/2022 - 14:30

A high-capacity, safe, and environmental friendly supercapacitor, i.e., a device for storing electrical energy, will be developed by scientists from CATRIN at Palacký University Olomouc in cooperation with colleagues from Bar-Ilan University in Israel and the Italian company ITELCOND. They will use a graphene-derived material developed in Olomouc, which is already protected by a European patent. The research to translate this discovery into practice is possible thanks to the prestigious and unique grant funded by the European Innovation Council (EIC) Transition Challenges with an allocated budget of nearly 2.5 million Euros (about 62.5 million Czech crowns).

 “The nitrogen-doped graphene we have developed is proving to be very promising for use in supercapacitors. The material has a higher density than graphite, which, combined with the great ability to adsorb ions from the electrolyte, leads to very high volumetric energy density, i.e., the amount of energy stored per unit of volume of the material. This is significantly higher than for all carbon- or graphene-based supercapacitor materials described so far, which can bring a breakthrough improvement in the performance of supercapacitors,” said the team leader Michal Otyepka. This physical chemist is also the principal investigator of two prestigious grants funded by the European Research Council (ERC) addressing the development and possible application of new 2D materials. The ERC Proof of Concept project—the only one so far in the Czech Republic—was one of the conditions for succeeding in the EIC call.     

The pursuit of materials for efficient electricity storage is one of the key challenges for today’s science. The ever-increasing mobility and number of electronic devices, along with ongoing efforts to reduce fossil fuel consumption, will continue to spur global demand for affordable, reliable and sustainable energy. “The goal is not only to continuously increase battery capacity but also to look for other efficient non-lithium-based ways of storing electricity. Carbon-based supercapacitors are beginning to be an attractive alternative for energy storage, mainly due to their safety, long life and extraordinary ability to sustain millions of charging cycles without losing capacity,” added Otyepka.

The new material from CATRIN can be prepared from graphite fluoride, an industrial lubricant available on the market in tonnes, which increases its potential commercial availability. “At the same time, we were very careful to make the resulting component as environmentally friendly as possible, which we achieved by, in addition to using the carbon material itself, selecting the right electrolyte in the supercapacitor,” added another member of the research team, Veronika Šedajová, who is also a co-author of the recently granted European patent. Scientists recently reported on the benefits of the new material in the journal Energy & Environmental Science.

The next step will be to build prototypes of supercapacitors in cooperation with international partners. “We will focus on optimizing the properties of our material and move to pilot production of new types of supercapacitors. The aim is to increase the energy density of supercapacitors beyond 50 Wh/L, which will allow their wide use in electric vehicles and as battery supports in devices that need to be supplied with large amounts of energy in a very short time,” added Otyepka.

“The EIC Transition Challenges grant is a highly prestigious project. Having succeeded at the very first attempt is a significant accomplishment and the satisfaction is further enhanced by the fact that it is the only grant of its kind in the Czech Republic so far, like the ERC Proof of Concept. Two ERC grants crowned with an EIC project is a prime example of cutting-edge science, which clearly shows that Professor Michal Otyepka is an excellent scientist at an excellent international level,” added CATRIN Director Pavel Banáš. CATRIN will coordinate this type of project not only as the only institution in the Czech Republic, but also in the so-called Widening countries, which includes especially the new EU member states acceding after 2004.

71 proposals from 22 countries were submitted for research under the EIC Transition Challenges. The funding is aimed at commercialisation of new technologies that have already been experimentally validated in the laboratory.

Categories: News from UP

Railway corridor between the Czech Republic and Ukraine: Where UP students are playing a big role

News: Faculty of Science - Tue, 22/03/2022 - 11:00

Trains are leaving daily for Ukraine, in order to take those who are fleeing the war out. Crowds of refugees of all ages gather in the Ukrainian-Polish border town of Korczowa, Poland and from there go to Przemyśl, where they try to get onto evacuation trains. And in those trains, a lot of work is being done by volunteers from Palacký University, students who speak Ukrainian and/or Russian.

A working weekend practically without sleep, without clear instructions, but nonetheless with a clear goal: to get Ukrainian refugees to safety. That’s the basic idea of the humanitarian railway corridor between the Czech Republic and Ukraine, where students of the UP Faculty of Arts are helping out in a big way.

Michaela Magdalena Kočovská, a student of German and Russian at the UP Faculty of Arts, described the situation. “On Friday in Olomouc, I boarded a RegioJet evacuation train sometime around midnight. We arrived in Przemyśl, Poland about seven am. Then we waited there, abandoned, for about four hours until a bus came to take us to the centre in Korczowa. This is the place where refugees from all parts of Ukraine are gathering. People are resting up there in a huge station hall, they can eat, drink, and pick something out of donated clothing. The hall is the place where the refugees find out where they will be going. It’s a place where people are also offering transport to various countries.”

She helped with the evacuation of refugees mainly as an interpreter. “In the centre of the hall is a place where people announce their requests, for example where they would like to relocate. They also receive information as to where they can actually go,” she added. The students’ basic task was to inform people about the possibilities of where they could take refuge in the Czech Republic, and to explain and interpret in every “free” moment.

“Those who have decided to travel to the Czech Republic take their bags and sometimes even pets onto special busses to Przemyśl, where they can get on the evacuation trains,” said the volunteer. During that weekend about one hundred fifty people gathered at the Przemyśl station, where her task remained the same. She interpreted countless questions and answers. Primarily about visas, and what refugee status means in the Czech Republic

“For the majority of people, lots of things were incomprehensible without explanations. Many of them worried that they wouldn’t have any freedom in a foreign country, that it would be like living in a prison. Some of them were obviously in great distress – due to the journey they have had to go through, due to the whole current situation. There were people there that really had only the one backpack and had been travelling already for several days,” she added.

The train to the Czech Republic left on Saturday, sometime after 10 pm. It stopped in Ostrava, Olomouc, Pardubice, and Prague. People received free blankets and refreshments. For the two interpreters, Michaela and her colleague – there were just the two interpreters on a trainload of one hundred fifty refugees – the work did not let up. They even helped serve dinner. And again gave explanations and responded to questions. During the trip she had to really try to persuade refugees to disembark elsewhere than Prague, as its housing capacity is already full. She did it with the knowledge that where exactly housing possibilities might be found was not actually known. The situation is constantly in flux.

“That was so stressful. Constant telephoning to ask where there might be space for refugees. You’re transporting people but you don’t know where to. You have to find out everything on the way,” the UP student described.

When a group of people got off the train a little after 6 am in Olomouc on Sunday, her shift was nearing its end. She took the group to the Regional Assistance Centre to Aid Ukraine (Krajské asistenční centrum pomoci Ukrajině: KACPU), where she also works as an interpreter, by the way. After her trying evacuation shift, she handed over the job to other student volunteer interpreters.

The working weekend described was demanding for volunteers – both physically, and psychologically. The next weekend showed that the weekend before was only a prelude to what was in store for her:

“Unfortunately, at the same time there was a cyber-attack on Poland, which disrupted part of the infrastructure there for a while. This created an unbelievable crowd of people who were totally exhausted and beat – and who all wanted to squeeze into our train. It didn’t matter to them where it was going or whether there were any seats. People were panicking so much that they were incapable of rational thought and stampeded the train. They were crying, yelling, fighting. Survival of the fittest. Human dignity was being painfully trampled upon. It was a horrible demonstration of what fear can do to people, what war does to people. So unnecessary. So senseless….”

Categories: News from UP

Updated: Aid to Ukraine

News: Faculty of Science - Thu, 17/03/2022 - 12:25

Palacký University is organising and coordinating aid and support for students and employees from Ukraine who are finding themselves in existential situations due to the war. At the same time, UP is working with the Regional Assistance Centre to Aid Ukraine. Here, we bring you up-to-date information on the ongoing situation.

The UP Volunteering Centre, as of today has 673 registered volunteers.

– Our volunteers are actively engaged at the Regional Assistance Centre to Aid Ukraine (Krajské asistenční centrum pomoci Ukrajině: KACPU), where they have already logged in a total of 5000 hours, with another 700 hours at the university contact point in the Armoury/Zbrojnice and on telephone hot lines.

– The university is also taking care of its volunteers: it is doing what it can to help them during their difficult work, offering them psychosocial help (enlisting psychologists from the Czech Fire and Rescue Service and from our own Department of Psychology), and arranging relaxation and regeneration activities (on-site massages, vouchers donated by Omega and AC BALUO, nature hikes).

– A number of cultural events and concerts are taking place to support Ukraine. For example, the Faculty of Education fine arts students came up with the event Art for UKR, where donated student art works are for sale, with proceeds going to charity. The exhibition is taking place in the UP Arts Centre.

– Faculties and departments are also informing the general public about the situation in Ukraine, hosting discussions and lectures. For example, the Faculty of Law organised a round table discussion entitled “The Russian invasion of Ukraine and its impacts on safety, legal, and other consequences”. Guests were Petr Kolář, former Czech ambassador to Russia and the USA, and Miroslav Karas, director of Czech Television’s studio in Ostrava and former Czech Television reporter in Poland, Russia, and Ukraine.

– On March 17th, the university organised the talk The War: A First-Hand Report with Ukrainian students, academics, and others whose lives have been transformed by the war.

– On the evening of 17 March a prayer meeting for peace in Ukraine took place in the Church of St. Mary of the Snows. It was held under the auspices of the Academic Parish of Olomouc, together with the Sts. Cyril and Methodius Faculty of Theology.

– Several collections have been started to help people in Ukraine. For example, a material collection was started at the Faculty of Science. Students of Dentistry held a financial collection (more details are available here) at their congress. Students of Medicine held a collection for much needed medical goods and medicines for Ukrainian soldiers.

– The Faculty of Education is preparing a “Scribbled Notebook” for Ukrainian children – i.e. materials for drawing and writing with art therapy elements.

– The Faculty of Arts Language Centre, together with the Olomouc Employment Office, is preparing qualification courses in Czech. They are aimed at the labour market and are intended not only for Ukrainian students and academics, but for all Ukrainians interested. We have written about it in more detail here.

– The Faculty of Arts, with contributions from volunteers, is organising English lessons for Ukrainian teenagers.

– The UP Communications Office has prepared an exhibition by Betty Fahrner, a Faculty of Arts student and volunteer, who has mapped the route of one evacuation train. The exhibition is located in the reception area of the Zbrojnice/Armoury Library. More information is available here.

A selection of planned events:

- A lecture by Hynek Melichar from the Department of Political Science and European Studies on the theme “The Russian invasion of Ukraine in the context of international relations: Competing perspectives” will take place on 23 March from 1:15–3 pm.

– The Department of Sociology, Andragogy, and Cultural Anthropology invites you to an exhibition of photographs by Jakub Joachim – War Refugees – in the Gallery of Social Photography. The opening will take place at 4 pm on 30 March in the gallery.

Categories: News from UP

Molecular hydrogen can speed up recovery after Covid-19, says Faculty of Physical Culture study

News: Faculty of Science - Mon, 14/03/2022 - 12:00

Inhalation of molecular hydrogen positively affects the course of recovery in post-Covid patients. This was shown in a study conducted in 2021 by scientists from the Department of Natural Sciences in Kinanthropology at the Faculty of Physical Culture, Palacký University Olomouc. Their research is the first in the world to present the possibility of using molecular hydrogen in post-Covid therapy based on objective data, and its results were published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

“The study results confirmed our hypothesis that molecular hydrogen may also help people suffering from acute respiratory disease – not only athletes, in whom the use of molecular hydrogen has been shown to have a positive effect on performance and fatigue reduction,” said the main study author Michal Botek, who has been studying the effects of hydrogen with his colleagues in the Exercise Physiology Laboratory for some time. Using the existing knowledge of hydrogen’s antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-apoptotic, and fatigue-reducing properties, they decided to focus on Covid-19 during the epidemic.

The research lasted for the entire year 2021 and involved nearly eighty people who had experienced a SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus infection with a mild or moderate course. Participants underwent baseline examinations, such as spirometry and a six-minute walk test to assess their current functional capacity after the illness. For the following two weeks, study participants inhaled hydrogen daily for the period of 120 minutes – two times 60 minutes – through a device that generates hydrogen from purified water by electrolysis. In addition, they recorded subjective feelings regarding fatigue, sleep quality, muscle pain, and perceived shortness of breath. The two-week inhalation was followed by retesting at the UP Faculty of Physical Culture.

“Using randomisation, participants were divided into a hydrogen group and a placebo group, so that we could determine with great accuracy how effectively hydrogen can revitalise a post-Covid patient. The group that inhaled hydrogen according to our methodology for two weeks improved by an average of 64 metres in the repeated six-minute walk test, i.e. about 10% over the baseline test, while the placebo group improved only minimally, by an average of only 9 metres,” said Botek about the results.

“What is also interesting about the whole thing is that we found an older foreign study of treatment after severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which has a similar design and came to similar results as ours. However, there is one major difference: while the previous study participants had to undergo six weeks of very well-controlled fitness training, in our case a mere two weeks of hydrogen inhalation was sufficient. Our results make us optimistic that hydrogen can be used as an option for time-efficient therapy in the post-acute phase of a disease like Covid-19. On the other hand, the question now is whether the induced positive effect is long-term. After all, despite more than 1,600 studies published worldwide on the effects of hydrogen, this gas is still waiting for its first big opportunity in Czech clinical medicine,” noted Botek, adding that the results indicate a vast range of topics for further research.

The study, innovative in its design, is the first in the world to focus on the possible positive effects of hydrogen therapy after having contracted Covid-19, therefore Botek calls it a small scientific miracle. “We tried to make the most of what we had, and we are all the more pleased with the positive feedback from our fellow academics, doctors, and other experts who have had the opportunity to get to know our work. We are grateful that the Faculty of Physical Culture allowed us to carry out this study,” he added.

In addition to Botek and his colleagues from the UP Department of Natural Sciences in Kinanthropology, also other experts participated in the research: Andrew McKune from the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise at the University of Canberra, Australia, and Petr Konečný, head of the Department of Clinical Rehabilitation at the UP Faculty of Health Sciences and head of the Medical Rehabilitation Centre in AGEL Prostějov Hospital, and sports physician Dalibor Pastucha, director of the ReFit Clinic, head of the Department of Rehabilitation and Physical Medicine at the University Hospital Ostrava and head of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Ostrava. The study was carried out in cooperation with H2 World Health & Beauty Company, which provided the researchers with some of the hydrogen generators used for the research therapy.

The full text of the study can be found here.

Categories: News from UP

Pages