From nanometers to megaparsecs...
Breakthrough technologies to produce new barley lines with improved photosynthetic properties that will be able to assimilate ozone from the atmosphere, provide higher yields and modified straw for industrial use are the aim of the international BEST CROP (Boosting photosynthESis to deliver novel CROPs for the circular bioeconomy) project funded by the European Union’s Horizon Europe program. A multidisciplinary consortium led by the University of Milan, bringing together 18 European research institutions, breeding companies and industrial partners, will work towards these goals. The only Czech academic participant is the Czech Advanced Technologies and Research Institute – CATRIN of Palacký University Olomouc.
The BEST-CROP project focuses on barley, a globally important crop. The European Union is its largest producer, its cultivation covers approximately 10 percent of the EU’s arable land and nearly 55 million tons of grain and the same amount of straw are produced annually in EU member countries.
“Our task will be to use new breeding techniques to prepare modified barley lines in cooperation with our partners in the project consortium, as well as to prepare accreditations and coordinate field trials to be carried out at Úsovsko,” said Ivo Frébort of CATRIN.
The main objectives of the project are:
While respecting the current EU legislation on GM crops, BEST-CROP will follow established techniques that exploit natural genetic variability and induced random mutagenesis. However, the project will also use gene editing techniques to provide genetic material from barley that could soon be used directly in breeding programs or as evidence of gene function. The BEST-CROP project, funded by the European Union’s Horizon Europe research and innovation program under the HORIZON-CL6-2022-CIRCBIO-02-02-two-stage call, will start in July 2023 and end in June 2028, with a total funding of almost €6 million.
Hedi Wrya Mustafa and his classmates are studying Petroleum Engineering under the auspices of the Faculty of Science at Palacký University Olomouc for the fourth year. They spent the first two years studying in Erbil, where they were visited by Czech and foreign teachers. The have studied the second two years in Olomouc.
Although it’s a three-year Bachelor’s programme and Hedi is a top student, delays in obtaining visas have unfortunately forced him and his classmates to extend their studies.
Why did you choose the Faculty of Science?
Palacký University is a respected international university that performs well in world rankings. My choice was based on the fact that my country has huge gas and oil reserves, and the UP Faculty of Science has a well-designed curriculum in Petroleum Engineering, both for geoscientists and petroleum engineers. In the oil fields, the interaction between the geologist and the petroleum engineer is very important. Those who return to Kurdistan as Palacký University graduates will have an advantage in finding a job compared to students from local universities who may have studied this field.
Is it difficult to find a job in Kurdistan?
Not really. Where there is plenty of oil, finding work is not that difficult. But everyone has to undergo an interview with the employer and pass a probationary period.
How do you rate your studies in the Czech Republic?
Studying at Palacký University has so many benefits. I meet a lot of foreign students here, which is a positive sign for me. I liked the attitude of the teachers, they are very helpful. Thanks to them I have broadened my horizons. I think petroleum engineering is a very narrowly focused field, whereas geosciences and petroleum geology are more broadly oriented, although not directly focused on direct oil production. It gives me a broader perspective. What I also like here is that people who achieve a PhD or other degrees continue educating and working on themselves. In Kurdistan, it is common for students to achieve a PhD degree and that’s it, this is usually the end of their academic careers.
Did you have an idea about what the Czech Republic is like, and how did that idea differ from reality?
I expected Czech people to be educated, which has proven true. Before I arrived, I studied up on Palacký University Olomouc, as well as Charles University and Tomas Bata University. I appreciate the history of the universities here: the experience of several centuries and cultural heritage come nicely together.
What are your plans for the future?
My goal is to reach even higher education. I would like to return to Kurdistan and help raise the standards, especially in the field of oil and gas. I do not rule out a political career where I could use my experience and help set more appropriate criteria for better exploitation of mineral resources.
Do you have an idea of where the oil industry will go climatically?
Studying petroleum engineering is not only about learning how to mine and extract oil, but also how to manage it environmentally. Petroleum engineers learn, for example, how to trap carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into the ground. Moreover, oil is not only used as fuel in cars, but also as an irreplaceable raw material in almost every area of human activity. Knowledge of oil extraction also leads students to think about its environmental impacts. As it happens, many petroleum engineering students work on theses in their Master’s degree focusing on the environmental impacts of various types of oil containing different types of hydrogen sulphide or sulphur in general. Without knowing the basic principles of the issue, however, the path would be more complicated.
Have you had a chance to travel around the country?
I have had the opportunity to travel not only around Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia, but also to many more beautiful European cities. I have visited Prague, Zurich, Stuttgart, Bratislava, Vienna, Budapest, and Krakow.
The UP Faculty of Science offers a total of 38 English degree programmes (13 of which are postgraduate and 2 undergraduate). The Bachelor’s degree in Petroleum Engineering was primarily launched as a pilot programme on the Palacký University campus in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region of Iraq. In 2022, Petroleum Engineering was reaccredited as a standard three-year Bachelor’s programme at the UP Faculty of Science. There are currently over forty Kurdish students enrolled in the programme.
In the second week of June, Gregg Leonard Semenza, a prominent world figure in science and medicine, is visiting Olomouc. Semenza, Professor of Genetic Medicine at Johns Hopkins University, received the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for his discovery of the mechanism by which cells respond to changes in oxygen levels. He will talk about this discovery and its use in the treatment of many of serious diseases during his lecture on Friday, 9 June, at 2 pm at the UP Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry (FMD).
FMD management invites all those interested in medicine and related fields to attend the lecture of the Nobel laureate, which will take place in the large lecture hall of the UP Theoretical Institutes at FMD. The talk will be delivered in English.
“We are immensely pleased to welcome such a renowned personality as Prof Semenza to our faculty, it is truly a great honour for us. I believe that our medical students and colleagues from our institutes and departments, as well as other interested parties, will not miss the opportunity to meet a world-class scientist and physician,” said dean emeritus Josef Zadražil, who was in office as the FMD dean when he gladly accepted and supported the offer to arrange the visit of the Nobel Prize winner.
"The idea to arrange his visit at the faculty came from Josef T. Prchal, professor of internal medicine, genetics, and pathology at the University of Utah and recipient of an honorary doctorate from Palacký University in 2011, who is a close collaborator of Prof Semenza, and two scientific groups at our faculty at the UP FMD Department of Biology, the Department of Hemato-oncology, and University Hospital Olomouc,” added Vladimír Divoký, head of the FMD Department of Biology, who knows both American scientists from his studies at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and from working on a joint, time-consuming, and experimentally demanding research project.
Vladimír Divoký and Milan Raška, FMD Vice-Dean for International Relations, will accompany Prof Semenza and his wife during their stay in Olomouc. In addition to the lecture at the faculty and Olomouc sightseeing, the programme also includes meetings with representatives of the city, Palacký University and University Hospital Olomouc, as well as with scientists from the medical faculty.
Gregg L. Semenza’s visit to Olomouc and Palacký University will conclude his trip to the Czech Republic. Prior to Olomouc, he is going to be a keynote speaker at the 57th Annual Conference of the European Society for Clinical Investigation in Prague and receive an honorary doctorate in medical sciences at Charles University for his significant contribution to world science in the field of oxygen availability in the cells.
Gregg Leonard Semenza is Professor of Genetic Medicine at the School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, USA, and founder of the Vascular Programme at the Institute for Cell Engineering and the Armstrong Research Center for Oxygen Biology, among others. In 2019, together with William G. Kaelin Jr. and Peter J. Ratcliffe, he received the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for their ground-breaking discovery of one of life’s most important adaptive processes – the molecular mechanism by which cells respond to changing oxygen levels. This mechanism is involved in the development of many serious diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases, and its uncovering has far-reaching implications in understanding and treating these conditions. In particular, Prof Semenza discovered the hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (HIF-1) protein, which binds to a specific DNA segment of thousands of genes whose expression is used by the cell to respond to oxygen deprivation in the microenvironment or at the whole body level. Prof Semenza’s current research interests include the molecular mechanisms of oxygen homeostasis, the role of HIF-1 in tumour progression, and the development of HIF inhibitors for the treatment of cancer.
For several years now, a group of scientists from the Department of Experimental Biology of the Faculty of Science and the Institute of Molecular and Translational Medicine (IMTM) of the UP Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry have been penetrating the mysterious world of extremely resistant tardigrades. With the help of high school students, the experts are collecting data on the occurrence of tardigrades in the Czech Republic and are trying to grow these microorganisms in the laboratory. Using transcriptomic and metabolomic approaches, they are then trying to understand the mechanisms thanks to which tardigrades can survive massive doses of radioactive radiation and extreme temperatures.
“Tardigrades are microscopic organisms known for their resistance to stress, including radiation. They are commonly found on moss, decaying leaves, and in soil. Because of their hardiness, they are a favourite organism of astrobiologists, who study their ability to survive in space. We focus mainly on their resistance to ionising radiation and DNA-damaging substances,” said Jiří Voller, coordinator of the project.
In April, scientists from the Faculty of Science and the IMTM of the Faculty of Medicine organised an event in Olomouc called Meeting of Tardigrade Hunters, to which they invited high school students and others interested in these remarkable microorganisms. Most participants helped the organisers, Jiří Voller and Dominik Vítek, with the collection of biological material for isolating the tardigrades.
“The aim of our project is to isolate new species of tardigrades and establish their cultures. We will then use them to verify the results of a previous study on the effect of radiation on tardigrades that we have been cultivating for a long time. This data was also generated thanks to the support of the Igráček programme for the team of PhD students from the IMTM and the Department of Experimental Biology,” added Vítek.
In addition to a tour of the laboratories, 15 students from across Moravia listened to lectures focused on the stress resistance of tardigrades and the possibilities of growing them, the biology of sleep, and how to measure and combat ageing. Jitka Nováková from the Valašské Klobouky Gymnasium and Jakub Pavlík from the Přerov Gymnasium presented their research within the Badatel project at the event, which includes the exposure of several species of tardigrades to radiation in the VR-1 reactor at the Faculty of Nuclear Sciences and Physical Engineering of Czech Technical University in Prague. They also helped with the organisation of the meeting. “This year the event was intended for students from outside Olomouc, and next autumn we plan to ask students from Olomouc to help with the tardigrade hunt,” said Voller.
The organisers of the series of informational panels installed in the area behind the Faculty of Science have set themselves the task of acquainting visitors with the newly established Landscape of Shale (Krajina břidlice) geopark in Nízký Jeseník and drawing the public’s attention to its geological diversity. This geopark cooperates closely with the UP Department of Geology on the assignment of final student theses, the solution of scientific questions regarding its geological aspects, and in popularization activities.
“The area of the geopark mostly consists of Lower Carboniferous sedimentary rocks, which were mined in many places as shale roofing tiles. However, there are also volcanic centres in the vicinity of Bruntál, such as Uhlířský vrch and the Venus volcano. The area is interesting from the historical point of view, and interesting plants and animals can also be found there,” said Jakub Jirásek from the Department of Geology, who, together with his colleague Tomáš Lehotský, is a member of the geopark’s scientific board.
The Landscape of Shale geopark is located in the Nízký Jeseník highland, in the Olomouc and Moravian-Silesian regions. It covers an area of 1,913 km2. The visual style of the geopark is white and black: the white of the birch tree, which was the first to reforest the landscape affected by coal mining, and the black of the shale.
“The most attractive sites include the Museum of Shale in Budišov nad Budišovkou, mining works – Raab’s Table in Zálužné near Vítkov and Flaschar’s Mine near Odry – and the outdoor geological expositions in Odry and Vítkov,” Jirásek added.
The Council of National Geoparks of the Czech Republic recommended the Minister of the Environment to grant the Landscape of Shale area national geopark status. The ceremonial presentation of the National Geopark Landscape of Shale certificate to representatives of the association took place on 20 June 2022.
Medialogue has prepared the third part of a series of solo exhibitions by an Egyptologist Miroslav Bárta, this time entitled Sustainability and Civilization, which was officially opened on May 12 at Prague’s Kampa. The authors of 39 panels focus on the concepts of sustainability, the role of natural materials and the acquisition of clean energy. Seven panels were prepared by CATRIN scientists, namely Veronika Veselská, Michal Otyepka, Ivo Frébort, Jan Filip and Vojtěch Kupka.
“This country has a range, unfortunately not unlimited, of world-renowned scientists. Chemists from Olomouc gathered around Michal Otyepka for me represent the best that our country has to offer in this field. The choice to ask them to cooperate again was therefore quite clear,” said Miroslav Bárta, chief curator of the exhibition.
In the past, CATRIN researchers have also participated in the exhibition Water and Civilization, which started the series of exhibitions. They included Jan Filip, who this time prepared the texts for the panel entitled Circular Economy.
“Participating in this exhibition was very important for me. During the preparation and at the opening ceremony I met a number of important personalities in this field, both from academia as well as from industry. The issue of recycling is partly related to our research and is very important for me not only on a professional but personal level,” added Filip.
Veronika Veselská, on the other hand, tried her hand at collaboration for the first time. “I am grateful for the invitation and the opportunity to work on the topic of bio-waste recycling, which is very topical and allows everyone to contribute to sustainability. Attending the opening was a special moment for me, and I was pleased to see such a large crowd. I look forward to working with the organizers in the future and hope that the exhibition will also visit Olomouc, as it has done in the past,” Veselská added.
CATRIN researchers have also contributed to the creation of panels entitled How to Feed Humanity, Recycling Plastics, Energy in Your Pocket or Carbon on the Scene. The main idea of the exhibition is that our civilization is the first to date to fail to return most of what it produces back to nature or recycle. The individual panels focus on the concepts of sustainability, the role of natural materials, and the generation of clean energy. They present technological advances in these areas, show positive examples to help change public thinking and behavior.
The exhibition will be freely accessible until the end of June and, thanks to the illumination by solar panels it can also be viewed after dark.
Once again, Palacký University Olomouc has made its mark in the international 2023 Center for World University Rankings (CWUR). UP has been ranked there every year since 2014, when more than 100 universities were listed in the ranking for the first time. In 2014, UP was ranked 804th – and has never fallen below that position since. On the contrary, it has remained in the top 600. The same result has been achieved in this year’s edition, in which UP was ranked 591st among more than 20,000 ranked universities, thus among the best 2.9% of universities in the world and among the top 3 Czech universities. In the category of research, UP was ranked 42 positions better than last year.
Maintaining UP’s position in the top 600 is a great success, given that almost 750 more universities were ranked this year. The fact is that rankings evaluate more and more new universities every year, so advancements must be made in order to keep one’s position.
Although UP dropped 25 places in the overall ranking, it is still the third best Czech university out of eleven ranked. The Czech number one is, again, Charles University in Prague, followed by Masaryk University in Brno. Olomouc’s university took third place, while Czech Technical University in Prague was number four. These four Czech universities are the only ones in the top 1,000.
“In order for Palacký University Olomouc to maintain its position not only among Czech universities, but also to keep pace across the global spectrum, it is necessary to implement strategic measures not only at the general level of the university, but above all in cooperation with individual faculties. The development of priority goals, key areas, and individual measures is reflected in the finalised strategy of Palacký University for international university rankings. This synergy is very important in the implementation of the strategy, so all UP staff who participated in its preparation deserve our thanks,” said Michal Malacka, Vice-Rector for Strategy and Regional Affairs, on the published results.
The world’s top university in 2023 CWUR is once again Harvard, followed by MIT and Stanford.
Complete results are available here.
People with visual impairments will be able to get to know the sights of the Czech Republic better with unique tactile maps created by Jakub Žejdlík, a graduate of the programme Geoinformatics and Cartography at the UP Faculty of Science. At the prestigious 25th annual Map of the Year cartographic competition, he won the highest award in the category of student cartographic work for his Master’s thesis entitled “Tyfloprůvodce po vybraných památkách Česka” (Guide to selected monuments of Czechia for people with visual impairment). In addition to this award, the Department of Geoinformatics and Cartography of the UP Faculty of Science received two special awards for the long-term production of maps within the M.A.P.S. series and for quality cartographic processing of dialect data.
“The guide, which I created as part of my Master’s thesis, is a unique publication whose aim is to help people with visual impairments better understand the historical, architectural and especially spatial character of selected monuments in the Czech Republic. Thanks to this, people with this handicap can expand the possibilities of spending their free time,” said Jakub Žejdlík.
The guide presents 16 selected monuments in the form of tactile maps and is designed for people with partial or severe visual impairment who need assistance to navigate in space. The Braille maps describe, for example, Charles Bridge, the National Theatre, Karlštejn Castle, the Church of St. Maurice in Olomouc, and Villa Tugendhat in Brno.
Pages containing tactile maps are printed using a special device – a fuser, which enables printing on special microcapsule paper with a heat-sensitive layer. When the paper is heated, the black-printed parts rise above its surface and create a tactile graphic, which helps the visually impaired to get an idea of the shape of the monument.
“I really appreciate winning the Map of the Year 2022 competition, as all the other nominated works were really great. I am pleased, that with my work, I could help make tactile cartography visible to the general public, the branch of cartography dedicated to the creation of maps for people with visual impairments,” added Žejdlík.
In addition to this award, the UP FS Department of Geoinformatics also received two special awards in this year’s Map of the Year competition. One for their long-standing map production within the M.A.P.S. series and the other for the quality cartographic processing of dialect data, which was awarded together with the dialectological award of the Czech Language Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences. “The success of Olomouc cartography in this year’s competition of the Czech Cartographic Society continues the tradition of the internationally recognized quality of cartographers and geoinformation scientists from Palacký University Olomouc,” said the founder of the Map of the Year competition, Vít Voženílek from the UP FS Department of Geoinformatics.
The Map of the Year cartographic competition has been organised by the Czech Cartographic Society since 1998. “We were inspired to create the Map of the Year competition by competitions such as Stamp of the Year, Book of the Year, Sportsman of the Year, and Athlete of the Year. It wasn’t so much about any media exposure, because it is a professional competition. Our aim was at least get the map producers to meet during the announcement of the competition results and to establish contacts or resolve problems, if any,” added Voženílek.
The HBSC (Health Behaviour in School-aged Children) study research team at Palacký University Olomouc, in cooperation with the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic, presented the results of the Czech part of an international study conducted in 2022 among primary school pupils. The number of youths whose virtual life shows problematic behaviour has increased from 5% in 2018 to 8% in 2022. Girls are affected more frequently; boys are more likely to play computer games. The research was supported by the Technology Agency of the Czech Republic under the ÉTA Programme.
One in twelve Czech schoolchildren aged 11–15 (8.3%) are in the category of problematic social network users. What determines which children are at risk are the accompanying negative behavioural phenomena, not their screen time.
“These are children who unsuccessfully try to limit their time spent on social networks, neglect their hobbies, lie to those around them about the amount of time they spend on the networks, or experience conflicts with their parents or friends because of it. Problems with social media go hand in hand with other aspects of their lifestyle, so symptoms of depression, consumption of energy drinks, sleep problems, and boredom are more frequent in these children,” said Michal Kalman, head of the HBSC study research team at the Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies, UP Faculty of Physical Culture, adding, “It is not possible, however, to clearly determine from the data whether the increased risk of depression and poorer relationships with their peers is a consequence or a cause of the problematic use of social networks.”
In terms of the intensity of social network use, the Czech Republic ranks among countries with a lower number of heavy and problematic users. Countries with the highest proportion of such users include Malta, Spain, and Romania. On the other hand, the lowest number of problematic users can be seen among Dutch youths and children from Israel – as well as in the Czech Republic. Among the fifty countries surveyed, Czech children rank eighth in terms of lowest numbers: a rather flattering result.
While social networking is mostly the domain of girls, computer and online gaming is mainly reported by boys. Forty-eight percent of Czech boys choose to play a computer game every day. Thirteen percent of boys and 5% of girls are at risk of developing a gaming addiction. The prevalence of problematic gaming decreases with age: 15-year-olds are less at risk of gaming problems than 11-year-olds. Boys are much more likely than girls to report that gaming was all they could think about (38% boys vs 20% girls), feeling miserable when they could not play (19% boys vs 10% girls), or having arguments with family members about gaming (22% boys vs 10% girls).
“The HBSC study is a valuable source of information about the lifestyles of the youngest generation, who have been living with digital technology since their birth. It exemplifies our findings from the 2019 ESPAD study among 16-year-olds, which showed that digital technologies are excessively used by up to 25% of adolescents,” commented Jindřich Vobořil, the National Drug Policy Coordinator, on the new HBSC study data, adding, “Digital technologies as such are not a problem. However, it is alarming that in recent years there have been increasing numbers of children and adolescents aged 10–18 who contacted addiction services and sought professional help due to problems with excessive gaming and social media usage.”
More information and data from the current research can be found on the Zdravá generace [Healthy Generation] website, including a publication on how to work with young people to support their digital wellbeing, which can be downloaded here.
The HBSC (Health Behaviour in School-aged Children) epidemiological study is looking at a wide range of aspects of the lifestyles of young people in the Czech Republic and nearly 50 other countries around the world; it is being conducted in collaboration with WHO. The research team from Palacký University Olomouc has been monitoring factors affecting the health of Czech schoolchildren aged 11, 13, and 15 for some time. In the current research, data was collected from nearly 15,000 Czech schoolchildren in 250 schools of different types across the Czech Republic. More about the study at www.hbsc.cz.
After a brief but serious illness, Josef Jařab has died, aged 85. Professor of English and American Literature, literary theoretician and translator, he was the first post-Velvet Revolution rector of Palacký University Olomouc (1990–1997).
Josef Jařab was an important figure in the 1989 Velvet Revolution in Olomouc; he immediately sided with the students when they decided to strike, and supported their demands. In January 1990, he became the first post-Velvet Revolution rector. “The students nominated me for rector. I went with them to the new senate, which unanimously voted me in as rector. It wasn’t until that moment that I realised that was the first election in Czechoslovakia. I had a lump in my throat, and so did the chair of the senate committee. We were then aware that this was something very important,” said Jařab, in a recording of his reminiscences of those times for the Memory of Nations project.
“The news of his passing hit me hard. I first saw him at the first meeting of students in the UP Sports Hall at the beginning of the Velvet Revolution in November 1989, and he immediately made an impression on me as an incredibly charismatic man. We have lost the most important personage in the post-1989 history of our university, one who did so much good for the school. He worked hard to bring it to its fruition, both home and abroad. Many famous Czech and international figures came to Olomouc on his invitation, he was ever the scholar and gentleman, he had an immense grasp of things, and took an active part in the daily life of the university up until the very end. He is missed, and not only for his warmth, kindness, and worldly outlook,” said Palacký University Rector Martin Procházka.
As UP rector, Jařab served during revolutionary changes to the school and its atmosphere. He pushed the university to grow, and was able to negotiate for the acquisition and subsequent remodelling of a number of building complexes in which the school now resides.
He also brought a number of internationally famous personalities to Olomouc, such as poet Allen Ginsberg, theatre director and actor Peter Ustinov, and emigré journalist and publicist Pavel Tigrid. On Prof Jařab’s recommendation, Palacký University was the first university in Czechoslovakia to grant an honorary doctorate to President Václav Havel, in May 1990.
After his term as rector in Olomouc was up, he also served as rector of Central European University. He was a guest professor at many universities abroad, including Harvard. He was awarded an honorary doctorate at one British and two American universities. He was twice voted to the Czech Senate as an independent. He was the recipient of a number of awards, including the City of Olomouc Award, the František Palacký Award from his alma mater, and the Dagmar and Václav Havel Foundation VIZE 97 Award.
Josef Jařab was the author of a number of books and translations, and his memories of the time when he served as UP rector were collected in print and audiobook form in 2018 as Rektorská rozpomínání (A Rector’s Reminiscences). In 2019, director Martin Müller’s documentary Homo academicus on Prof Jařab was released, a co-production with Czech Television.
The funeral mass for Josef Jařab will take place on 9 May at 1 pm in the Church of St Maurice in Olomouc.
Now is the time when academics and students from all eight UP faculties will vote for three representatives from each faculty to the “great” Palacký University Academic Senate. Elections are open until 12 noon on Thursday 11 May to vote for one student and two academics representatives to the highest governing body of the university.
Fifty-nine candidates for the UP senate are in the running. The chosen 24 will be seated in the great all-university Academic Senate from mid-September 2023 to 15 May 2026.
Voters can choose a maximum of three names from their faculties, two academics and one student. Voting will take place exclusively electronically via this web app.
You can find out who is running for the UP Academic Senate for the next three years and why on the individual faculty websites:
Sts Cyril and Methodious Faculty of Theology - 6 academics and 2 students running
Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry - 5 academics and 3 students running
Faculty of Arts - 3 academics and 3 students running
Faculty of Science - 4 academics and 1 student running
Faculty of Education - 4 academics and 1 student running
Faculty of Physical Culture - 4 academics and 2 students running
Faculty of Law - 3 academics and 8 students running
Faculty of Health Sciences - 6 academics and 3 students running
AFO: The 58th International Festival of Science Documentary Films, Academia Film Olomouc of Palacký University is now over. It had over 300 items in its calendar this year, with 159 film screenings and seven winners of its prestigious glass kaleidoscope. This year’s edition had 6,500 accredited visitors.
The jury of the International Competition highlighted two films featured in this year’s strong competition. Special mention went to the documentary gem All That Breathes, the first film ever to win Best Documentary at both Sundance and Cannes, which can now add another trophy to its shelf. The jury also awarded the “between genre” aspect of the film, with its emphasis on peoples’ and animals’ coexistence, and also the intimate and gentle approach to which director Shaunak Sen takes his protagonists.
“First, we were enthralled by the mutual support of the filmmakers and the unique atmosphere of the community connected to the film as well as discovering more about the world around us. The international and domestic guests stress the unique atmosphere of the festival and the inspirational reactions of the audiences. Selections for the 58th year of the festival exhibit a broad spectrum of methods how to inspire diverse groups of viewers via original filmmaking. Unique, artistic recording of the world makes it possible to expand the consciousness of the public and inspire them to think about a better world, one shared by us all,” said AFO chief programmer Ondřej Kazík.
The main prize in the International Competition went to the documentary Constant. This medium-length film essay poses questions about the fundamental human aspiration to measure the world in all its aspects, connecting it to political power and the desire to control and subjugate. It was this thematic aspect articulated in the documentary which impressed the jury most, together with its innovative visuals, which continued to amaze the audience.
The Czech & Slovak competition also had two winners. Special mention went to the documentary Lidi (Humans). The jury applauded how Kateř Tureček examines diversity, confronts heteronormality, and allows a glimpse into the hearts and minds of persons who do not fit into the cis-gender category. The main prize and CZK 50,000 went to Neviditelné krajiny (Invisible Landscapes), directed by Ivo Bystřičan.
“The jury awarded it for its pure cinematic language and minimalistic approach, carrying the basic message: We should listen more carefully to the planet on which we live,” said the jurors in their verdict. In conjunction with that statement, the documentary is unique and innovative visually and above all aurally, and not only in the small pond of the Czech & Slovak documentary film scene.
And the prize for short film? It was won by the film Haulout, an immersive screen narrative of 25 minutes of detailed observations by marine biologist Maxim Chakilev, who researches how walrus migration reflects climatic change. According to the jury, “It is not only a masterful and absorbing cinematic experience, but it approaches the topic with care, revealing a story both beautiful and cruel”. The winner of the extraordinarily rich short film competition this year deserved its Oscar nomination for Best Short Film.
And that’s not all: the student jury gave its prize to the documentary Path of the Panther, an emotionally-charged story about the threatened existence of the Florida panther. The jury made up of Palacký University students awarded it for its look into the natural environment of this wild cat, normally hidden from the human eye. “Massive efforts went into the making of the film, which is not necessarily noticeable at first glance. This is the life-long work of dozens of people who are trying with all their might to preserve this slowly disappearing big cat from possible complete extinction,” the jury wrote.
The AFO prize for significant contribution to the popularisation of science went to Chris Impey, cosmologist and Professor of Astronomy at the University of Arizona, author of popular science books on astronomy, including studies of distant galaxies and searching for exoplanets and extraterrestrial intelligence. He has lectured to NASA engineers and Buddhist monks in India, and here gave a lecture on the end of the universe. The Norwegian director Eva Charlotte Nilsen was also in Olomouc; as were Esther Elmholt, director of the documentary After Nature; the American documentary filmmaker, cinematographer, and producer Ian Cheney; film historian Peter Krämer; Portuguese sound artist Raquel Castro; and many others.
“I really think this year’s festival was very successful. Not just in terms of numbers of visitors and the great programme, but also that the festival was able to attract VIP guests from all over the world. They loved the festival atmosphere and professionality of the whole team – which for us is the greatest reward. I’m very grateful to all our partners, without whom the festival could not operate on such a high level, and I’m really proud of the entire organisational team. I truly believe there’s no better festival in the world,” said Eva Navratilová, festival director.
For the first time, financial support was announced for works in progress; these applied to the prestigious product-pitching industry workshop Camp 4Science. Their jury awarded 3 projects. The main prize of USD 25,000 went to Sandbox Films for Leandro Lisorti’s A Certain Civilization. At the last minute, two projects were awarded as a surprise; each received USD 10,000: Carbon Permanence (Hans Baumann) and Ghost Dads (Tracy Jarett and Emma Moley).
AFO has been held by Palacký University Olomouc annually since 1966. The festival regularly introduces the best contemporary science films by world-renowned producers, with famous Czech and foreign scientists and representatives from the film and television industry as presenters. The goal of AFO is to shatter the prejudices and stereotypes of “boring” educational films; so too those of the natural and social sciences and the humanities. The driving organisational force of the festival mainly comes from contemporary and former students of the university. In terms of sheer numbers of accredited viewers, AFO is one of the biggest film festivals in the Czech Republic. AFO 59 will take place from 23–28 April 2024.
First and immediate aid to those in need – that has been Tobiáš Luft’s motivation for several years. As a volunteer, he helped out during Covid and then in war-torn Ukraine. The first-year full-time student of Emergency Medicine at the UP Faculty of Health Sciences has recently received the Royal Rangers Emergency Medical Service Award for his outstanding volunteer work.
“Since I was a kid, I’ve been in the Royal Rangers, which is an international children’s organisation similar to the Boy Scouts. One of the branches near Mariánské Lázně focuses on medical work. It is a private emergency medical service that combines volunteer work, mountain rescue, and commercial activities. As time went on, I attended training courses where I practised extended first aid as well as diving and climbing,” said Tobiáš Luft about his beginnings.
The Příbram native took a stab at rescue three years ago, when the world was struck by the Covid-19 pandemic. “The staff in our centre fell ill, so volunteers had to lend a hand, too. We helped as assistants with the disabled and immobile, and we also went to people who asked for our help,” said Luft, who volunteered during secondary school.
As a volunteer, he has also experienced the war in Ukraine first-hand. He took part in three missions to evacuate families with disabled, sick, and injured children and elderly people. He also helped evacuate soldiers and civilians from zones a few kilometres away from the frontline, transporting them to nearby hospitals. He visited the cities of Lvov and Bakhmut, where he was welcomed by other Czech volunteers. “It was nice to see how many of our volunteers are helping in Ukraine. The interaction with the locals was also encouraging. However, I’ve also experienced some difficult moments. The worst was seeing dead bodies. Also, we were targeted by the occupation forces. When you drive a car with a medical cross on the roof and find yourself under artillery fire... it’s definitely not a pleasant experience,” summarised Luft.
In March, he was awarded in Karlovy Vary for his help in Ukraine. “The biggest reward is the feedback from the people we helped. But I do appreciate the Royal Rangers award. It’s an acknowledgement that what I am doing is really helpful.”
He found out about the Department of Emergency Medicine and Intensive Care at the UP Faculty of Health Sciences from a friend of his – a medical faculty student. And when job opportunities abroad didn’t work out for him, he decided to give university studies a try. After graduation, he would like to work as a paramedic in the civilian or military sector. “I know for sure that I want to keep helping those in need,” emphasised Luft.
“On behalf of the Department of Emergency Medicine and Intensive Care, I want to say that we are proud to have students like Tobiáš Luft. Through his volunteer work, he is fulfilling the mission of the field of emergency medicine that he has chosen for his studies. Congratulations to him! I really appreciate the fact that we have such students at our department,” said department head Marinella Danosová.
In Olomouc, May is traditionally matched with the Majáles May Student Celebrations. This year marks the 11th year of the “reboot” of the festival, to take place on 2–3 May in two locations, at the courtyards of the Convictorium Arts Centre and the Armoury, with concerts by the groups Tata Bojs and 58G. There will also be theatre, workshops, talks, presentations by student and non-profit associations, and refreshments! One of the highlights of the programme will be a special Majáles “musical” tram. Theatre and film director and actor Miroslav Krobot is set to be crowned King of May.
“Spring is traditionally the time of youth and student merrymaking, and I’m looking forward myself to the positive energy with which our students charge the events. This year, the Majáles Olomouc Student May Festival will be part of our university’s 450th jubilee. Majáles is one of the high points in the calendar, together with September’s MeetUP, when we welcome the start of the new academic year,” said UP Rector Martin Procházka.
The main programme will kick off on Wednesday 3 May, but the organisers have already arranged a warm-up for the night before. The programme, located on the town bailey behind the UP Arts Centre (Convictorium) will offer a special thematic quiz connected with the 450th jubilee of the university, with a performance by the O.LI.V.Y improv group, and a concert by the group Mutanti hledaj východisko. Rapper and lyricist Jan Vejražka will be accompanied on the podium by instrumentalist Jiří Konvalinka and drummer Cyril Kaplan, members of the group Vložte kočku. DJ Endeeka will keep things hopping with a dance-after party.
The rich Wednesday programme of music, talks, workshops and presentations starts at 2:30 pm with the traditional coronation of the King of May. This year, the crown and sceptre will be handed over to theatre and film director and actor Miroslav Krobot. “We’re very glad that Mr Krobot has agreed to reign over this year’s student festival. In addition to the coronation in the Armoury courtyard, he will also take part in a talk show at the Convictorium bailey, where the moderator will be the Moravian Theatre Olomouc actor and former Queen of May Ivana Plíhalová. In honour of Mr Krobot, we’ve scheduled a screening of the film Kdyby radší hořelo [Somewhere Over the Chemtrails], in which he plays the fire chief,” said Barbora Plonka Schwarzbachová, head of UP Events, on behalf of the organizers.
The music programme in the Armoury courtyard will get off to a great start with the original melodic rock of Olomouc’s own Milenium, whose frontman is Daniel Režný, a fourth-year student in dentistry at the UP Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry. Lead guitarist Juraj Marton is a UP alumnus and a practising dentist. “Sometimes we talk about changing our name to Toothenium,” jokes Režný. The Olomouc rockers will be followed by the Prague-Brno band Luciana, with their jazz and soul tones. “The genre mix this year is classic Majáles. Other guests Bert & Friends call themselves alternative pop, country, and jazz – whatever they are, there’s no doubt they’re original. They’ll be followed by rappers 58G who recently won a prestigious Czech music award. The stars of the show are Tata Bojs, a legendary Prague band still rocking on after an incredible thirty-five years through various genres,” said Anna Vytřísalová from the organisational team.
And music will be the driving force in an antique tram, which will ride the rails from 11 am to 3 pm on Wednesday 3 May on the no. 2/7 line from Neředín, taking on passengers to its rich cultural menu. “The antique Majáles tram will offer up a feast for the ears and eyes. The lead car will feature singers EvaH, Tomáš Krejčiřík, Pavel Košutek, and DJ Amathyst. The rear car will have a drawing exhibition, readings, performances by the student theatre group Kucmoch, and stand-up comedy against sexual harassment by the Konsent group,” said Daniel Kunz from UP Audiovisual Productions, who are arranging the tram’s programme.
An accompanying programme will take place in stands and tents on Bishop’s Square in front of the Armoury, housing presentations by student groups, university divisions, and non-profit organisations. Student “attendance books” will be distributed to be stamped at individual stands and then be entered for a chance at prizes. As mentioned above, on the Convictorium bailey there will be a talk show with Miroslav Krobot and a debate on destigmatising mental health, and workshops on street art and street dancing. A special programme for students on 2 and 3 May will be provided by partners of this year’s Majáles – the Proud Ropes Centre, Zahrada Bar, and Belmondo Club.
The programmes at the Armoury and Convictorium are free. More information can be found on the website www.olomouckymajales.cz.
The Young Researcher Grant Competition aims to support excellent research by young researchers and members of academic staff below the age of 37 when establishing new research teams and laboratories, as well as developing their independent research programme to support the preparation of a high-quality international project (e.g. within HORIZON EUROPE). Researchers who have completed a stay abroad are eligible for the competition. Applicants must meet the requirements defined by the applicable university policy The applicant does not have to be an UP employee on the date of submission of the grant proposal, but the person submitting the proposal must be identical to the principal researcher.
The principal investigator is an academician, scientist or researcher aged up to 37 years, who received a doctorate degree not more than 8 years ago, has excellent results, participates in international projects, and has completed a foreign internship of a minimum of 3 months. The research team may also include other UP academic, scientific or research staff, UP students, and UP technical and professional staff. The project duration is 36 months.
The grant applicant is obliged to submit a project application to HORIZON EUROPE no later than in the third year of the grant implementation.
The grant proposal can be submitted in the following scholary fields:
Project funding limits:
The rules of the competition are set out in Palacký University Policy R-B-22/10-ÚZ02.
Each applicant may submit only 1 grant proposal to the competition.
The competition is not open to applications for investment funds.
The project proposal is submitted only in electronic form via the web application available at: granty.upol.cz. Login data to the application is the same as to the UP portal. In case the applicant does not have an ID and password for the UP Portal, he/she should contact the contact person of the call for proposals to create access to the application.
Proposals must be submitted by 20 June 2023 till 12:00 a.m.
Proposals must be in English language only.
Each grant proposal must include:
1) Grant Title;
2) data on the principal researcher in the following scope:
3) details of other members of the research team or a description of vacant positions if the specific names are not known at the time of the proposal submission;
4) a short summary of the grant (maximum 1,000 characters);
5) a description of the grant, justification and definition of the funds requested for each year of the grant (up to 5 pages, including relevant citations and figures). This document constitutes a separate annex to the proposal.
6) grant objectives;
7) an analysis of the proposed approach, including the timetable for achieving the grant objectives, including compatibility with the research focus and infrastructure of the fakulty/institute where the project is to be implemented. This document constitutes a separate annex to the proposal.
8) consent to the grant implementation from the department (organisational unit) within which the grant will be implemented. The consent constitutes a separate annex to the proposal.
Contact persons for the call:
Mgr. Tereza Vacková
tel.: 585 631 440
Mgr. Eva Novosádová
Tel.: 585 631 401
Olomouc and Palacký University are among the first places to give a warm working welcome to the new US Ambassador to the Czech Republic Bijan Sabet. During his visit, he met with vice-rectors Michal Malacka and Jiří Stavovčík, gave a lecture for high school students at the American Center, and took part in the Václav Havel European Dialogues debate held at the Faculty of Arts.
The ambassador arrived at the university accompanied by cultural attaché Natalie Wilkins. They were welcomed at the Rector’s Office by Vice-Rector for Strategy and External Relations Michal Malacka and Vice-Rector for Internationalisation Jiří Stavovčík.
“We discussed university development in the sense of our alma mater’s societal and community outreach to the city and region of Olomouc. We also talked about possibilities of cooperating with the US Embassy to bring American investors to the city and region. In this connection, the ambassador was also interested in the joint efforts of the university and local government to keep young people in the region,” Stavovčík summarised.
After the Rector’s Office, Sabet traveled to the American Center, which opened its premises last year at 8 tř. Svobody Avenue, where students from Olomouc’s Čajkovského high school awaited him. The students were interested not only whether the ambassador had learned some Czech, but also whom or what he missed being away from home. The ambassador spoke on a broad range of topics, from the possibilities of studying in the USA to the economic growth of China. “Meeting young people has always charged me with positive energy. You asked me some pretty tough questions, for which I truly thank you. And I’m keeping my fingers crossed for your further education,” the ambassador told the audience, which included his wife Lauren.
In the afternoon, Sabet took part in the debate “Europe in a Clash of Two Worlds”, hosted by Prague’s Václav Havel Library together with the Department of Political Science and European Studies at the Faculty of Arts. The ambassador praised the first Czech president as a visionary and recalled his influence on the transformation of Central Europe.
Ambassador Sabet did not spend all his time in Olomouc in the ivory tower. He enjoyed the view from the tower of St Wenceslas Cathedral, and did not shy from sampling Olomouc’s celebrated pungent cheese.
Experts discussed the latest findings from the fascinating world of bees at the first international Czech-Slovak apidology conference BeeConnected 2023, organised by the Departments of Biochemistry and Geoinformatics of the Faculty of Science. The conference was held under the auspices of the Dean Martin Kubala at Fort Science. It focused on honey bees, other bee species, bumblebees, bee products, as well as geoinformatic and bioinformatic analyses related to bees.
“In the Czech Republic and Slovakia, various conferences are held for entomologists, physiologists, molecular biologists, and other experts in specific fields. General apidology, however, has not had its own scientific conference yet, so the idea of organising one was born. We wanted to give space especially to doctoral and other students to present the results of their work in short contributions, share information and ideas, or establish new contacts,” said one of the organizers, Jiří Danihlík from the Department of Biochemistry.
Experts at the conference spoke, for example, about stress physiology of bees, key signalling molecules of the bee immune system, applications of oxalic acid against the Varroa destructor, the effect of humic substances on the growth of bee lactic acid bacteria, and the distribution and prevention of three bumblebee pathogens in the Czech Republic.
The plenary lecture, entitled “From Molecules To Behaviour: Taking An Integrative Approach To Improve Honey Bee Health And Colony Productivity”, was presented by Michael Simone-Finstrom from the USDA in Baton Rouge, who deals with the immune system of honey bees, their antioxidant protection, and related topics in basic and applied apidology research.
“An impressive set of research topics were presented at the conference. It was great to learn about the wide range of projects being addressed in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Talking to scientists and beekeepers broadened my perspective on beekeeping problems in Central Europe. I am also taking home new research ideas and I hope that I have also brought new information and context to the conference participants in research on the health and resilience of bee colonies,” added Simone-Finstrom.
The BeeConnected 2023 conference was organised with the help of the project BeeClim: Successful Beekeeping in Times of Climate Change, supported through Norway Grants.
The week-long stay of students from the University of Nebraska at Kearney in the Czech Republic culminated in a course focused on the creation of marketing plans, which was prepared by the Department of Economic and Managerial Studies at the UP Faculty of Arts as part of UP’s ongoing cooperation with the US university.
Nine American students, led by Prof Timothy Burkink, attended lectures at Palacký University as well as an extensive, practically oriented and cultural programme.
“Together we visited Brno and one of the largest corporate companies in the Czech Republic, Oracle; however we also saw local Olomouc companies such as Šufan and Chomout. Last but not least, the students visited the BALUO Application Centre at the UP Faculty of Physical Culture, which represents an ideal link between the university, science, research, and the commercial sphere,” said Alena Vyskočilová, head of the UP Welcome Office, who participated in the programme for the guests.
The visit of the American students was the culmination of a pilot project within the framework of collaboration between the Department of Economic and Managerial Studies at the Faculty of Arts and the College of Business and Technology of the University of Nebraska at Kearney (CBT UNK). The aim of the course, which was held in English and jointly attended by students from Olomouc and Nebraska, was the preparation of marketing plans for two real projects for clients in the Czech Republic. The course was taught in the form of online workshops via the Zoom platform, and at the end of the course the participants met in person in Olomouc.
“Students capitalised on all the knowledge they gained during the final presentations of their projects, which were attended, among others, by Jan Stejskal, the dean of the UP Faculty of Arts, and via Zoom, also the representatives of CBT UNK and Veles Technology. We believe that we will be able to continue and develop our cooperation,” said the course guarantor David Kosina from the Faculty of Arts.
Currently, the organisers have begun planning to repeat the programme in a similar form in the next academic year; at the same time, they are organising a trip of UP students to the partner university in the USA.
Kearney for a number of years. The Nebraska Semester Abroad programme, thanks to which students of the American university can study at the Department of History at the UP Faculty of Arts, has become the basis of the constantly developing partnership. In December 2022, Jan Stejskal and Martin Elbel, who lead this programme, received honorary doctorates at CBT UNK.
The Werner von Siemens Award for 2022 in the category The Best Dissertation was awarded to Anna Petráčková from the Department of Immunology, the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at Palacký University Olomouc for her work dealing with the research of new biomarkers and refinement of the analysis of existing ones, using new molecular techniques in haemato-oncological and autoimmune diseases. The research of biomarkers allows tailor-made treatment for patients. Associate Professor Eva Kriegová was also awarded as Petráčková’s supervisor.
Anna Petráčková is very appreciative of winning the Werner von Siemens Award. “The award is a further motivation for me and an acknowledgement that the research I am involved in is of high quality and that it makes sense to carry on in it. I very much hope that this award will help me pursue follow-up research goals,” said the young scientist, who, after graduating from the UP Faculty of Science, was attracted by the multidisciplinary and practical dimension of the research of Kriegová’s team at the Department of Immunology of the UP Faculty of Medicine.
In her award-winning doctoral thesis, Petráčková summarises the results of nine original papers published in impact journals. The studies, which are based on the collaboration of Olomouc experts from the UP Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry and University Hospital Olomouc and bioinformaticians from the VSB – Technical University of Ostrava, have revealed a number of candidate biomarkers for the investigated diseases that can improve patient care and adapt treatment procedures to the requirements of precision medicine. This approach takes into account individual variability in genes, cellular and molecular profiles, environment and lifestyle in each person; based on this variability, biomarkers can be derived that function as biological indicators of disease progression or treatment efficacy.
One of the practical results of the work is an online calculator for setting the sensitivity of sequencing methods for diagnostic laboratories. It is already being used in clinical practice because it is essential for the correct identification of small clones with pathogenic mutations in cancer, which have an impact on its development and prognosis. The paper describing the calculator, with Petráčková as its first author, has been cited more than 60 times in two years.
“Our study provided specific recommendations for diagnostic laboratories regarding the setting of sequencing parameters for the desired sensitivity of the diagnostic test. Thanks to the online calculator, the lab workers can enter the desired sensitivity themselves, and the calculator will calculate the necessary sequencing coverage level,” said the author, who continues to study biomarkers in haemato-oncological and autoimmune diseases. For example, she is currently involved in a project focusing on endocrine orbitopathy, a serious eye disease in patients with autoimmune thyroid disease.
Petráčková’s dissertation was rated as exceptional by her supervisor Eva Kriegová, who was also awarded. According to the associate professor of the Department of Immunology, the thesis is extremely complex, and the student has demonstrated a deep knowledge of several medical disciplines. “She has also carried out a number of experiments using different methodological laboratory approaches, from sequencing, where we find out the order of nucleotides in genetic information, to cytometry, where we look at how cells look, how they are activated, and what functional properties they have,” she said, adding that she also appreciates Petráčková’s familiarity with new findings and scientific data, good communication within the team, and manual dexterity. “The way she works is ideal for every supervisor,” concluded Kriegová.
The Werner von Siemens Award has been awarded by Siemens to the best students, teachers and young scientists in the Czech Republic for the twenty-fifth time. As in previous years, expert juries selected the best works, projects, and personalities dealing with technical and scientific topics. A total of 493 entries were received for this year’s competition, out of which 32% were women. A total sum of €32,000 was distributed among the nineteen winners. Palacký University has been represented among the winners several times in the past, most recently last year, when the award for basic research went to a team led by Bruno de la Torre from UP CATRIN. You can read more about the award, one of the most important independent initiatives of its kind in the Czech Republic, here.
Collaboration between the UP Department of Immunology and the Technical University of Ostrava
In writing her dissertation, entitled Nové molekulární přístupy k citlivé detekci biomarkerů v éře precizní medicíny (Novel Molecular Approaches to Ultrasensitive Biomarker Detection in the Era of Precision Medicine), the award-winning Anna Petráčková was able to rely on the collaboration between Olomouc immunologists and the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the VSB – Technical University Ostrava, which has lasted for more than six years. The Olomouc department collaborates with Ostrava bioinformaticians on the analysis of research data, especially data from modern high-throughput methods such as next-generation sequencing and optical mapping. The cooperation has been supported by several projects, resulting not only in papers published in the most important scientific journals, but also in establishment of a Bioinformatics and Computational Biology doctoral programme, among other things.
Thanks to a revolutionary scientific process, Czech researchers will demonstrate how to develop new materials for obtaining “green” energy or reducing carbon dioxide emissions in the air and will demonstrate the possibility of ending dependence on fossil fuels and preventing potential energy and climate crises in the future. Scientists from the Czech Advanced Technology and Research Institute (CATRIN) of Palacký University Olomouc and the Centre for Energy and Environmental Technologies (CEET) of VŠB-Technical University in Ostrava (VSB-TUO), together with world-renowned research teams from Germany and Italy, are launching today a three-year European project worth 1.5 million euros.
In the scientific part of the project, the major role will be played by hydrogen production deploying solar water splitting, electrochemical conversion of waste carbon dioxide, and especially single-atom engineering. This approach is supposed to enable the development of new materials that will significantly increase the production of green hydrogen or raise the possibility of carbon dioxide transformation into useful chemicals with high added value.
“In our international team we want to develop technologies that will enable to anchor single atoms to the surface of suitable semiconductors and control the chemical and electronic properties of these atoms. The results show that this new atomic engineering approach makes it possible to increase severalfold the efficiency of materials used for photocatalytic and photoelectrochemical conversion of solar energy into hydrogen, which is crucial for translating green fuel production technology to practice. Atomic engineering is now piquing interest of researchers worldwide, but we are among the pioneers of its use for these energy and environmental applications,” said the Principal Investigator of the project, Štěpán Kment from CATRIN.
Researchers from both domestic universities have joined forces with European leaders in the field of green energy extraction. One of them is the team of Patrik Schmuki from the University of Erlangen–Nuremberg, Germany. Schmuki, who also works at CATRIN, has long been involved in research on the production of hydrogen, the so-called fuel of the future, using water, solar energy and semiconductor nanomaterials. “Single atom engineering is a direction that can change many areas of science in the future. Our results show that it is in the field of renewable energy extraction using solar radiation that materials enriched with suitable atoms can bring about a fundamental shift in increasing hydrogen production,” confirmed Schmuki.
The scientific team also wants to focus on the computer design of materials, alongside understanding their functioning. To model the processes, they will use unique supercomputer facility at VSB-TUO, which belongs to the most efficient in Europe. “We want to understand through the methods of computational chemistry how individual atoms increase the efficiency of key photochemical and photoelectrochemical processes and on the basis of this knowledge to optimize a new generation of materials for power engineering. In Ostrava, within the experimental part, we will focus on the possibilities of atomic engineering for photochemical transformation and removal of carbon dioxide, whose global production fundamentally contributes to global climate change,” explained Radek Zbořil on behalf of VSB-TUO.
A team from the University of Trieste in Italy will also address this global challenge, i.e., reducing carbon dioxide emissions, using, among other things, a unique device employing synchrotron X-rays to describe the structure of materials. A team led by the renowned electrocatalysis expert and author of several landmark papers in the journal Science, Paolo Fornasiero, will study the possibilities of electrochemical conversion of carbon dioxide. “Carbon dioxide can be converted electrochemically by suitable nanomaterials into useful chemicals or energy sources such as formic acid, carbon monoxide, ethylene, ethanol, or methane. We will focus on graphene-based nanomaterials enriched with suitable metals prepared in the past by colleagues in Olomouc and Ostrava. Our joint effort will be to increase conversion efficiency and to develop new single-atom materials so that carbon dioxide valorisation technologies can be applied in real life,” said Fornasiero.
In addition to the specific scientific results, an important part of the project is also cooperation in an international team and sharing experience and expertise. These activities will be supported by planned exchanges, summer schools, or joint workshops. A total of 21 countries shared around 100 awarded grants under last year’s TWINNING call (HORIZON-WIDERA-2021-ACCESS-03-01). Czech research teams and universities received nine projects.