News from UP

Dominik Vašinka and Miroslav Ježek from the Department of Optics won the Werner von Siemens Award

News: Faculty of Science - Thu, 14/03/2024 - 12:30

Dominik Vašinka and Miroslav Ježek from the UP Faculty of Science Department of Optics were able to significantly refine complex quantum measurements using artificial intelligence. As a result, they won the prestigious Werner von Siemens Award, with a first place in the Best Master’s Thesis category. The future practical use of the results of their research focused on the application of artificial intelligence in quantum measurements is broad – it will be applied primarily in the field of metrology and control of complex systems, including quantum devices such as quantum processors and sensors.

A large number of scientific fields and technical applications require precise control of complex physical systems to achieve a desired state or process. The key to their control is the precise tuning of control signals, although the theoretical description of these systems often remains unexplored. “Moreover, the situation becomes significantly more complicated when we move into the world of quantum physics. Here, the demands on the control instrumentation are multiplied by the probabilistic nature of quantum measurements, as well as the complex and multidimensional structure of quantum states and processes,” Vašinka said, describing the complexity of quantum measurements.

An example can be the optimal setting of the electrical control voltages needed to achieve the desired operation of quantum processors or the maximum sensitivity of quantum sensors. Optimizing the control of these devices, which is Vašinka’s focus, is a very difficult part of their development and use. The greatest contribution of his scientific work lies in the universality of the proposed control method, which uses cooperative neural networks. This makes it applicable to virtually any quantum and classical device. The work also practically applies the new method to the precise control of light oscillations, down to the level of individual light particles - photons. At the same time, manipulating the direction of light oscillation is a key element for advanced imaging and metrology applications.

The high quality of Vašinka’s scientific work is evidenced by the fact that he has presented it at several international conferences and the results of his research form the basis of the scientific article “Bidirectional Deep Learning of Polarization Transfer in Liquid Crystal with Application to Quantum State Preparation”, published in the renowned international journal Physical Review Applied. The Optics and Optoelectronics student is currently pursuing his PhD programme and is engaged in research at the intersection of quantum physics, photonics, and artificial intelligence.

Artificial intelligence has fascinated Vašinka since the beginning of his studies in physics. When he chose a research direction in the field of quantum optics, their combination was an ideal choice. “What I enjoy most about my work is programming. Seeing code being created with my own two hands that can almost work miracles with is an amazing feeling,” said Vašinka.

He entered the competition for the Werner von Siemens Award because he considers it a great opportunity to publish his discoveries and to disseminate them to professional circles that can benefit from them in many other projects. When asked whether this success will help him in his further studies, scientific or professional career, he replied “Certainly. On one hand, it is a great opportunity to establish new contacts and collaborations, but also a great motivation and reminder that our research is meaningful.”

Vašinka’s thesis supervisor Miroslav Ježek most values honesty and sincerity in this student, both professionally and personally. “Dominik is a very capable physicist and programmer and I believe he has a bright scientific career ahead of him. He is also an excellent communicator and is not afraid to give his honest opinion and feedback. I consider this one of the main reasons why Dominik and I work very well together,” said Ježek.

The funding of the research presented in Dominik’s thesis was provided by the Czech Science Foundation (project no. 21-18545S), the UP Internal Grant Agency, and the of the Faculty of Science Department of Optics. “The HYPER-U-P-S project within the H2020 QuantERA call, which was funded by the European Union and the Ministry of Education of the Czech Republic, also played an important role in shaping foreign scientific cooperation,” added Ježek.

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David Livingstone: The country has lost millions of talented people, there is also a need for help in the academic sphere

News: Faculty of Science - Sat, 09/03/2024 - 08:00

The US citizen David Livingstone moved eastward in 1990, to former Czechoslovakia, after the Velvet Revolution. He is currently a member of the Department of English and American Studies, Palacký University Faculty of Arts. He decided to move further east once again in the year 2024. His reason is to now provide help to universities in war-torn Ukraine.

When David Livingstone from the Department of English and American Studies, sent not long ago a contribution about his first days at Vasyl Stefanyk Precarpathian National University in Ivano-Frankivsk to the editorial team of Žurnál UP, I decided to ask him some further questions. What does your typical day look like? What is life like in a country at war? And why did he actually decide to go to this country where the sounds of air sirens are heard constantly? He describes in this interview in some detail not only his current life, but the lives of academics and students in Ukraine. 

How did you end up teaching at Vasyl Stefanyk Precarpathian National University in Ivano-Frankivsk?

My first acquaintance with this university was through the Ukrainian section of the Slavic Languages department at our faculty, specifically through Drs. Radana Merzová and Uljana Cholodová, the second of which is actually from Ivano-Frankivsk. These ladies introduced me to a visiting professor of literature from Precarpathian National University Prof. Ivanna Devdiuk about a year ago. I offered to teach some of the teaching staff online and this took place for about nine months with around ten participants on average. I shared the teaching duties with my former student and friend Dagmar Pavlov, whose husband is Ukrainian.

I eventually got to know the head of the department of English philology here Professor Yakiv Bystrov and he finally invited me (or to be honest I invited myself and he kindly agreed) and managed all of the paperwork on the Ukrainian side. I was also supported by my own department and head Dr. Ondřej Molnár and the faculty administration, specifically Dean Jan Stejskal and Vice-Dean Pavlína Flajšarová. The most difficult obstacle was to obtain the necessary insurance since Ukraine is obviously a war zone. I also have to express my appreciation for colleagues who took on extra work and teaching in order to cover my absence, specifically Dr. Ema Jelínková.

I was initially given three classes, two classes of British literature for fourth year bachelor students and one of Academic Writing for first year master’s degree students. I also visit the classes of other teachers in the department, provide special lectures at the university and elsewhere: at the local American Window library, at secondary schools and at cultural centers. Finally, I am organizing with the help of a group of students a film club in my dorm building. I will also be teaching online courses to students at other Ukrainian universities, specifically for Karazin Kharkiv National University and hopefully Kherson State University (many of whose employees have moved here to Ivano-Frankivsk and some of which share the same dormitory).     

What actually led you to set off for this war torn country?

I have been organizing English courses for Ukrainian refugees in Olomouc for the last two years. Dean Stejskal kindly agreed to let us use classrooms at the faculty. This is still going on and is being financially supported by the American Embassy in Prague via our American Center at the university headed by Dr. Lukáš Merz. Two of my former students are actually teaching for free at the moment as we have limited financial resources: Mgr. Eva Železná and Mgr. Karolína Cohen (they both teach adults). Two of my current students are also teaching: Mgr. Margo Hordeieva (originally from Odesa, teaching three groups of children) and Matěj Kundrát (two groups of adults). All in all, around eighty Ukrainians are taught per week in ages from seven to seventy.

I have also done my best, along with my colleagues, to support the Ukrainian students at our department who are often overwhelmed by the new environment and system. Around six months ago, however, I realized that it was all fine and good to help Ukrainians on this end, but perhaps more important in the long run to help universities back in Ukraine. The country has already lost millions of talented people, not only as soldiers, but as refugees. There is going to be a tremendous problem with the brain drain phenomenon in the future, if and when peace is finally achieved. I think it is important for those of us in the West and specifically in academia to try to support our colleagues in Ukraine in order for them to maintain academic excellence and retain talented students and researchers in the country. I hope to contribute in my small way to this effort.      

Vasyl Stefanyk Precarpathian National University is a large institution with 12 faculties and institutes. In addition, it has become the temporary home for a number of administrative employees and members of the academic community of Kherson State University. What is it like to live in that kind of environment, what kinds of feelings do you have, how do you perceived that kind of life?

The university here is by no means wealthy. I share an office at the university with around thirty other colleagues, which makes me appreciate the excellent conditions we have at Palacký. The classrooms and buildings could also use some investment, but this is obviously not the top priority at the moment. Having said that, the university and the city here are an oasis of calm and peace for people living in the East in or near the war zone. National Precarpathian University has provided some of the teaching and administration staff of Kherson State University with office space and accommodation in the student dormitories for the last two years and there is, of course, no end to the war in sight. Kherson Students are all taught online, which is not ideal but certainly better than nothing. I have only begun to get to know some of the Kherson faculty, but my impression is one of courage and determination. One of the Vice-rectors of the university has been living with his wife and daughter in a room the same size as mine, of around ten square meters, for two years. 

What does your typical day look like?

I live in a student dorm and have my own room with a desk and the basics: shower, toilet and fridge. I have a fifteen minute walk to either the university or the city center. When I am not teaching, I work at home, either preparing my lessons and lectures or doing my own work. I am still running a lecture series at my department and have about ten students writing their theses with me, in addition to my own research of course. So plenty to do. I go out for a meal usually once a day. The restaurants here are on a very good level, as is some of the beer. I occasionally meet with colleagues for a meal or drinks. I have also been to the impressive local theatre and even seen an innovative modernized version of Hamlet set in a bomb shelter and staged in the basement of the building. I am currently working with a colleague from the theatre studies department here on a conference paper about this, and other Ukrainian Shakespeare productions which reflect the current reality. The city itself is lovely and I am looking forward to exploring the countryside when the weather improves.

Are you planning to visit other universities during your semester-long stay?

I will be spending four days in Lviv where I will be giving talks at three different universities. I will also be visiting Kyiv again and plan to give a talk at Taras Shevchenko National University and visit other cultural institutions. I also have scheduled visits to universities in Ternopil and Chernivtsi.

Which of your experiences do you view as most powerful? Is there something from Ivano-Frankivsk which you will always deeply remember?

There are air sirens and bomb scares on average twice per week, sometimes more often. Everyone has an App which tells them about the threat. Several times, this has gone off in the middle of one of my classes. Students and faculty are supposed to leave the building and classes are cancelled until the threat is officially over, usually around 90 minutes. University students just leave the campus and either go home or go for a coffee (Ukrainians are coffee maniacs, by the way). Students at primary and secondary schools, however, have to move to provisional classrooms in bunkers. This creates a constant uncertainty amongst both teachers and students, which is handled with humour and resignation, but obviously takes its toll. The threat is of course much more serious the further East you go.

I also admire the way people improvise, despite the obstacles placed in their way. We had our first film night last Sunday in the dorm and five minutes before we were about to launch the film, we had a complete blackout. I was ready to give up, but the earlier mentioned Vice-rector from Kherson excused himself and came back with a power box/generator, obviously used to situations like this. Due to lack of power, the Internet also kept dying, and various students provided their own routers to keep us online. In the end, we were able to watch the film and the experience (at least for me) was intensified by how much work it took in order to make it happen. 

Practically everyone I have met has either lost a family member in the war or to immigration or to separation in Russian occupied territories. I expect to hear much more.

What would you like to communicate to people at Palacký University?

First of all, we have a great deal to be grateful for, not only peace in our country, but a stable economy and an excellent education system (not perfect of course). Cities in Western Ukraine especially look a great deal like our own cities (having a shared history of Austria-Hungary). Czechs and Ukrainians have a lot of shared history with colonization and the struggle for maintaining sovereignty and identity. The Ukrainian language and culture is very much alive and well (the war as most of us know has actually helped unify the country and spurred added pride in their language as opposed to Russian) and the people are very much deserving of our support and friendship. I am proud that my adopted country and our university has done, and is doing, so much to support Ukraine. The struggle, however, is far from over.

I came to Czechoslovakia in 1990 and have lived in Olomouc and worked at Palacký University since 1992, after my initial stay in Rožnov pod Radhoštěm. I have obviously seen a great deal of changes, mostly for the better. We are where we are thanks (not only of course) to support from the European Union and the United States and others. Although a happy converted agnostic, I am the son of a preacher man and will end with a verse from the Good Book, Gospel of Luke 12:48: “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall me much required.” I believe it is our duty to begin to pay back what we have received and do our utmost to help our sisters and brothers in Ukraine, not only militarily and financially, but also intellectually.

Categories: News from UP

Michal Otyepka presented CATRIN research to foreign diplomats

News: Faculty of Science - Fri, 01/03/2024 - 14:15

For the first time, the leadership of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) presented scientific diplomacy to foreign diplomats as one of its priorities. Michal Otyepka presented the research activities and accomplishments of CATRIN, Palacký University Olomouc, to almost 100 ambassadors and representatives of diplomatic missions on Wednesday, February 28, at the Czernin Palace.

“I am glad that I was able to talk about our research in front of diplomats and demonstrate that international cooperation is one of the pillars of CATRIN. Of course, I expressed my interest in further development in this area as well. I’ve made useful contacts at the meeting and agreed on further communication with several ambassadors. I commend the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the development of scientific diplomacy. As the meeting disclosed, the modernization of the country cannot be done without quality cooperation in the field of innovation and science. Only in broad cooperation can research adequately respond to the current burning global challenges,” said Michal Otyepka, Head of CATRIN-RCPTM.

According to the MFA representatives, it is also necessary to build bridges across countries in the area of research and innovation. “In its Programme Declaration, our government has committed itself to supporting the modernisation and raising the competitiveness of the Czech Republic. The Foreign Ministry contributes to the fulfilment of this goal mainly by supporting Czech research, development and innovation abroad. Last year, we therefore integrated scientific diplomacy into the scope of our diplomatic network and we will continue to strive for a greater connection of Czech science with the world,” said First Deputy Foreign Minister Jiří Kozák at the beginning of the meeting with diplomats.

Deputy Minister for Science, Research and Innovation Jana Havlíková also confirmed this priority on behalf of the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic. Chief Director Kateřina Sequensová presented the MFA’s tools to support the internationalisation of Czech research, development and innovation and offered opportunities for cooperation with the network of Czech embassies to connect institutions with their foreign partners.

The MFA also supports universities or top research centres within the framework of scientific diplomacy; its representatives mentioned nanotechnology, biotechnology and computer sciences as very successful fields. That is probably why the research institutions were represented at the meeting by Michal Otyepka from CATRIN as well as by the Rector of the University of West Bohemia Miroslav Lávička.

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UP FHS Science and Research Centre represented Czechia in IBEC Barcelona

News: Faculty of Science - Fri, 01/03/2024 - 08:00

The Science and Research Centre at UP Faculty of Health Sciences (UP FHS) represented the Czech Republic during a special study visit to the IBEC (Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia) research centre in Barcelona. The three-day event provided a unique opportunity for sharing knowledge and building international partnerships in science and research.

The prestigious event brought together twenty research managers from various European countries that are facing specific challenges related to the development of science and research. Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Slovakia, Malta, Armenia, Tunisia, Romania, Greece, Poland, and other countries were represented in Barcelona. The Science and Research Centre at UP FHS was represented by its project manager Marika Svrčková.

 “Participation in the study visit was a great opportunity for us to gain insight into the functioning of top research centres in Western Europe, share our knowledge, and establish valuable collaborations across the continent and beyond. Cooperation and mutual learning are key factors in the development of science and research. For our centre, participating in this event was an invaluable experience,” said Svrčková.

During the three-day programme, research managers were acquainted with best practices in research management, innovative training programmes, participation in competitive funding for science and research, and support for technology transfer. Institutional initiatives, large-scale projects, and issues of open science and ethics in research were also discussed.

The study visit took place under the auspices of the Technology Centre Prague as part of the ongoing NCP_WIDERA-NET project, which aims to provide researchers and research managers from “widening countries” with access to practices and networks of excellence.

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Olomouc Faculty of Law experts help their Ukrainian colleagues via an important publication project

News: Faculty of Science - Thu, 29/02/2024 - 08:00

The Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, the Treaty on the EU, and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU are three fundamental documents governing the European Union, and the Commentary on these is now also available in Ukrainian. Experts from the UP Faculty of Law in Olomouc have contributed significantly to its publication.

The documents governing the functioning of the European Union are the cornerstones of the European community which Ukraine would like to join. Even some Member States have not yet published the Commentaries on the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, the Treaty on the EU, and the Charter of Fundamental Rights in their own languages. However, a team of experts from the law faculties of Charles University in Prague, Masaryk University in Brno, Palacký University Olomouc, and the University of West Bohemia in Pilsen published its Czech translation on the occasion of the Czech EU Presidency in 2022. The same team also came up with the idea of approaching experienced translators and publishing the Commentaries in Ukrainian. The project was then taken under the auspices of Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala.

 “At the time, we unanimously agreed to translate the work and make it available online free of charge, without any royalties, to all Ukrainian readers, academics, students, and practicing lawyers. The work – we can rightly say opus – of 1780 pages, has been successfully prepared and the Commentary has just been published,” said Ondrej Hamulák, one of the co-authors and Vice Dean for Science and Research at the UP Faculty of Law. Along with him, five other Olomouc experts – Michal Petr, Václav Stehlík, Helena Kopa Bončková, and Ondřej Dostal, all from the Department of International and European Law, and Martin Kopa from the Department of Constitutional Law – contributed to the creation of the Commentary.

This comprehensive scholarly work was published by Wolters Kluwer publishing house on the occasion of the two-year anniversary of the Russian aggression in Ukraine. The official launch took place at the end of February in Carolinum in Prague and was christened by the expert guarantor of the project, Michal Tomášek from the Prague Faculty of Law, Charles University Rector Milena Králíčková, and the Czech Minister for European Affairs, Martin Dvořák.

The Olomouc faculty was represented at the ceremony by Dean Václav Stehlík. “This event belongs to the mosaic of everything that our faculty and university have been trying to do in support of Ukraine in the last two years. The publication of the Commentary in these days is symbolic and should become instrumental for Ukraine to take the next step towards its integration into Western structures. I would like to wish Ukrainian legal academics and practitioners alike that the new Commentary will serve them well in bringing Ukrainian and European law closer together. I would also like to thank my colleagues from the Department of European Law in Prague for their hard editorial work,” said Dean Stehlík.

Michal Tomášek emphasised the “legal” proximity of the two countries during the launch. “It is very valuable that Ukraine, on its way to the EU, receives a commentary prepared by Czech authors, because our legal thinking is very similar. The more similar the legal thinking is, the more digestible it is for the reader than if Ukraine received a British or German commentary. Our historical experience and approach to many concepts and institutes is very similar,” said Tomášek, adding that the Constitutional Court of Ukraine has already enthusiastically welcomed the Commentary.

The Commentary in Ukrainian is freely available on the publisher’s website.

Categories: News from UP