For the second time now, students of the UP Faculty of Health Sciences are challenging their peers and employees from other UP faculties to a blood donation and now also blood plasma donation contest. The challenge will run the entire winter semester under the motto “Roll Up Your Sleeves” and will culminate with the announcement of the results during the UP Academic Days in February 2022.
The contest will be launched on Wednesday, 20 October at 8 am at the Transfusion Department of University Hospital Olomouc; UP Rector Martin Procházka and Dean of the UP Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) Jiří Vévoda have promised to participate along with other early donors.
The competition will measure the total volume of blood donated by students and employees of each individual faculty, and the percentage of donors among students. Compared to the first year, other categories have been added. “As new plasmapheresis centres have been opened, the Transfusion Department reports a shortage of blood plasma donors. Therefore, we have added a new category this year, allowing blood plasma donations to join the competition as well. In addition, participants can look forward to other smaller competitions and quizzes with prizes from our sponsors,” said Simona Konečná from the organising UP FHS Student Association.
It is possible to donate blood or blood plasma at any donation point in Olomouc. Joining the competition is very easy: just fill in the form, receive a stamp at the selected donation point, and then place the form into one of the collection boxes located at the faculties as well as at the Olomouc Transfusion Department.
“Dear students, reach out to your classmates, friends, and teachers; together let’s help those who have been less fortunate,” Konečná said in her call for student participation.
The competition of faculties is organised by the UP FHS Student Association in cooperation with the UP Communications Office and the Transfusion Department in University Hospital Olomouc. The second year of the competition will be held throughout the winter semester and will culminate during the traditional Donate Blood with the Rector event, an integral part of the UP Academic Days in February, during which the Olomouc’s university commemorates its re-establishment in 1946.
During the first year, students and employees donated a total of over 119 litres of blood, with the Faculty of Science contributing the most. You can recall last year's Battle of the Faculties through this article.
Palacký University Olomouc has been supporting blood donation for a long time; it was recently awarded a commemorative plaque and a certificate of appreciation by the Czech Red Cross Olomouc for supporting blood donation and the activities of the Czech Red Cross. Information about the traditional event Donate Blood with the Rector and more can be found here.
From 1 February 2022, the UP Faculty of Arts (UP FA) will be headed by Associate Professor of History Jan Stejskal. The decision was made by the members of the UP FA Academic Senate at the election session on 13 October. The current chairperson of the senate and former head of the UP FA Department of History was the only candidate to run for the 2022–2026 term.
Stejskal received the necessary majority of votes in the first round, with 18 senators voting for his election. “Thank you for your votes of confidence. Let me just say that I am a man of consensus, a parliamentarian. Things will be negotiated at our faculty, they will be done after joint deliberation, nothing will be forcefully implemented. I look forward to working together in the years to come and may we all thrive here – our faculty is worth it," said Jan Stejskal following his election win.
At the same time, he assured his audience that he was going to resign from the position of the chairperson of the UP FA Academic Senate, which he currently holds for the second term. Therefore, the Senate will hold another election at its next meeting, which will take place on 10 November, this time to elect a new chairperson.
Jan Stejskal will take the helm of the faculty on 1 February 2022, after being appointed by the UP rector. He will replace Prof Zdeněk Pechal from the Department of Slavonic Studies at the UP Faculty of Arts, who took over the leadership of the faculty in 2018. Associate Professor Stejskal had been nominated as a candidate for dean in that election, but he declined to run. This time however, he was the only one who agreed to run in the current election.
As dean, he wants to put emphasis on the development of a friendly and safe environment for study and work, the promotion of doctoral studies, better use of the potential of institutional accreditation, further cultivation of internationalisation as well as project and grant activities, digitalisation of the study and personnel paperwork, and the promotion of sustainability at the faculty.
Jan Stejskal (b. 1970) graduated from the UP Faculty of Arts and Central European University in Budapest, Hungary. He continued his postgraduate studies at the Institute of History at the Czech Academy of Sciences and at the UP Faculty of Arts. He also gained experience and valuable contacts during his internships at the International Medieval Institute, the University of Leeds, and the Harvard University Center for Renaissance Studies in Florence, Italy. Before he started working at the UP FA Department of History, he worked as an archivist and information analyst at Radio Free Europe. He has been employed at the UP FA Department of History since 1999, being its head from 2014 to 2018. He was appointed Associate Professor of History in 2009. His professional work focusses mainly on the late medieval period, the history of monasticism, and Italian humanism of the 15th century. He is a member of the UP FA Scholarly Board as well as several disciplinary boards at UP FA and at the Faculty of Arts of the University of Pardubice, and an evaluator of the National Accreditation Bureau for Higher Education.
Palacký University Olomouc and the National Institute for Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Protection have collaborated on a national security research programme for the Czech Ministry of the Interior. The aim was to develop and test methodologies for decontamination of injured persons during emergencies related to the use of chemical, biological and radioactive substances. The results of the project will be delivered by the end of this year.
Certified methodologies describing and defining the procedures for decontamination of severely injured and bedridden persons in events such as terrorist attacks, industrial accidents, and natural disasters have not been available in Czechia to date. However, their creation is vital for patients in order to minimise the time of their stay at the disaster site, to maximise the efficiency of the triage system, to initiate treatment, and subsequently to maximise the efficiency of transport and start the hospital phase of treatment.
“Until now, it has been assumed that contaminated persons are only minimally injured. However, few experts have considered the fact that routine injuries can also occur when persons are contaminated, and there was no methodology for decontamination and simultaneous treatment of open injuries, for example. This lack has been evident not only in the pre-hospital phase of emergency medicine but also during emergency care in hospitals, i.e. in emergency departments. Healthcare professionals working in the field as well as in hospitals are not fully prepared for such issues,” said the project’s main investigator Petr Hubáček, a specialist in emergency medicine, formerly a researcher at the UP Faculty of Health Sciences, currently the chief physician at Domažlice Hospital. The project team led by him consisted of thirty experts; Palacký University was represented by academics from the UP Faculty of Health Sciences and the UP Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, as well as employees of the UP Science and Technology Park.
“Both methodologies were preceded by very detailed research at national and international levels, comprising of a large number of laboratory tests provided by the National Institute for Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Protection and the Department of Pharmacology at the UP Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry. These foundations gave rise to a preliminary version of the methodologies, which had to be tested in a ‘real’ situation; our research partners were the components of the national Integrated Rescue System, namely the Fire Brigade Rescue Corps of the Olomouc, Moravian-Silesian, and Pilsen regions, and the Medical Rescue Services of Prague and of the Olomouc and Moravian-Silesian regions. Up to 250 persons were involved in validation exercises, conducting a coordinated intervention which was measured and tested. The results of these exercises helped us define the maximum possible capacity of this methodology,” he added.
For instance, a large validation exercise took place in the spring of 2019 near Hlučín. Another exercise took place at Domažlice Hospital, where they also focussed on training hospital staff on how to wear protective clothing and on the specifics of treating patients under emergency conditions. This experience came in handy for the doctors and paramedics when the Covid-19 epidemic broke out shortly afterwards, and the hospital served as a “covid only” hospital for patients from the region.
The epidemic significantly affected the course of the project itself, given the nature of the research. “All preparation, training, and workshops related to the hospital phase of the project were interrupted. The cooperating units of the Integrated Rescue System, in particular the fire brigade and the participating hospitals, which had a key role in our project, were in the state of emergency until this May, so it was problematic, if not impossible, to invite them to join our training sessions. Due to these complications, the project was extended,” explained Hubáček.
After the epidemic situation eased at the beginning of the summer, work on the project resumed, and among other things, a set of instructional videos was created at Domažlice Hospital, which will be used to teach the staff of the national Integrated Rescue System. In the videos, 3D and virtual reality is used, which will allow more effective training. All project results, including the training programme, will be delivered by 31 December of this year.
The new rector of Palacký University Olomouc, Martin Procházka, and the historically fourth dean of the UP Faculty of Health Sciences, Jiří Vévoda, have been inaugurated. They received their insignia and took their inaugural oaths at an assembly in the Archbishop’s Palace in Olomouc, which was attended not only by representatives of other faculties and departments of Palacký University, but also by representatives of other universities and prominent personalities of the region.
First, however, Jaroslav Miller, who headed Palacký University from 2014 until spring 2020, symbolically handed over the Rector’s Office to the UP Academic Senate chairperson, Jiří Langer. “I would like to wish the new rector and the dean every success on the path that Palacký University has taken. The path to a top research university in the wider Central European region, one which is highly internationalised and heard in the public space for its advocacy of an open society, freedom, and democracy,” said the former UP rector.
Then the chairperson of the Senate decorated Martin Procházka, who took over the leadership of Palacký University on 1 May this year, with the Rector’s chain. “It is an extraordinary honour and the absolute highlight of my academic career. I feel both proud and humbled when I think of the history of higher education in Olomouc and the long line of great men and women who have led the university,” said the new rector in the opening words to his inauguration speech.
Prof. MUDr. Martin Procházka, Ph.D.
Graduate of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Pardubice, Professor of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, took over the Rector’s Office at Palacký University Olomouc on 1 May this year. Prior to his success in the elections for rector, he headed the UP Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) from 2019. Since 1994, he has worked at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the UP Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry (FMD) and University Hospital Olomouc (UHO), and later he headed the Department of Medical Genetics at the FMD and UHO and the Department of Midwifery at the UP Faculty of Health Sciences. His professional work focusses on perinatology, foetomaternal medicine, and medical genetics, especially on serious complications during pregnancy and the issue of hereditary disorders of blood clotting. As a physician, he specialises in high-risk pregnancies, thrombophilic conditions, and outpatient gynaecology and prenatal care, infertility, and endometriosis.
In his speech, he thanked his predecessor for the work he had done. Among other things, he emphasised again that he wanted to be a rector for students, one who always has an open door for them. “It is important for me to know what students think, to build relationships based on trust with them. I would like students to be involved as much as possible.” In his speech, the rector also mentioned that the art of critical thinking is a key skill which the university has to instil in its students for it is essential for orientation in the 21st century, amidst the flood of information. “We must try our best to defend academic freedom and freedom of research; we must strive to maintain an absolute top level of quality in science and research. It is important to encourage students to think and act independently and freely in the spirit of traditional European values; this is the most effective way to combat scepticism, populism, and other dangerous phenomena in society.”
Subsequently, Martin Procházka, as Rector and Dean Emeritus of the UP Faculty of Health Sciences, together with the chairperson of the UP FHS Academic Senate, Lukáš Merz, inaugurated Jiří Vévoda as Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences. The current Vice-Dean for Science, Research and Lifelong Learning succeeded in the dean’s election announced after Martin Procházka was elected Rector; Vévoda assumed the leadership of the faculty on 1 August 2021.
“The fact that it was my predecessor who has become the rector of our university shows that the Faculty of Health Sciences is an integral part of the association of faculties that are jointly and inseparably called Palacký University Olomouc. Although it is the youngest faculty, it has proved its indispensability in the last two years, as it educates non-medical professionals who have made a significant contribution to the handling of the pandemic in its darkest hour," recalled the UP FHS dean. In his inauguration speech, he thanked all those who are involved in teaching at the faculty in any way but at the same time noted that the faculty lacks its own specialised teaching and working spaces.
Mgr. Jiří Vévoda, Ph.D.
He has been heading the UP Faculty of Health Sciences as its fourth dean since 1 August this year. Previously, he was the Vice-Dean for Science, Research and Lifelong Learning, and after then dean Martin Procházka was elected UP rector, Vévoda was entrusted with the leadership of the faculty. He has been working at Palacký University since completing his doctoral studies in social medicine in 2010; his workplace is the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at UP FHS. He has also been a member of both the faculty and university Academic Senate (UP AS) and chairperson of the UP AS economic committee. In addition to teaching, he focusses mainly on psychosocial risks in health care and on the motivation and job satisfaction of health care personnel. He has managerial and economic work experience, having worked for the largest insurance company in the country and also at the Czech Ministry of Health.
He also pointed out that the time may not be far off when there will be a greater shortage of professionals in some non-medical health professions than there is now. “I am confident that health policy makers will realise the graveness of the situation and will begin to remedy it as soon as possible. The sooner the perception of the societal relevance and status of non-medical health professions improves, the easier it will be for me to implement my agenda announced in the dean’s election: high-quality professional education, a high degree of internationalisation, the growth of science and research, a safe working environment for both academics and administration, and a safe learning environment for our students,” concluded Vévoda.
During the ceremonial assembly at the Archbishop’s Palace, Martin Procházka and Jiří Vévoda also presented their teams of vice-rectors and vice-deans, respectively, who will help them to achieve their goals. The term of office for both high officials is four years, i.e. until 2025.
Scientists from the Institute of Experimental Botany, Academy of Sciences of Czech Republic (IEB ASCR) in Olomouc have become the first in the world to unravel the function of a newly discovered gene that influences seed production and quality. The discovery may help in breeding better and more resistant agricultural crops. Spanish experts from the Complutense University of Madrid were also involved in the research, which is reported in the prestigious journal Plant Cell.
The scientific group from the Centre for Structural and Functional Genomics of Plants of IEB ASCR, which is part of the Centre of the Region Haná for Agricultural and Biotechnological Research, under the leadership of Aleš Pečinka, followed up on their earlier research on one of the protein SMC complexes involved in the storage of chromosomes in the cell nucleus. Back then, the Olomouc scientists had already discovered a gene in Arabidopsis thaliana that is related to seed formation. Now, after two more years of research, they have been able to precisely describe the process that is necessary for the formation of high-quality and viable seeds.
"We first tried to find out if the disposition for poor seed development is inherited from both parents or just one of them. We were surprised to find that only the paternal side produces the defective seeds, so it is only the paternal hereditary information that causes them. This led us to the next step, a detailed study of pollen grains. We found that the plants we studied do not form regular oval and uniformly sized pollen grains, but instead very diverse pollen grains, ranging from quite small to very large," explained Fen Yang from the research team.
Subsequently, the researchers began to investigate reductive cell division, called meiosis. It was then that extremely interesting and groundbreaking results emerged.
"It turned out that during cell division, errors and skips of certain processes took place. The result was that about a third of the new germ cells acquired ten paternal chromosomes instead of the usual five, and the pollen grains containing them were therefore much larger. If an egg was fertilized, the produced embryo had two copies of the paternal hereditary information instead of one. We found that such a seed usually never developed at all. If it did, it was abnormally large and did not form storage substances," said Aleš Pečinka.
This new information has exceeded all expectations and will have a major impact on agricultural practice, according to Jaroslav Doležel, head of the laboratory and winner of the Czech government's National Award "Česká hlava".
"We have deepened our knowledge of the functioning of the SMC 5/6 protein complex, which is now receiving a lot of attention in the world. Thanks to this discovery, we can much better understand the mechanism responsible for the reductive cell division, which directly affects seed production. This is a very important process for breeders and farmers, which they now have the opportunity to influence. The study of this interesting gene can thus contribute to the creation of new crop varieties with higher yields," explained Doležel.
The Olomouc scientists will continue their research. According to Aleš Pečinka, they want to find out why reductive division does not take place. "So far, we have assumed that a disrupted organization of the filaments that pull chromosomes or sister chromatids to opposite poles of the cell could be to blame. Another possibility is that the chromosomes are dividing very slowly, so the cell decides to proceed to the next step without the division occurring. These are just our hypotheses which we will now be testing," he added.
Scientists and breeders around the world can start using the new scientific findings from Olomouc now. They can for example start to check whether this mechanism works in other plants and animals.
On Wednesday, the British Ambassador to the Czech Republic Nicholas Archer discussed the possibilities of cooperation between Olomouc and British researchers with the management of the Czech Institute of Research and Advanced Technologies – CATRIN at Palacký University. During his visit to the science centre, he also visited the laboratories and got acquainted with the main directions of research.
“I heard about the cutting-edge research of Palacký University and CATRIN. I came to see the reputation of this research center for myself and I was looking forward to seeing the exceptional technologies in advanced materials and agricultural research. The main aim of the visit is to encourage further scientific collaboration between British researchers and scientists from Palacký University,” said the British Ambassador.
The Director of CATRIN Pavel Banáš and other members of the University’s management presented the research directions and some results of basic and applied research to the distinguished guest. “The ambassador was very interested in the transfer of knowledge into practice and also in some of our technologies, including the use of iron nanoparticles for environmental applications or the technology for lactoferrin separation,” said Banáš.
He described the discussion on cooperation opportunities with partners from the UK as a very important part of the meeting. “In this country, we have been cooperating rather randomly with individual colleagues. However, with the ambassador we discussed the possibilities of systemic and long-term cooperation, for example with one of the universities. Among other things, he was interested in how they could help establish or deepen such cooperation,” added the CATRIN director.
During his visit to Olomouc, Nicholas Archer also met with the Rector of Palacký University Martin Procházka. He then discussed technology development, science, research and politics with the Governor of the Olomouc Region, Josef Suchánek.
The Rector of Palacký University Olomouc announces a call under the internal university-wide Doctoral Student Grant Competition.
The Doctoral Student Grant Competition aims to support one-year research grants implemented by full-time or part-time students of doctoral study programmes at Palacký University Olomouc to increase the level of their knowledge and help them improve the skills necessary for their future careers in research and development.
The doctoral student grant competition is financed from the funds of the Operational Program Research, Development and Education under the project “Improving schematics of Doctoral student grant competition and their pilot implementation”, Reg. No. CZ.02.2.69/0.0/0.0/19_073/0016713.
Proposals must be submitted until 27 October 2021 (4 pm). Student grant proposals are submitted only electronically and in English, through a web app available at granty.upol.cz. Detailed information can be found in the attached document.
“We found that interactions between carbon nanomaterials and chemicals that are part of standard toxicology test procedures can negatively affect the test results. Indeed, the values obtained for the cell viability did not reflect the interaction of the nanomaterials with the cells but the effect of those materials on the fluorescence properties of the dyes of the relevant tests. Therefore, in the protocol for the flow cytometry method, we used more control samples to help us detect these negative effects. Based on additional controls, we have created a new approach for evaluating this method that overcomes the interaction with fluorescent dyes and allows reliable in vitro testing of carbon nanomaterials toxicity,” explained the first author of the study, Tomáš Malina.
The work is a significant contribution to the field of nanotoxicology. It is a ground-breaking field of research since nanomaterials cannot be studied as common chemical compounds primarily because of their complex behaviour. This is manifested by the multi-level interaction between nanomaterials and living cells.
“Any research aimed at the interaction of nanomaterials with living cells or biological systems is generally extremely important and has a strong impact on the future real-world applications of nanomaterials. Carbon nanomaterials, whose applications are growing enormously in a number of areas, including biomedicine, should be reliably tested. We want to offer our newly developed strategy to the entire community of carbon research,” added Poláková. The work builds on years of research by a team from CATRIN-RCPTM into the interaction of biological systems with carbon nanomaterials of various dimensions, such as carbon dots, graphene derivatives or its nanosilver composites. The expansion of the scientific cooperation opens up further possibilities for assessing the safety of nanomaterials used in practice.
T. Malina, K. Polakova, C. Hirsch, L. Svoboda, R. Zboril, Toxicity of Carbon Nanomaterials—Towards Reliable Viability Assessment via New Approach in Flow Cytometry. International Journal of Molecular Sciences 22 (2021), 7750.
The UP Faculty of Physical Culture (UP FPC) will be led for the next four years by sports psychologist Michal Šafář. The current dean, the only candidate for the office, received the majority of votes from the members of the UP FPC Academic Senate in the first round.
The senators unanimously appointed the current dean for a second term, which will start on 9 February 2022 and last until 8 February 2026, with fifteen votes. “I really much appreciate the trust the senate has placed in me, in the previous term and now. I must say that when I compared the two elections, the first one was probably more dramatic, but I wasn’t so nervous then. Today, however, it was emotionally demanding. In a way, it is a testament to how the faculty management worked in that past term, and even though I had already claimed when I presented my vision that it was just a halftime score, I took the election seriously. In sports, I’ve seen games we were winning 15-0 at halftime, but ended a debacle. Also, I’m quite annoyed by the fact the pandemic has cost us over a year of standard functioning, and as a pessimist, I think it will take at least another six months to get back on track. However, I firmly believe that if we all suit up, we will get back to normal times and we will retake the pitch,” said Šafář after his re-election.
During the pre-election presentation of his vision for the future of the faculty, he said that above all, he wanted to be a good dean. In the coming years, he and his team of vice-deans want to continue the work they have started so that at the end of their second term, he would hand over to his successor a faculty that has successful and proud students and graduates, that brings forth new knowledge in kinanthropology (the science of human movement), and that is the centre of sports not only at UP but in the whole region. As he emphasised, the faculty should be grounded on values and principles such as freedom, tolerance, responsibility, continuity, (r)evolution, and transparency.
Michal Šafář has been the UP FPC dean since 2018, when he succeeded Zbyněk Svozil. He graduated in Physical Education and Teaching at the UP Faculty of Physical Education and in Psychology at the UP Faculty of Arts and completed his doctoral studies with a focus on sport psychology at UP FPC. Since 2001 he has been working at the faculty as an assistant professor, later he headed the Department of Social Sciences in Kinanthropology and was also the chairperson of the UP FPC Academic Senate. As a sport psychologist, he closely worked with tennis star Petra Kvitová as well as many other top Czech athletes. He is the chairperson of the Czech Association of Sport Psychologists.
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Plant ScreenTM Field System mobile phenotyping device has been tested by PSI for the first time in field conditions in cooperation with scientists from the Olomouc workplace of the Crop Research Institute and the Czech Advanced Technologies and Research Institute - CATRIN Palacký University. In a calendula covered field, experts collected data on the growth and flowering dynamics of 32 genotypes of this medicinal plant. The aim of cooperation between the three institutions is to enhance the procedure for obtaining data about the content of biologically active substances by non-invasive methods based on the analysis of spectral properties of plants.
"Lighting conditions change in different parts of the day and year. We must learn to normalize the measurements so that the data is transferable regardless of the lighting conditions. The obtained information about the color properties of the vegetation, its height, density, amount of biomass, color, homogeneity of the stand and the like are important for further research," said Petr Tarkowski, head of Olomouc branch of Crop Research Institute, who also works at CATRIN.
The mobile device was operating in a field where the research institute had planted 32 representative genotypes of calendula. In addition to automatic measurements, the researchers also measured some parameters manually on this unique sample so that they could compare the results with each other. They then perform a chemical analysis of the collected material, determine the composition of the substances and evaluate whether and eventually how this composition is reflected in the color of the flowers.
Working in the field in Olomouc also served as a test for PSI company, which is learning to use the Plant ScreenTM Field System in practice. In addition to biological material, the Crop Research Institute also provided knowledge in the field of morphology and calendula cultivation, while researchers from CATRIN provided knowledge from the connection between phenomics and metabolomics or experience with data evaluation.
"Palacký University has thus supported its activities in the Czech Plant Phenotyping Platform and contributed further towards reaching the Czech roadmap of large research infrastructures administered by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of the Czech Republic. It is great that the institutions have joined forces in this way in order to improve the procedure for other potential clients,“ said Lukáš Spíchal, an expert in plant phenotyping from CATRIN.
Sport not only strengthens the body and spirit, but can also play an important role in social and cultural development or in solving serious social problems. The three-year Global Sport for Development and Peace Knowledge Collaborative (GloKnoCo) project, in which the Department of Development & Environmental Studies of the Faculty of Science together with the Faculty of Physical Culture is involved, aims to point out this hitherto seldom used potential of sports activities.
“We want to show students how to work with topics such as poverty, ecology, social exclusion, diseases and humanitarian disasters through sport. The project takes advantage of the fact that both children and adults enjoy movement and playing sports. With the help of sports activities, they can learn more about these topics under the guidance of instructors. While sometimes participation itself is a partial solution to a problem, it gets children ‘off the street’, other times participants may still be learning solutions in movement games. Sport thus contributes to social change in society,” said Simona Šafaříková from the Department of Development & Environmental Studies.
Selected students get acquainted with the issue from a theoretical point of view and then also in practical workshops. In international teams, they design fictitious sports development projects led by non-profit organisations. This year’s conference, which took place online due to the coronavirus pandemic, was also attended by Daniel Rybníček from the Department of Development & Environmental Studies. “Participation in the GloKnoCo project brought me a lot of new knowledge and experience. It was very interesting to see experts from Palacký University and foreign universities, as well as representatives of non-profit organizations, use sport to develop and fulfil the agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals and reduce inequality within and between countries. We were introduced to specific examples from around the world as well as specific tools that organisations use to solve given problems. The seminars were accompanied by interesting and creative group activities, where we tried to create new scenarios and projects that could be applied in the practice of sports for development,” explained the student.
In addition to Palacký University, project partners are the University of Brighton (GB) and Paderborn University (D), as well as several organisations active in the field of sports for development. “Last but not least, within the project we strive for rapprochement and cooperation between the academic and non-profit sectors. In other words, researchers at universities have a lot of data and general information on sports and development issues, while non-profit organisations work in the field and put specific projects into practice. The connection of these two groups and the mutual sharing of information and experience is far from a matter of course. We would like to start and further strengthen this debate within the project,” added the main project manager at UP, Arnošt Svoboda from FPC.
More information about the project can be found here.
Palacký University Olomouc (UP) has taken a major step towards the commercialisation of the fourth-generation of Mössbauer spectrometers—instruments for analysing materials containing iron or iron oxides—developed by its scientists. Their manufacture, sale and servicing will be handled by a private spin-off company Iron Analytics under a licencing agreement. Among other things, the university will receive a share of each machine sold, whose average price can be half a million Czech crowns.
“The joint objective of the university and the newly formed spin-off company is to streamline the commercialisation of fourth-generation Mössbauer spectrometers. The university is the originator of both the idea and the technical solution; however, it is not its mission to directly provide and develop their production and sale. Spin-off companies are in general much more suitable for transferring research results into practice. Although they’re entering the market at a rather slow pace, compared to abroad, spin-offs are one of the most effective ways to ensure the transfer of knowledge from academia to practice,” said the Director of the Czech Advanced Technology and Research Institute—CATRIN UP, Pavel Banáš, who signed the licensing agreement for the university since these spectrometers are designed and manufactured there.
“On the basis of a transparent licensing agreement, preceded by a feasibility study carried out outside the university, alongside a conflict of interest agreement and expert opinion on the price of the licence, we can benefit from the university’s know-how, i.e., we can manufacture, sell and repair fourth-generation Mössbauer spectrometers. Since the university has so far managed to sell a few pieces of the device, we believe that after the launch of this spin-off company, we will be able to reach far higher numbers, at least dozens per year,” said one of the founders of Iron Analytics, Roman Jurečka.
The Mössbauer spectrometer is a laboratory instrument currently used in universities and research organisations. It is used to analyse materials that contain iron or iron oxides. “Mössbauer spectrometry has so far found applications primarily in the field of nanotechnology, but also in pharmacy, archaeology or mineralogy, for example. Our goal is to make effective use of these devices in industry, especially in the area of quality management. I believe that we will be successful and we can inspire other scientists at Palacký University,” said the Managing Director of Iron Analytics and the originator of the know-how, Jakub Navařík. Iron Analytics is a type of spin-off company with no ownership interest of the university.
The first Mössbauer spectrometer was developed at Palacký University in 1993 for the needs of its researchers. The next generation of the device was offered for commercial purposes a few years later. About a decade ago, Jakub Navařík developed a third generation as part of his dissertation work, focusing more, together with his colleagues, on commercializing the device. He created an improved fourth generation, the one being licensed now, this year. Mössbauer spectrometers from Olomouc have been previously sold to universities and research institutions in the US, China, South Korea, Germany, Poland, France, South Africa and other countries.
The UP Science and Technology Park (VTP) already has one spin-off company co-owned by the university—the RRR Centrum (a centre for the treatment of painful conditions and movement disorders, spol. s r.o). Regarding spin-off companies, another six entities have been established in the past to commercialize UP’s intellectual property. “The newly formed Iron Analytics is the first of its kind as it identifies itself as a UP spin-off,” said Petr Suchomel from VTP UP.
An eco-friendly electrode carbon material that can be used, thanks to its properties, in energy storage applications was developed by scientists from the Czech Advanced Technology and Research Institute (CATRIN), Palacký University Olomouc, and VSB—Technical University of Ostrava. The material proved its high capacitance and stability during supercapacitor testing.
“We managed to synthesize a new graphene derivative, on the surface of which we attached new functional groups. Thanks to our long experience with two-dimensional fluorographene chemistry, we were able to bind arginine, a type of amino acid, to the graphene sheet from both sides. By tuning the reaction conditions and adding a non-toxic, pore-forming agent—potassium carbonate—we achieved an optimal degree of functionalization and porosity in the material. These qualities make the material an excellent candidate for supercapacitor applications, for example,” said Veronika Šedajová, one of the authors of the study published in ChemSusChem.
A high capacitance of 390 F/g at a current density of 0.25 A/g was achieved by optimization of the properties. “We examined the applicability of the electrode material under typical operating conditions by testing the assembled supercapacitor for up to 30,000 charging/discharging cycles, with the material retaining over 82 percent of initial capacitance. Moreover, this work opens the door to an entirely new group of graphene derivatives with covalently bonded amino acids that can enable many applications, like energy storage or sensory applications,” confirmed another author Michal Otyepka.
Preparing eco-friendly electrochemically active electrode materials based on covalently functionalized graphene derivatives is a major challenge for scientists worldwide. These materials offer huge potential for energy storage applications. Covalent grafting of functional groups onto graphene’s surface, however, is challenging due to its low reactivity. This disadvantage can be circumvented by fluorographene chemistry. Researchers from CATRIN were able to capitalize upon their long-term research in this area. The team led by Michal Otyepka focuses on the 2D chemistry of fluorographene also thanks to the support of the European Research Council.
At the beginning of August, new extraordinary government measures go into effect regarding the regime at universities. The majority will not change what are now customary habits; the biggest change concerns the validity of self-tests. We summarise them all below.Teaching and exams
From 1st August until further notice, on the basis of the current government measure and its subsequent modification (in Czech), classes (i.e. special classes, incl. training and internships) can be held as they have been recently, without further restrictions.
For exams, state exams, academic ceremonies, entrance exams, and life-long learning courses, if there are more than 20 persons in attendance at any one moment, then the following go into effect:
As of 1 July, blanket testing of UP employees and students at faculties, dormitories, and other UP divisions will end. More detailed informationWearing of respirators
According to the current rules (in Czech), one can remove one’s respirator or similar respiratory protection (e.g. nano-masks) in these situations:
Athletes and people exercising can also remove their respiratory protection, as can persons in swimming pool areas, etc.; choirs when singing and throughout the duration of the event; inside one’s dormitory room; and customers at dining halls and UP Fresh Bistros when consuming food and drinks, if seated.
Please show consideration and mutual respect to your colleagues. Removing respiratory protection is only an option, not a requirement. If a student or employee feels any discomfort regarding the absence of respiratory protection in any of the above situations, we ask for collegial resolution of the situation and mutual agreement.
An as yet undescribed species of toad of the genus Atelopus was discovered during expeditions to inaccessible areas of the province of Darién in the eastern part of Panama by an international team of scientists, one of whose members was Milan Veselý from the Department of Zoology at the UP Faculty of Science. The report of their discovery was published in the prestigious journal Zoological Research. Toads of the genus Atelopus are among the most distinctive and remarkable groups of neotropical toads. At the same time, it is one of the most endangered groups of amphibians in the world, with a massive decline and even extinction in many populations over the last 20 years.
“We called the new species Atelopus fronterizo. The species moniker reflects the name given by indigenous peoples to someone who lives near the border. At the same time, however, they use this designation for members of the Panamanian border military police serving in Darién, who ensure security in this troubled part of Panama. Without the logistical support of this organisation, our research in some parts of Darién would be impossible,” said Veselý.
The habitat of the genus Atelopus extends from Costa Rica to Bolivia and currently includes 100 recognised species. Only six species occur in Panama, the last of which was described more than a quarter of a century ago. One of these species, the gold-coloured Atelopus zeteki, is not only the Panamanian national toad, but also an international symbol of the struggle to save amphibian populations in Latin America. “Given the ongoing deforestation, the destruction of native habitats and the ubiquitous chytrid fungus, it seemed unlikely that a hitherto undescribed species of these colourful and distinctive toads could still be found, which has not yet been discovered by herpetologists working in Panama. Nevertheless, during expeditions to inaccessible areas of Darién, we managed to discover several populations that were somewhat different in appearance from all the species described so far,” described Veselý.
Subsequent molecular analysis of the toad tissue samples showed that it was indeed a separate clade representing a new taxonomic unit. Researchers later found in a study of comparative material from world museums that this distinctive and colourful frog lay unnoticed by experts in the depositories of major museums for more than a hundred years. “This species was first found in 1911 near the settlement of Puerto Obaldía on the Panama-Colombian border by the naturalist Henri Pittier. This oldest known specimen stored in the United States National Museum was chosen by the herpetologist Dunn in 1931 as a paratype of the species Atelopus glyphus,” said Veselý.
Later finds of these toads turned out to be similar. Without much interest zoologists placed them in jars marked ‘Atelopus sp.’. “However, in an article published in 1990 by Cocroft et al. there is a mention of three male specimens, including a recording of their voices, which come from an older find by C.W. Myers in 1967. Toads were found in the settlement of Sasardí in the province of San Blas. Based on the bioacoustic analysis of the voice, the authors pointed out that these specimens may represent a hitherto undescribed species in the species complex Atelopus varius,” pointed out Veselý. In the last decade, some authors have presented this group of toads as Atelopus cf. limosus or Atelopus sp.
According to Veselý, it is no big surprise that the toads found were not accurately described for many decades. “Due to the large variability of colour patterns and morphometric features, it is very difficult to characterise the types of some species complexes in the genus Atelopus only on the basis of morphometry or colouration. Probably that is why this taxon remained undescribed for so long, although it was dealt with by the world’s leading herpetologists. Modern technologies, which are now used in integrative taxonomy, allow us to solve even such difficult taxonomic mysteries. Thanks to this, we managed to convincingly define the species not only molecularly, but also bioacoustically and morphologically,” said Veselý.
Currently, 97 percent of known species of toads of the genus Atelopus are classified as “endangered” (EN), “critically endangered” (CR) or “extinct” (EX) according to the IUCN Red List. “In the vast majority of identified cases, this widespread extinction was caused by chytridomycosis, which is a disease caused by the parasitic fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, which was discovered in Central America and is currently one of the causes of the global amphibian crisis,” said Veselý. From the genus Atelopus especially populations of toad species living at higher altitudes are being decimated by this disease. Of the Panamanian species, these include e.g. Atelopus zeteki, A. chiriquiensis, and A. varius.
Not only the Covid-19 epidemic but also the recent natural disaster in South Moravia, devastated by a tornado, remind us how important is the work of volunteers – and how many such people who dedicate their time and energy to helping others are among the students and employees of Palacký University Olomouc. For some of them, volunteering is one of the meanings of life. This is the case of Marie Hanušová from the Sts Cyril and Methodius Faculty of Theology (UP CMFT).
Last year, the student of Charity and Social Work and vice-chairperson of the UP CMFT Academic Senate received the Rector’s Award for her volunteer work. When her nomination arrived at the UP Volunteering Centre at that time, it said that without her help, Opava Charity would not have been able to provide the necessary care to people who depended on it during the first wave of the epidemic. “I was so surprised. I don’t think my help was significantly greater in any way than anyone else’s. I was very pleased nonetheless,” said Hanušová.
As part of the home care service, she helped seniors with everyday situations they could no longer cope with on their own. She prepared their meals, helped them with dressing, hygiene, and cleaning, and did shopping for them. “Most of all, it was mentally challenging. Not that the clients were unpleasant, not at all. But in my daily contact with them, I was aware of how alone they were and how their loneliness had deepened considerably during the quarantine. In addition, I took care of several seniors I had known since I was a kid, and it was heart-breaking to see them so weak and infirm.”
Marie Hanušová, whom you can also meet at the UPoint information centre, has volunteering in her blood. Thanks to her parents, who have been actively engaged in Opava Charity, she has been helping others since childhood. As a child, for example, she helped clients in a home for the visually impaired to find things; later she helped out in a sheltered housing for people with mental illnesses, in a retirement home, and also helped organise a church fundraiser. Nowadays, she organises various events for children in her local parish, such as masquerade balls, camps, and trips, and she has also been active in scouting for about a dozen years.
“I have certainly more motivations for volunteering. One of them is the fact that I have two healthy arms and two healthy legs that can serve someone who is not so lucky. I often think about why I am on this planet and why I am here right now. Volunteering adds meaning and depth to my existence. I think it’s beautiful when someone can help a stranger just like that, selflessly. The word society – in Latin societas – is derived from from socius, which means a companion, a friend. If we want our society to be healthy, we need to be friends. And seeing the smiles of the people we have helped is just the icing on the cake,” said Hanušová, who is already thinking about what she will do after completing her Bachelor’s degree. On one hand, she would like to get a real job soon, but on the other hand, she would miss student life and the faculty very soon. However, she has still some time before making her decision.
There is still time to submit nominations for this year’s Rector’s Awards for UP Student and Staff Volunteers, which will be presented at the beginning of the new academic year. The UP Volunteering Centre is accepting nominations via this form until August 20. A candidate may be nominated for the award by the organisation the UP student or employee has volunteered for in the past academic year as well as by the UP Volunteering Centre or any other university workplace. You can read more about the fifth year of these annual awards here.
Thirty-four graduates of the two-year master’s programme International Development Studies – GLODEP from twenty-seven countries graduated in the auditorium of the Faculty of Science, and three additional students took part online. Seven graduates from last year also took part in the graduation ceremony, as ceremonies were not held in 2020 due to epidemic measures.
“Studying abroad was a big challenge for me. We had the opportunity to study in the Czech Republic, France, and Italy and meet people of different nationalities. I would like to use my experience in the future to work in government or elsewhere in the public sector. I would like to participate in the creation of legislative rules that would lead to an improvement in the situation in our country,” described Rafal Roshdy Ramadan Mohamed from Egypt.
Kazuma Yabe from Japan also intends to use his experience from his studies. “Thanks to interdisciplinary subjects, I was able to deepen my knowledge of development issues and at the same time expand my skills in quantitative analysis. I would like to apply the experience gained in development practice. At the same time, the friendships I made during my studies are important to me: they are for life.”
The Department of Development & Environmental Studies was in charge of organising graduations. “We did not want the parents and family members of graduating students to lose out on this exceptional social event. For the first time, we managed to organise graduations online. The livestream took place in real time all over the world. To date, over a thousand people have seen the broadcast,” said Simona Šafaříková, director of the programme at Palacký University.
This year’s graduations did not take place in robes for hygienic reasons. A unifying element was a special scarf with the student’s name and the GLODEP logo. “The students designed the scarves themselves and had them made in Ghana, where one of our students comes from. When the scarves were made, they were sent to each one separately. I was very pleased that all the students brought them to graduation, it looked very nice. It united an otherwise diverse group of people dressed in different formal wear,” added Šafaříková.
The GLODEP study programme offers students the opportunity to study at three European universities which implement programmes in the field of development studies and development economics. In addition to Palacký University, these are the University of Clermont Auvergne (France) and the University of Pavia (Italy). The aim of the programme is to prepare students for work in the field of development policies which contribute to solving current problems at international, national, and local levels. Non-European universities are also involved in the cooperation (i.e. the Royal University of Bhutan and the University of Hassan II Casablanca in Morocco).
Tomáš Zábranský, M.D., Ph.D, graduate of the UP Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, epidemiologist and addictionologist, one of the founders of the field of addictology in the Czech Republic, died at the age of 52 early this July.
Tomáš Zábranský was born in 1969 in Hranice na Moravě. He graduated from the UP Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry in 1993 with a degree in General Medicine and received his doctorate from the same faculty in the field of epidemiology, hygiene, and preventive medicine. He also taught courses in drug abuse epidemiology for pre-graduate students at the Department of Public Health of our alma mater.
His main research interests were drug abuse epidemiology and associated morbidity and mortality. He also dedicated himself to the study of legal and illegal drug markets and the evaluation of drug policies. In his final years he intensively devoted himself to the area of therapeutic use of cannabis and cannabinoids. He was one of the initiators and proponents of cannabis therapy here, and to a great degree was responsible for its adoption in the Czech Republic.
From 1999–2001, he was at the birth of the drug information system in the Czech Republic and the foundation of the National Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Addiction. He was the lead investigator of the PAD study, which Investigated the impacts of revisions in drug legislation in the Czech Republic after 1998, the result of which led to recodification of criminal drug offenses in the new criminal law statutes of 2009.
From 2003–2004 was in the USA on a Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and was also a collaborating researcher at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the RAND Drug Policy Research Center think tank.
In 2005, he was at the founding of the field of addictology and the Department of Addictology (originally the Addictology Centre), at the First Faculty of Medicine, Charles University in Prague and the General University Hospital in Prague, where he also taught.
He was the head of the ResAd research and advisory group and worked throughout the world as an expert on introducing systems of monitoring drug situations and modifications of drug policies. He was especially active in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (the BUMAD, SCAD, CADAP projects). He worked with UN agencies, and in Europe especially with the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), where he also was a member of its advisory board since 2016, nominated by the European Parliament.
He was the main organiser of the international conferences Urban Drug Policy (2009) and Medical Cannabis Conference 2015. He also took part in the foundation and operations of the International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute (ICCI) in Prague.
From 2006–2016, he served as an external advisor to members of the Czech government – ministers Ivan Langer and Svatopluk Němeček, and prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka.
He was the author of more than a hundred publications in peer-reviewed journals and monographs and the author of two scientific books. He was the deputy editor of the impact journal Harm Reduction Journal, a member of the editorial board of the impact journal Journal of Drug Issues and the Czech scientific journal Adiktologie, and also a member of several Czech professional associations, the International Think Tank for Analysis of Drug Policy (UK) and the Independent Reference Group to the United Nations on HIV and Injecting Drug Use.
His other interests included translation, modern and classical music, literature, and photography. From 1993–98 he translated 22 books of prose and fiction from English into Czech, most often in tandem with UP alumnus David Záleský; the duo received the national Jungmann Prize for Translation for their inventive translation of John Lennon’s Skywriting by Word of Mouth (Nanebepění).
In 2017 he suffered an injury, from whose repercussions he never fully recovered.
Tomáš Zábranský made an indelible mark in the field of addictology in the Czech Republic, he was highly active and prominent in the field internationally, and significantly contributed to making Czech addictology and drug abuse epidemiology visible on the international level.
His legacy lives on!
Doc. MUDr. Viktor Mravčík, Ph.D., fellow student, close friend and fellow co-worker, head of the National Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Addiction
Doc. MUDr. Helena Kollárová, Ph.D., head of the Department of Public Health, UP Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry
Soňa Krajčovičová from the Faculty of Science is one of this year’s two grant recipients from the Experientia Foundation of the Dvořák couple. The foundation supports young scientists in the field of organic, bioorganic and medicinal chemistry on Czech and foreign internships. The talented scientist has recently travelled for a one-year internship to the University of Cambridge, where she wants to focus on a methodology which will make it possible to prepare multifunctional compounds for the development of a new generation of targeted drugs.
“Receiving the grant means a lot to me, both personally and professionally. It’s a great opportunity that only a few ever get, so I appreciate it all the more. Mr and Mrs Dvořák are fine people, I have been admiring them for many years for what they do for Czech science. At the same time, however, they are very modest and down-to-earth, which is an almost unheard of phenomenon these days. The Experientia Foundation scholarship is a very prestigious affair and in our field it is often the only way a young scientist can look to going abroad after completing their doctoral studies in order to gain necessary scientific experience. That is why I am very glad that I could be one of the awarded scholarship holders this year,” said Krajčovičová.
Soňa Krajčovičová’s project is based on the preparation of spatially locked peptide compounds, which will use the method of ‘stapling’ the peptide to introduce several useful substances into the molecule, such as small organic molecules. This will allow the preparation of multifunctional, biologically interesting compounds. “In the project, I came up with some ideas on how to prepare these substances. It looks simple at first glance, but these are really very complex organic compounds, which usually bring complications in synthesis with them. However, it is a creative challenge for me, and I enjoy challenges,” described the award-winning scientist in the field of organic chemistry.
Soňa Krajčovičová received a scholarship worth 945,000 CZK (37,000 euros) from the Experientia Foundation, thanks to which she will complete a one-year internship abroad at the University of Cambridge in Great Britain, where she has been working in the group under Prof David Spring since July of this year. “Beginnings are difficult everywhere, but I believe I will quickly integrate into the group. I have respect for this prestigious university and certainly am not taking this opportunity for granted. I will try to spread not only the good name of the Experientia Foundation, but also that of the Department of Organic Chemistry at the Palacký University Faculty of Science,” added Krajčovičová.