JUNIOR STAR 2023 projects of foreign investigators

Internationalisation and international cooperation are one of the priorities of the Czech Science Foundation (GACR). The number of project proposals submitted by foreign applicants increases every year and so does the ratio of foreign investigators to Czech ones.

JUNIOR STAR projects are no exception in this matter. These grants are intended for excellent scientists in their early careers who have already published in international journals, have had a substantial experience abroad and at the same time did not receive their PhDs longer than 8 years ago.

This article introduces some of the successful non-Czech scientists who are currently investigating their GACR JUNIOR STAR projects.

Normalisation and Emergence: Rethinking the Dynamics of Mathematics. The case of Prague in the First Half of the 19th Century

Elías Fuentes Guillén, Ph.D., Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences

We will provide a better understanding of the circulation and development of mathematical knowledge and practices in the Czech lands during the first half of the 19th century.

The development of Mathematics in Prague and the Czech lands within the European context of the late 18th century and the first half of the 19th century is severely understudied. Specifically, how and why certain ways of doing mathematics were set as a norm and different or new practices were integrated or emerged. To bring more light and to deeply study and understand these dynamics of Mathematics is the aim of the JUNIOR STAR project of Dr. Elías Fuentes Guillén. “In such a context, my team and I are particularly interested in the cases of Prague and Bernard Bolzano, as both can be regarded as actors of its own kind, and furthermore, we seek to revitalise and make long-term contributions to Bolzano studies,” points out the principal investigator Dr. Fuentes Guillén.

The project involves in-depth research on institutions, such as the University of Prague, societies or groups, such as the Royal Bohemian Society of Sciences, and individuals, such as private teachers, all of which transmitted mathematical practices through teachings and different activities and texts. But it also delves into the motivations of those actors who were first and foremost the ones establishing certain practices as norms, namely imperial authorities, church, nobles, or aristocrats. “Our research requires studying published works, drafts, examinations, diaries, letters, etc. of maths teachers, students and practitioners, but also other materials that account for the contexts, including decrees, maps, sermons, or library and book-fair catalogues,” explains Dr. Fuentes Guillén.

Dr. Fuentes Guillén, who originally comes from Mexico, cooperates on the project with, among others, a research group at the University of Seville and the International Bernard Bolzano Society. He is also contributing to the critical edition of Bolzano’s works. In addition to delivering a number of publications, he and his team will build a digital archive of Bolzano’s manuscripts and train a handwritten text recognition model. They have also established the Bernard Bolzano Collection in the library of the Institute of Philosophy in Prague. With these results he intends to consolidate a research unit on Bolzano and his context at the Institute.

Elías Fuentes Guillén, Ph.D.
Elías Fuentes Guillén, Ph.D. (Photo by: Jana Říhová from the Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences)


Atomic-scale control and visualization of charge delocalization in light-harvesting molecular nanomodels

Bruno de la Torre, Ph.D., Czech Advanced Technology and Research Institute (CATRIN), Palacký University Olomouc

 “By understanding the electronic and structural properties of new ‘molecular components’ we can develop prototypes of molecular devices.”

 The transfer of charge between organic molecules controls many naturally occurring phenomena such as photosynthesis, cellular respiration in living organisms, or DNA damage and repair. Dr de la Torre’s JUNIOR STAR project will investigate specific aspects of the process of photosynthesis, in which plants and bacteria efficiently convert light into other forms of energy, and which is made possible by a complex photosynthetic apparatus involving many molecular structures. The project aims to identify critical parts of this process that, if fully understood, could help to replicate this behaviour on a larger scale. Another key priority of the project, then, is to understand the movement of charges in molecules, which plays a crucial role in the whole process.

Although the research focuses primarily on atomic-scale discoveries, it is possible that the results of the project will stimulate the development of nanoscale light harvesting devices based on organic components. “Once we have a deeper understanding of charge transfer and molecular behaviour, our findings may contribute to the design of new energy harvesting technologies that mimic natural processes at the atomic level,” explains investigator Dr de la Torre.

Under the supported project, the research team will collaborate and exchange knowledge with international experts and institutions, giving the project a global scale and the potential for international contributions in the field of molecular electronics and nanotechnology.

“Direct applications may not be immediately obvious, but our research could still lay the foundations for future technological advances. As society increasingly seeks cleaner and greener solutions, we envision a future where humans seek to replicate natural processes using nanotechnology,” concludes Dr. de la Torre, who has been based in Czechia since 2016.

Bruno de la Torre, Ph.D.


Particle identification in high-energy physics experiments and space with advanced detection systems

Dr. rer. nat. Benedikt Bergmann, Institute of Experimental and Applied Physics, Czech Technical University in Prague

We will improve detectors that measure invisible particles of ionizing radiation, known as radioactivity.”

In contrast to the well-known radioactivity detectors, which emit a typical crackling sound whenever ionising radiation is detected, the detectors developed by Dr. Bergmann are more like “radiation cameras”, because they cannot only detect radioactivity, but also visualise it. In his JUNIOR STAR project, he will use modern machine-learning approaches to match recognised shapes to specific types of particles, their energies and directions of flight. Moreover, by being no bigger than a human thumb, the detectors Dr. Bergmann is developing will far surpass the instruments currently in use, which require enormous computing power and complex combinations of different detector technologies.

The miniaturization of the instrumentation will allow for application in places where otherwise precise radiation field analysis was complicated due to limited space, weight or power budgets. For example, in space, the miniaturization will allow for application on small satellites or to be deployed for remote measurements on the moon or other planets,” explains investigator of the project Benedikt Bergmann.

Dr. Bergmann, who has been working in the Czech Republic since 2012, has managed to reach out and attract scientists from leading universities such as the University of Cambridge or University College London to his research team. Their research will involve collaborations with institutions such as the European Space Agency (ESA) and European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). The experimental part of the project will take place, for example, at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the US.

Dr. rer. nat. Benedikt Bergmann
Dr. rer. nat. Benedikt Bergmann


Balanced pond fish nutrition concept

Thanks to a project supported by the GACR, Associate Professor Mraz’s research team is investigating how balanced fish nutrition can influence nutrient excretion and combat undesirable eutrophication in Central European carp ponds, thus helping to counteract negative environmental impacts.

Central European standing water bodies, the main part of them consisting of carp ponds, suffer from strong eutrophication (an excess of available nutrients, especially nitrogen and phosphorus). This eutrophication is often associated with the currently conducted feeding (farming) management in these fishponds, which does not consider the balanced nutritional needs of the growing fish. Our present study provides an understanding of how fish nutrition shapes nutrient excretion and eventually eutrophication. The study concludes that in spring and autumn, the status quo diets lead to inefficient resource use and indirectly to poor ecological conditions. Improved efficiency of ecosystem resource use and tackling eutrophication may be achieved by ‘bio-manipulating’ these fishponds towards a more balanced fish nutrition. The study calls for balanced pond feeds that optimize resource utilization efficiency and stimulate fish to better exploit natural food – in such a way that ecosystem services are maintained.

The authors feel future researchers could carry the baton forward with the novel understanding this article offers, especially the ecological management of these important pond ecosystems and the cleaner aquatic food production from the pondscapes of Central Europe.


A graphical summary of the presented concept. High = beginning of the vegetative season (lacking carbohydrate energy in ponds). Low = end of the vegetative season (lacking some indispensable amino acids in ponds). Balanced = short transition time (beginning-to-mid summer) when zooplankton-zoobenthos is sufficient and cereals are introduced in a pond. Suspended losses = losses through faeces (undigested nutrients). Reactive losses = losses through gills and urine (discarding of digested nutrients). Nutrient loading from fish stock to a pond ecosystem is at a minimum when the pond diet is balanced.

Detailed information is available in the original article: Roy, K., Vrba, J., Kajgrova, L. and Mraz, J., 2022. The concept of balanced fish nutrition in temperate European fishponds to tackle eutrophication. Journal of Cleaner Production 364: 132584. (Impact factor: 11.072, Article influence score: 1.376, IF/AIS quartile: Q1) https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2022.132584

Written by: MSc. Koushik Roy, Ph.D., doc. Antonin Kouba, Ph.D. (Jihočeská univerzita v Českých Budějovicích, Fakulta rybářství a ochrany vod)

Cover photo courtesy: Ing. Tomas Kolarik (Jihočeská univerzita v Českých Budějovicích, Fakulta rybářství a ochrany vod)

Evolution of aposematic patterns in large Müllerian mimetic systems

Insects dominate the Earth’s biodiversity; nevertheless, the vertebrates are primarily employed as models in evolutionary and conservation research, and insects have been neglected. The team headed by Ladislav Bocak from the Czech Advanced Technology and Research Institute (CATRIN) in Olomouc carried out the GACR project “Evolution of aposematic patterns in large Müllerian mimetic systems” that focused on highly diverse tropical net-winged beetles as a novel model for the study of mimicry. They identified high diversity of their model group, including ~1,000 unnamed species.

Prey’s signaling of unpalatability to potential predators is intensively studied, but researchers have traditionally focused on interactions between a few butterflies and birds. The results enabled the formulation of the principles under which evolves the similarity of an unpalatable aposematically colored prey and its mimics (i.e., Batesian and Müllerian mimicry). Most mimetic systems are more complex, with up to a hundred interacting species and multiple predators with different visual perceptions, including spiders and insects.


The phylogeny-based classification is a basis for any evolutionary research.

“We based our research on 30-year field experience and material collected in the whole tropics, especially the mountains, where many aposematically colored species interact in restricted areas. Current DNA sequencing methods allowed us to base our research on robust phylogenetic relationships and rapid molecular inventory. With such an approach, we can study large and complex biological systems and formulate hypotheses on processes that govern the evolution of mimetic patterns,” says Prof. L. Bocak.

bocak_struktury_signalizaceThe structures employed for aposematic signaling can have a common origin (elytral costae of various species, left) or are just an illusion if differently colored setae resemble true costae (Micronychus pardus, right).

The entomologists from CATRIN used phylogenomics and Sanger data to elucidate relationships of net-winged beetles to other families, defined main lineages, and the internal relationships in the focal group that contains 2,000 sequenced species. Phylogenetics identified the uniform brightly colored dorsum as the ancestral aposematic signal of net-winged beetles. The now dominant bicolored elytra originated later and only relatively recently evolved complex bands and stripes that added an arrangement of differently colored body parts to the signal. Dr. M. Motyka, as a co-investigator, says: “We showed the trend to the increasing color distance between the prey and various backgrounds and, later, the higher internal contrast between bright and dark body parts. Our results show that the evolution enhances the strength of the aposematic signal but that some beetles retain a simple ancestral signal despite their long-term coexistence with relatives emitting a more effective warning. Besides such an intrinsic limit, allochthonous species enter the area of endemic color patterns and further increase the complexity of interactions. The success of dispersing species depends not only on the numbers of individuals but also on the strength of their signal and the ability of predators to get familiar with an additional type of warning in the large multipattern communities.”

bocak_molekularni_fylogenetikaWe can date the origins of aposematic patterns and recover their ancestral areas with molecular phylogenetics.

The authors further studied if the species could react to the complex situation by polymorphism. Therefore, they learned with the next-RAD method population-level relationships and proved quite common origins of mimetic polymorphism that has not been reported in net-winged beetles. Additionally, they documented that the differences in the male and female body size can direct the evolution to the sexual polymorphism in the aposematic coloration.

bocak_drevomilovitiUnrelated beetles commonly copy the net-winged beetle patterns. This example shows two subfamilies of net-winged beetles and one species of false click beetles.

The team from CATRIN builds the research program on extensive field research and the collaboration with the Binatang Research Center of the Czech Academy of Sciences and the Natural History Museum in London.  The data for monitoring tropical diversity with phylogenomic and mtDNA data enabled the identification of ~1,000 unnamed species in the DNA database. The unknown diversity was predicted, but now the specimens and molecular data provide an undisputable benchmark for evaluating diversity loss.

bocak_spoluresiteleCo-investigators, M. Motyka (upper middle) and D. Kusý (kneeling left) with local field assistants, and J. Kua (bottom, right), a researcher from the Binatang Research Center in Madang, Papua New Guinea.

The outputs of the project were reported in over 20 journal publications.

The first image: The aposematic signals are simple, but their diversity is enormous and includes various patterns in close interactions.


Researchers develop novel methods to improve macroeconomic forecasting

An international team of researchers, led by economists from Masaryk University, have created new modelling tools that allow for more precise predictions of macroeconomic variables such as GDP growth, inflation or interest rates. Novel economic methods developed within the Dynamic Forecast Averaging of Macroeconomics Models project, supported by GA CR, may contribute significantly to evidence-based economic policymaking. The research team aimed to understand how to combine forecasts from different theoretical models and obtain more reliable estimates of the effects of government expenditure and tax changes on GDP growth.

Improving existing prediction models

Obtaining reliable predictions of future changes in economic variables such as GDP is extremely important for policymakers, investors, and companies. The existing theoretical methods aimed at providing forecasts and policy advice rely on particular assumptions about the behaviour of economic agents and highlight different economic transmission mechanisms. In this project, researchers from Masaryk University, the Vienna University of Economics and Business, Charles University and the University of Salzburg joined forces to improve the existing macroeconometric methods to combine the information from theoretical models that stress different economic linkages into composite predictions.


The heatmaps show the deviation of the prior from the posterior mean within the two different regimes using the change in debt-to-GDP as threshold variable. Light grey cells indicate a good fit of the DSGE prior, blue regions imply positive deviations of the posterior from the prior mean, whereas red coloured regions indicate negative deviations of the coefficients. Figure from the article published in Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control.

One work package of the project addressed how fiscal policy (changes in government expenditure or taxes) affects GDP growth in European economies, that is, how large the so-called fiscal multiplier is. Given the economic importance of the public sector in industrialized countries, obtaining precise estimates of fiscal multipliers is particularly important in order to improve forecasts of economic activity. Better multiplier estimates can be obtained by assessing how the use of different methods affects their size. Such an analysis also allows practitioners to understand the biases in current fiscal multipliers estimates.


The dark density corresponds to the full set of fiscal multiplier estimates for Austria; the light density refers to the top 40% best models in terms of predictive ability. Figure from the article published in Oxford Economic Papers.

In parallel to the effects of public policy, other important markets such as the foreign exchange market and the market for cryptocurrencies were also studied in detail. New statistical techniques were developed to obtain a more realistic picture of their driving factors and future dynamics. Such modelling tools can significantly reduce the prediction error in the exchange rate and cryptocurrency returns.


Log predictive Bayes factors relative to the TVP-VAR over time: (a) Bitcoin; (b) Litecoin; (c) Ethereum; (d) log predictive likelihood. Figure from the article published in Journal of Forecasting.

How to combine information from different models of the economy

As part of the project’s ultimate aim, a group of different theoretical models designed to explain macroeconomic dynamics were combined, using novel methods to improve their predictive power. In particular, the research team created several types of adaptive weights that can be used for different macroeconomic variables and different models, leading to better forecasting ability for GDP growth, inflation, and interest rates. The methods used in this phase of the project are expected to result in an improved toolkit that will inform policymakers about future developments in the macroeconomy, thus leading to better decisions in public policy.


Posterior mean of model weights over the hold-out sample for four-step-ahead predictions. The figure shows three different weighting schemes for the three target variables: output, inflation, and interest rate. Variables entering the DSGE models are detrended with the Hamilton filter.

A follow-up of the project is currently expanding the portfolio of models that can be used to create combined predictions and will thus lead to further improvements of predictive ability beyond those reported in this research endeavour. In particular, forecasts of new data-driven statistical models that do not rely on particular theories will be added to the predictions pool and are expected to improve the predictive quality of the resulting combinations. The follow-up project On the time-varying predictive ability of theoretical and empirical macroeconomic models is also supported by GA CR.


Jesús Crespo Cuaresma, principal investigator


Jan Čapek, team member, coordinator of the international team


Researchers have developed new plasma lamps based on thin ceramic substrates. They will be used to clean surfaces or to increase seed production

Research dealing with the development of thin flexible ceramic substrates with optimized electrical properties for plasma sources was evaluated as excellent by the Grant Agency of the Czech Republic. Under the leadership of professors Martin Trunec and Mirko Černák, a team of experts from CEITEC BUT and the Faculty of Science at Masaryk University worked on it. They would now like to continue on this basic three-year research.

The idea originated over a beer in a garden meet up. “We speculated about a new direction in the research of ceramic materials for the generation of barrier discharges. It was there that the basic impulse was created, which we then wrote down in the form of a project. It took us about a year,” describes one of the leaders, Martin Trunec from CEITEC BUT.

Specifically, it was a three-year project under the auspices of the Grant Agency of the Czech Republic, entitled Flexible Ceramic Substrates with Optimized Electrical Properties, and was undertaken in the years 2018–2020. The main goal of the project was the development of thin flexible ceramic substrates with optimized electrical properties for plasma sources. “Preparing such substrates required the development of a new method of preparation that will allow the creation of very thin ceramic substrates with the required properties from nanometer particles,” says Martin Trunec.

Flexible tape

The researchers also investigated the material composition of ceramic substrates to achieve optimal conditions for plasma ignition and combustion. “When dealing with the project, we tried to prepare a ceramic material which, with its physicochemical properties, would facilitate the ignition and maintenance of low-temperature discharge, because this is the key element for industrial applications,” says Mirko Černák from the Faculty of Science at Masaryk University, who with his team focused mainly on assembling plasma lamps and testing them.

But as we know from everyday life, flexibility is not a typical property of ceramic materials. “However, theoretical calculations during the research have shown that ceramic substrates can be highly flexible if the material has high strength and the substrate is thin enough. We subsequently confirmed this experimentally,” explains Martin Trunec. Thanks to years of experience in the field of advanced ceramic materials, he and his team have sponsored the process of preparing ceramic substrates.

The developed plasma lamps based on thin ceramic substrates can serve, for example, as basic units of new advanced devices used in the industry for plasma cleaning of inorganic impurities, for disinfection, ozone preparation, or, for example, in seed germination devices.


According to both group leaders, the cooperation of researchers from two important Brno institutions and the strong involvement of young students contributed to the successful outcome of the project. “During the project, the students increased their qualifications and at the same time provided the team with a constant flow of new ideas, and also contributed to resolving complications that we did not anticipate,” emphasizes Mirko Černák.

The output of an extensive project is, among other things, eight professional publications. “We have advanced knowledge in the field of dielectric barrier discharges used to generate low-temperature atmospheric plasma. We are now continuing to work with partial knowledge,” concludes Martin Trunec. The researchers have therefore already applied for a follow-up project and hope to investigate and design ceramic substrates that increase free radical production in a low-temperature atmospheric discharge even more effectively. These could also be used in the future, for example, for surface sterilization or ozone production.


Bird communities as bioindicator of environment quality of urban areas

Urbanization is increasing across the globe, and urban areas constitute one of the fastest growing land-use types. Several studies highlighted how biodiversity plays an important role in conserving ecosystem function and how urbanization reduces the resilience of ecosystems. However, approaches focused on different and complementary biodiversity measures are needed to understand how specific elements of urbanization impacts biodiversity.

Urban green, Marche, Central Italy photo Federico MorelliUrban green, Marche, Central Italy, photo Federico Morelli

The team headed by doc. Federico Morelli carried out the GACR project “Effects of urbanization on multilevel avian diversity: linking bird community metrics to pollution level, vegetation and building density”. The project’s main objective was to assess the impact of specific elements of urbanization on multiple facets of biodiversity, targeting bird communities. Field data collection in 16 different European cities, geospatial analysis, and modelling procedures were conducted from 2018 to 2020 to provide new insights on identifying high environmental quality areas in European cities.

Emberiza citinella in Poland photo C. KorkoszEmberiza citinella in Poland, photo C. Korkosz

“We mapped the local characteristics of the cities in terms of land use composition, building structure, as well as type and amount of vegetation in the urban greenery. Additionally, we estimated the level of environmental pollution (e.g., light and noise pollution). We found that some elements of urban greenery as grass, bush and trees are positively correlated with the number of bird species, while grass and trees, and the presence of water (rivers or urban streams), increased the phylogenetic diversity of avian communities,” says doc. Dr. Federico Morelli, Ph.D., and adds:  “On the opposite, all the main indicators of a high level of urbanization (e.g., building cover, number of building’ floors, pedestrian’s density and level of light pollution) increased the phylogenetic relatedness of species (how much the species in a given assemblage are close related in terms of evolution). Two species are more related if they have a more recent common ancestor. We can associate bird communities characterized by a high phylogenetic relatedness with more homogeneous assemblages, potentially less resilient if facing an ecological stress. Interestingly, the presence of bushes in the gardens and public green areas helped to mitigate this effect on the biotic homogenization.”

Urban green in Prague 6 photo Federico MorelliUrban green in Prague 6, photo Federico Morelli

The main importance of this project is related to the large spatial scale and international scope of the study, as well as the assessment of the impact of different components of urbanization on the taxonomic, functional, and phylogenetic diversity of urban bird assemblages. Specifically, the project considered building density, development of greenery, and environmental pollution including the influence of noise and artificial light at night. The final outcomes (see some examples in the web: www.urbanbiodiversity.net) may increase the basic knowledge concerning urban bird communities as bioindicator of the environment quality of urban areas, providing new valuable information for ecological and urban planning. We delivered a list of positive and negative effects of different urban characteristics on overall avian diversity, that can help to mitigate the continuous decline on biodiversity, especially marked in urban areas.

Passer domesticus italiae photo Fabio PrusciniPasser domesticus italiae photo Fabio Pruscini

“Finally, our findings suggest that maintaining adequate levels of avian diversity within the urban settlements can increase the potential resilience of urban ecosystems, exposed to the stress provoked by rapid and continuous changes. Last but not least, as highlighted in several previous studies, the conservation of urban biodiversity constitutes also a positive driver of citizens’ wellbeing,” says Morelli.

Federico Morelli photo Yanina BenedettiFederico Morelli, photo Yanina Benedetti

doc. Dr. Federico Morelli, Ph.D.
Community and Ecology Conservation Research Team

CULS – Czech University of Life Sciences

Federico Morelli is a quantitative ecologist, currently working as an associate professor at the Czech University of Life Sciences (Prague, Czech Republic). He has been involved in several European projects modeling the impact of land use and climate change on the spatial distribution of biodiversity. The focus of his research interest is macroecology, species distribution models, urban and road ecology, biodiversity spatial patterns, and bioindicators as a tool for conservation planning.

Text: CULS
Featured image: Urban development – La Defense, Paris, France, photo Federico Morelli


Czech Science Foundation Approves Funding for New Standard Projects

The Presidium of the Czech Science Foundation (“GACR”) has decided which standard projects to finance in the area of basic research in the upcoming year. Standard projects will be funded along with EXPRO, JUNIOR STAR, and international projects. Another 60 (approximately) projects will receive funding depending on the current availability of funds after partner organisations abroad carry out their evaluations.

“This year, we have seen scientists showing much greater interest in funding than they did in previous years. The volume of funding available from the state budget distributed through the Czech Science Foundation in support of Czech science is still the same, however: approximately CZK 4.2 billion (EUR 160 million). I wish to congratulate all those who have succeeded in the tight competition and are going to receive funding, and I look forward to the results of their explorations,” says RNDr. Alice Valkárová, DrSc., President of GACR, adding: “I do realise that the applicants who have not received funding for their projects may be disappointed, I will be happy if they don’t lose their love of science. First, they can still amend their projects and submit again next year. Second, we are continuously working on expanding grant schemes to tailor them to scientists’ needs as best we can. Among the recommendations we follow in this effort are those from the government’s R&D Council. In recent years, we have been able to establish several significant international partnerships, and there are more to come. Also last year, we financed EXPRO projects for the first time, and this year‘s calls for JUNIOR START projects were published for the first time. We are planning to open a new tender for POSTDOC INDIVIDUAL FELLOWSHIP next year. We are delighted that the Czech Science Foundation has been a long-term provider of grant funding whose contribution to the high level of Czech science is substantial – more than half the articles by Czech scientists which rank among the 1% most quoted ones worldwide have received funding from us.

Additional standard projects, on top of those listed below, can be financed depending on the funding decision for international projects in cooperation between the Czech Science Foundation and partner institutions abroad. That decision should be made in the Spring of 2021.

In recent years, the number of projects involving international cooperation has surged. New international projects received funding in the amount of CZK 33.5 million in 2018. The amount went up to CZK 57 million in 2019. And CZK 105.6 million this year. And the amount ear-marked by the Czech Science Foundation for such projects is even higher: CZK 200 million. At the moment, however, we still do not know which projects will receive funding – most of them are still awaiting an evaluation and/or approval by the partner organisation abroad. If the financial provision for international projects is not exhausted, it will be used for the funding of another 60 projects (approx.) We will reach out to inform such applicants in the Spring about funding possibilities for their projects starting in the second half of 2021,” adds Alice Valkárová.

The evaluations of standard projects takes place in three stages, and there are 400 experts involved. Each project proposal was evaluated by at least four independent experts in a given field. Over half of the best project proposals were then assessed by evaluators abroad – more than 99% project proposals have received at least two evaluations from abroad. You are welcome to learn more about the evaluation process for standard projects.


List of projects funded in *.pdf format (in Czech only)


In early November, the Czech Science Foundation published projects to receive funding from the EXPRO and JUNIOR STAR programmes. It also published a list of international projects recommended for funding.


Unique Research Has Showed the Benefits of Surface Treatment of Particles in Ceramics

Research dealing with the improvement of the properties of fine-grained advanced ceramics using cold plasma was rated as excellent by the Grant Agency of the Czech Republic. Group of experts from CEITEC BUT and the Faculty of Science of Masaryk University participated under the leadership of professor Karel Maca. The basic three-year research has discovered completely new contexts and researchers would therefore like to build on the success with follow-up projects.

The three-year project under the auspices of the Grant Agency of the Czech Republic named Physical surface activation of ceramic particles as a tool for improving the properties of fine-grained advanced ceramics was solved between years 2017-2019. The team of the Applied Plasmochemistry from Masaryk University first had to solve the issue of how to put the fine powders, which are necessary for the advanced ceramics production, into the proper contact with plasma. “Subsequently, we were solving how to characterize the changes that occur on the particles. We didn’t know what the plasma would do with the fine powders. And standard techniques such as infrared spectroscopy have proven unsuitable in this case. However, thermoluminescence and thermal desorption spectroscopy proved to be very useful, “described associate professor Jozef Ráheľ from Masaryk University

Experts from CEITEC BUT subsequently used the modified particles in combination with classical and modern ceramic technologies and investigated the possible benefits of this as yet untested procedure. Part of the research, led by Dr. Daniel Drdlík, was devoted to experiments with electrophoretic deposition of ceramic particles. “It turned out that thanks to the surface treatment of the particles, we can eliminate some of the necessary components in the suspensions used, which may be inherently unsuitable for the environment. We have also found that electrophoresis can serve as a diagnostic tool for examining the extent to which particles are affected. Thanks to this, we were able to determine how many particles were processed by the plasma,” specified Daniel Drdlík, stating that this finding may lead back to a modification of the design of the plasma technology.

Another group of researchers and students, led by Dr. Václav Pouchlý, tested how ceramics would behave during high-temperature firing. “We found that when we treat the surface of the particles, the material behaves differently when fired. In particular, when fired at normal temperature, it achieved better properties. In other words, in order to achieve the standard properties of ceramics, it was enough for us to burn them at lower temperatures, which is of course economically and energetically beneficial,“ Václav Pouchlý explained.

According to professor Maca the most important thing that the whole project showed is the fact that even a small change in surface properties can bring a macroscopic effect. “We are now working with this knowledge further,” concluded Maca. The researchers have therefore already applied for a follow-up project and hope to be able to develop their knowledge even further



The relationship between fish and bivalve molluscs is an excellent model system for studying survival and the risk of coexistence in a rapidly changing environment

The project dealt with various aspects of inter-population variability in the success rate of biological invasions and their impact on native species. Experimental and field studies in the areas of invasion and original occurrence were combined. Population genetic studies of both native and invasive species were also an important part of the project. The project was covered by the topic of the relationship between bitterling and host bivalve molluscs.

The most important discovery was the confirmation of the fundamental impact of inter-popular differences in the success of invasions, their impact, but also in the degree of vulnerability of native organisms. This finding may help to explain the known fact that some species may enter non-indigenous areas in the long term without any visible impact on native organisms. Suddenly, however, there is a dramatic change, after which this non-native species has significant negative impacts.

doc. RNDr. Martin Reichard, Ph.D.
Institute of Vertebrate Biology of the Czech Academy of Sciences


Compared to the situation in Western Europe and the USA, Czech suburbs are not at risk of segregation

During 2014 – 2016, the team led by doc. Martin Ouředníček, the Head of the Research Team of the Urban and Regional Laboratory and Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Science of the Charles University, carried out the GACR project “Dynamics of social environment and spatial mobility in metropolitan regions of the Czech Republic”. The main objective of the project was to examine the dynamics of the social environment, which is influenced by various types of spatial mobility, such as migration or commuting.

The research focused on processes taking place in outer parts of post-socialist cities: residential suburbanization and transformation of housing estates. These processes differ significantly from developments in Western Europe and the United States, and the Czech Republic is quite unique in many areas.

doc. RNDr. Martin Ouředníček, Ph.D.
Faculty of Science of the Charles University