JUNIOR STAR projects

JUNIOR STAR grants are intended for excellent scientists in their early careers within 8 years of receiving their PhDs who have published in prestigious international journals before, and have had substantial experience abroad. The 5-year project allows them to receive up to CZK 25 million and gives them an opportunity to attain scientific independence or even start their own research team, which can bring new areas of research into Czech science. Only a fraction of submitted projects receive funding.

JUNIOR STAR 2022

Abstract

Cell division is an essential process for any living cell on Earth. Cell division is finalized by cytokinesis, which results in two daughter cells. Plant cytokinesis is fundamentally different from that of animal and fungal cells. Plant cells evolved a unique membranous compartment, the cell plate. The cell plate grows in an inside-out manner by which it separates two daughter nuclei. In this highly multidisciplinary project, we aim to unravel unprecedented details of cell plate development, which remain unknown. We will use cell plate development as a time axis to study the dynamic interplay between proteins, lipids and cell wall polysaccharides. We will use continuously dividing synchronized Arabidopsis cell culture. We will employ chemical crosslinking mass spectrometry, metabolic labelling and state-of-the-art fluorescence microscopy. We aim to solve the molecular architecture of the enigmatic callose synthase complex using an integrative structural approach. Our unique methodology will identify new players in plant cytokinesis and create a 4D map of cell plate development.

Aims

The overall aim of this research project is to describe the spatiotemporal dynamics of cell plate development at the level of individual proteins and construct a 4D map of cell plate development.

Abstract

The changes in terrestrial hydrological cycle directly influence water availability. It is expected that global warming will accelerate the hydrological cycle, resulting to new challenges for human societies. In this project we will analyze and model the variability of the terrestrial hydrological cycle in a combination of multi-scale data-driven methods with process-based climate and hydrological modeling. Our aim is to assess the present and future acceleration rate and understand how it is connected to changes in water availability. We will combine paleoclimatic data and contemporary observations, develop new stochastic methods, and utilize the recent advances in process attribution to understand how water availability responds to the hydroclimatic fluctuations.

Aims

“1) Assessment of the current terrestrial water cycle acceleration and its statistical significance.
2) Development of a multi-scale stochastic model for hydroclimatic variability.
3) Attribution of changes in water availability to the processes affected by the acceleration of the hydrological cycle.”

Abstract

This project is about developing insights in the most active research area in economic theory – information economics – to help understand the informational transformation that many sectors of the economy and society are undergoing. It will depart from previous research in this field by focusing on the interplay of information and power – such as in questions of privacy, of the ownership of data and algorithms, and the centralization or decentralization of data storage and processing. This includes understanding: (i) How the possibilities of the Internet can be harnessed for efficiency-enhancing information revelation and exchange, (ii) how the mandatory disclosure (or non-disclosure) of information shapes economic and societal outcomes, (iii) how we can most usefully model the economic value of data and algorithms and their ownership, and (iv) how the centralization of data storage and processing interacts with mechanisms of social and economic control.

Aims

To gain insights in the economic theory of information that can help harness the possibilities of the Internet for society and solve the problems it creates. To establish CERGE-EI and the Czech Republic as an international center of excellence and focal point for this research.

Abstract

Biomacromolecular structural data is a highly valuable research resource. Reconstruction of whole organelles and cells is the cutting-edge research in this area, but a community strongly lacks services for their efficient visualization and modelling. In this project, we will develop a Cell* web platform, which will solve this gap. Moreover, Cell* will show the structures in the context of experimental data and biological and chemical properties. It will provide an insight into organelle and cell biology through the integration of structural models. Cell* will be a breakthrough solution also due to its capabilities to visualize dynamics of cell-sized structures and perform their animations. In this project, I will use my experience with the development of LiteMol and Mol* web tools for the visualization of large biomacromolecular assemblies and complexes. LiteMol was published in Nature Methods and it was the main viewer in PDBe. LiteMol was replaced by Mol*, which is now a main structure visualization tool in PDBe and RCSB PDB. I have been a lead developer of both LiteMol and Mol*.

Aims

Develop a Cell* web platform for visualization, modelling, and dynamics of organelle- and cellsized structures. Cell* will also enable visualization of experimental data and biological and chemical properties (annotations).

Abstract

The active layer and permafrost are the building elements of the periglacial environment in polar regions. Their parameters like temperature, moisture, or active layer thickness respond very sensitively to climate oscillation, making them valuable indicators of the effect of climate change on terrestrial ecosystems in the polar environments. Therefore, a long-term monitoring of the active layer thickness and permafrost temperature belongs to principal questions of Antarctic research. The proposed project will assess the current state and evolution of periglacial dynamics in the ice-free areas of the Antarctic Peninsula. Extensive fieldwork, laboratory and analytical methods will provide a detailed evaluation of the ground physical properties (moisture, texture, thermal properties), ground temperature and active layer thickness. Available data will allow us to reconstruct the past state and predict the possible evolution of permafrost temperature and active layer thickness in the period 1950-2100 and determine the effect of ongoing climate change on these parameters.

Aims

The project aims to assess the dynamics of the periglacial environment at present, reconstruct its state in the past and predict its development in the future until 2100 in the Antarctic Peninsula region using monitoring of soil temperature variability, moisture and the active layer thickness.

Abstract

Inter-species co-existence, between a microbe and its host, underpins much of the complexity of the natural world. Ticks, blood-feeding Arachnids, harbour a bacterial ally, residing within mitochondria of several tissues. Until now, ticks and symbionts have been rarely studied together as an interacting system. The functional context of this alliance is thus largely unexplored. This proposal aims to uncover the molecular interface of “species bridging”, i.e. integration of the symbiont metabolism in tick physiology. Using a holistic approach that blends state-of-the-art microscopy, multi-omics data, and RNAi with a newly developed comparative model of symbiont-free ticks, we propose to do an innovative structural and functional exploration into the interaction landscape of the bacterium and its host. This project will also provide an in-depth insight into the tolerance and resistance strategies of ticks against viruses and bacteria, allowing the multi-species co-existence.

Aims

“1) characterisation of symbiont-tick molecular and cellular interactions
2) identification of haem- and cholesterol-distribution network in ticks
3) development of Crispr-Cas9 delivery into ovaries using tick vitellogenin fragments”

Abstract

In the project, the most recent methods of experimental dynamics will be combined with the state-of-the-art lab-based in-situ X-ray imaging to get an unprecedented insight into deformation behavior of complex materials at intermediate and high strain rates. A flash X-ray system and high power X-ray tube will be employed together with high speed imaging equipment (high speed cameras and detectors) to investigate the internal processes in the materials during dynamic loading. Significant effort will be aimed at novel cellular and layered materials filled with strain rate sensitive fillings while the effects of shear thickening fluids and fluids with nanoparticle inclusions will be investigated in particular. In this field, the combination of X-ray imaging with instrumented dynamic experiments will reveal fundamental aspects of the deformation response of the materials and their failure mechanisms. The results will be used to formulate and validate theoretical assumptions and models with a special aim on the internal processes that can be conventionally inspected only indirectly.

Aims

The main goal of the project is to reveal the crucial aspects of the deformation response in complex materials at intermediate and high strain rates through a combination of novel experimental methods and techniques in impact dynamics with state-of-the-art lab-based in-situ X-ray imaging.

Abstract

This project will investigate reaction networks at phase interfaces and develop the concepts of molecular recognition, semiconductor electric polarization and molecular epitaxy towards enantioselective catalysis, photoredox catalysis and planar heterojunctions by doubly dynamic self-assembly. Phase interfaces are omnipresent and always dictate self-organization of species in their proximity. Here, I propose to take advantage of the interphase energy together with stimuli-responsive reaction networks to achieve a breakthrough concept: functionalitydriven dynamic self-assembly at phase interfaces. We will study how the molecules “feel” the presence of the phase interphase, the energy/charge transfer between them and the other phase and how they assemble to form a phase on their own. We will demonstrate the potential of this approach by achieving enantioselectivity in generally achiral transformations, electrochemically promoted reactions without applied electric potential and total self-assembly of planar heterojunctions from a single reaction network.

Aims

Develop methodology for stimuli and composition instructed self-assembly on surfaces and phase interfaces driven by functionality of the assembly, exploit the findings for heterogeneous organocatalysis, photoredox catalysis and optoelectronic devices (e.g. photovoltaics, diodes).

Abstract

DNA replication is fundamental to cell proliferation, but its malfunctions can cause genome instability and trigger diseases including cancer. DNA replication initiates at replication origins by the formation of pre-replicative complexes (pre-RCs). The pre-RCs are essential drivers of replication forks; however, the mechanism(s) of pre-RCs formation and their precise roles in safeguarding genome integrity is poorly understood. I have recently discovered a molecular pathway that couples pre-RC assembly with proper DNA replication dynamics. Building on these findings, I propose to address here a central hypothesis that ‘the molecular homeostasis of replication origins is a key component of error-free DNA replication’. Therefore, using mammalian cell culture models coupled to state-of-the-art set of coherent cell biology, genomics and proteomics-based experiments, I will investigate the maintenance, regulation, and novel functions of replication origins. These experiments will illuminate the fundaments of DNA replication and reveal mechanisms counteracting genome instability in disease.

Aims

“1) The role of pre-RCs in maintenance of replication origins in ensuing cellular generations
2) The determinants of distinct biochemical properties of parental and nascent DNA replication origins
3) The contribution of origin licensing pathways to the polyploidization during cardiomyocytes maturation”

Abstract

The main obstacle which hinders humanity from building sophisticated nanomachines, such as molecular computers, is the lack of scaleable nanofabrication methods allowing precise assembly of many different molecular components. Living nature solves this problem using self-assembling and template-assisted synthesis driven by biopolymers such as DNA, RNA and proteins. In this project, I will develop methods for scalable bottom-up fabrication of molecular circuits on ionic substates in ultra high vacuum (UHV) inspired by these biological principles. This will be achieved by computational survey of templated synthesis pathways, and computer aided design of novel polymers (inspired by DNA) providing templates for the assembling and synthesis. To facilitate the design, I will create a multi-scale simulation software dedicated to exploration of self-assembling and template-synthesis pathways on ionic substrates. Such software will benefit the whole emerging field of on-surface chemistry, which currently lacks specialized tools comparable to those used for molecular docking in biochemistry.

Aims

“1) Develop specialized software for computational survey of templated synthesis processes on ionic substrate in vacuum
2) Design a polymer template applicable for driving templated synthesis and self-assembling of molecular circuits on ionic substrate”

Abstract

The aim of our materials research project is to experimentally establish interlinked new paradigms in crystallography, band structure, and electronics in multipole collinear antiferromagnets. Using diffraction and microscopy measurements up to the ultimate atomic resolution, we will demonstrate unique crystallography signatures of the multipole antiferromagnets which are beyond the established nomenclature of magnetic symmetry groups. They result in a fundamentally new form of a wavevector-dependent spin-splitting, which has been omitted in the band theory of solids, and which we will elucidate by spectroscopy measurements and ab initio calculations. We will demonstrate that these spin-split bands in the dipole-free antiferromagnets generate conserved highly-polarized spin currents, which are analogous to spin currents driving reading and writing functionalities in ferromagnetic memory devices. Beyond spin-electronics, we envisage impact of the project on fields ranging from macroscopic quantum and topological phases to dissipationless microelectronics.

Aims

We will synthesize thin films of multipole collinear antiferromagnets, and by their experimental research establish new interlinked chapters in crystallography, band structure, and electronics, with the potential to outgrow science and technology fields based on traditional dipole ferromagnets.

JUNIOR STAR 2021

Abstract

The core of the project is to is to study the thermal behavior of high-performance textiles, describe the mechanism of heat transfer in fibrous structures under extreme conditions and developing a general, scientifically supported, methodology of constructing thermal insulation layers. To determine the heat resistance of the fabric in cold conditions in accordance with standards, the losses of heat conduction are negligible and convection and radiation have to be considered. Conventional devices for evaluation of thermal resistance of clothing are based on the measurement of thermal conductivity under standard climatic conditions, which is not useful for extreme conditions. For these reasons, the project also includes the development of the measuring tunnel, which can be used to measure the total heat loss of textiles below freezing temperatures. In construction of the new heat insulating layers, the materials which reduce heat transport by radiation will also be observed. A prediction system for thermal insulation properties of the textile layers will be created.

Aims

The aims of project are: solving of heat transfer problems in textiles; creation of system for construction of thermal insulation layers; development of devices for thermal characterization; advanced materials for effective thermal insulation; creation of thermal comfort prediction system.

Abstract

The notion that groups of Elbe-German tribes were concentrated in a region north of the Danube has been contested by the discovery of vast necropolises, the study of which has great potential to shed light on cultural-historical developments in the 6th century. The subject of this project is interdisciplinary research into this population. The drawing of archaeological and historical conclusions will be preceded by non-destructive prospection, excavation, data heuristics and analytical evaluation using geographic information systems; a wide spectrum of natural-science analyses – standard anthropological analysis including paleopathology and carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis – will be applied to ascertain the population’s diet; strontium isotopes will be analysed to exactly prove migration of groups of population. At the same time, international collaboration, mainly in the area of genetic research, will take place. Regular presentation at international conferences is planned. The outputs will include three studies and a final summarising monograph in English by the proposer.

Aims

The aim of this project is to ascertain new crucial findings regarding the population and culturalhistorical development in 6th-century Moravia by means of a comprehensive assessment, employing the natural sciences to the maximum extent, of relevant co-called Lombard necropolises.

Abstract

Machine-extracted representation of visual content in images and videos is used in computer vision to help estimating human-perceived visual similarity. Visual representation is important in a variety of domains and needs to capture multiple notions of visual similarity, each relying on different perceptual factors. These factors are typically captured by separate models, which results in systems that use model ensembles and are demanding in terms of processing power, processing time, and storage cost. One goal of the project is to propose new ways for designing and learning universal multi-purpose models to extract visual representation that is appropriate for a variety of cases. Representation models will be trained with deep learning, which is typically demanding in terms of labeled training data, especially if multiple purposes are targeted. Therefore, another goal of the project is to reduce the need for supervision by employing large collections of unlabeled examples and exploiting the structure of the representation space in semi-supervised and active learning.

Aims

“1) learn universal representation models that deliver high performance in a range of tasks and domains
2) learn representations that enable new ways of exploring large collections of visual content 3) perform deep representation learning with fewer labeled and more unlabeled data”

Abstract

Chemical industry heavily relies on petrochemical feedstock for raw materials. This puts strain on our natural resources and damages the environment. The use of carbon dioxide (CO2) in chemical synthesis can decrease our overreliance on petrochemicals, mitigate their devastating effects on the environment and help in the development of greener chemistry and circular economy. This project aims at the development of frustrated Lewis pair catalysts for reductive coupling reactions of CO2 with amines. Herein, CO2 replaces the industrially used petrochemical-based and toxic reagents such as carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, methanol and methyl iodide. Hydrogenation catalysts based on frustrated Lewis pairs are proposed as a bridge to main group hydrides, which recently proved as efficient reducing agents for the proposed reactions. Special attention will be given to the required properties of frustrated Lewis pairs for applications in CO2 reduction reactions and the mechanisms of the reactions.

Aims

The aim of the project is to develop and understand reductive coupling reactions of carbon dioxide with amines, which utilize dihydrogen as the reducing agent and frustrated Lewis pairs as hydrogenation catalysts.

Abstract

The Born–Oppenheimer approximation simplified condensed matter physics by separating the motion of atomic nuclei and much lighter electrons. The violation of this concept was considered rare and lead to emergent functionalities such as multiferroicity, polar order and superconductivity. In a recent study, we have demonstrated an abundance of magnetoelastic (ME) interactions in common intermetallic compounds, revealing that interactions between nuclei and electrons are far more common. We believe that hidden ME modes are responsible for many unresolved inconsistencies across condensed matter physics. A detailed description of these phenomena will lead to rapid scientific progress. The project seeks to experimentally exploit ME modes in heavy fermion systems and iron pnictides, using inelastic neutron scattering (INS), which is able to uniquely unveil ME modes. Some compounds form only tiny crystals, too small for conventional INS. We will develop a bespoke device for their precise co-alignment, which will have an immense impact on neutron scattering beyond the scope of the project.

Aims

The project aims to show, that ME effects are a general property of condensed matter and the Born-Oppenheimer approximation is surpassed far more often than generally thought. To reach this goal we will build a unique device allowing neutron measurements on samples too small to measure before.

Abstract

Close-in extrasolar systems of low-mass planets (super-Earths and mini-Neptunes) represent a substantial fraction of the exoplanet population discovered by recent astronomical observations. Our project aims to study hydrodynamic interactions between low-mass planets and their natal protoplanetary disk in order to constrain the processes which contributed to formation of closein exoplanets. First, we plan to analyze migration of low-mass planets towards the inner disk regions. We will explore the influence of gravitational torques induced by pebble accretion, gravity of a pebble disk, and pebble concentrations at pressure maxima. Second, we will focus on planet-disk interactions at the inner disk rim which is sculpted by stellar irradiation and viscosity transitions. Understanding the evolutionary phase at the inner disk rim represents a critical step in understanding the origin of close-in exoplanets. Our results will be obtained by means of 3D and 2D radiation hydrodynamic simulations and they will be confronted with existing theories of planet formation and observations

Aims

We will study interactions of planets and protoplanetary disks by means of numerical hydrodynamic simulations. The aim of the project is to improve the understanding of processes which led to the formation of close-in low-mass extrasolar planets.

Abstract

The concept of information is ubiquitous in current logic. However, the informational interpretation of various logical approaches is rather scattered in the logical literature and a unification is needed. The main goal of this project is to develop unifying philosophical foundation for the logical concept of information based on Barwise’s theory of information channels. Special attention will be paid to the application of this general approach to two more specific areas of logical inquiry: fuzzy logic of graded information and epistemic logic of knowledge and belief. For these two distinct fields of logic a common semantic basis will be provided that will make possible transfer of results from one area into the other.

Aims

We will develop unifying philosophical foundation for the logical concept of information based on Barwise’s theory of information channels, and apply this general approach to two more specific areas of logical inquiry: fuzzy logic of graded information and epistemic logic.

Abstract

Autoimmune regulator (Aire) plays an essential role in the induction of self-tolerant T cells during their development in the thymus by generating a mirror image of the body’s own peripheral antigen repertoire within the medullary thymic epithelial cells (mTECs). Subsequent presentation of these self-antigens by mTECs is essential for deletion of self-reactive T-cell clones and prevention of autoimmunity. Interestingly, most AIRE-mutation bearing patients suffer from candidiasis, which represents one of the most common and earliest manifestations of this mutation. Recently, we were able to show that Aire is expressed in a rare extrathymic population of MHCII positive type-3 innate lymphoid cells (ILC3) and that these Aire-ILC3 like cells regulate the Th17 response to C. albicans. This project is focused on delineating the mechanisms imposed by Aire-ILC3 like cells to regulate the Th17 response in response to extracellular pathogens or during autoimmune reaction. Together, the proposed research project should help our understanding of the Aire role in regulation of Th17 response.

Aims

This project is focused on delineating the molecular mechanisms imposed by Aire-ILC3 like cells to regulate the Th17 response. Moreover, we would like to explore the role of Aire-ILC3 like cells in regulation of Th17 response to extracellular pathogens or during Th17-dependend autoimmune reaction

Abstract

Fungi are eukaryotic microorganisms that play fundamental roles in regulating key ecosystem processes. As major decomposers of organic matter as well as mutualists or pathogens of plants, soil fungi significantly influence plant primary production, carbon sequestration, and act as crucial regulators of the soil carbon balance, which is one of the greatest topics of human security. Although the wealth of our civilization profoundly depends on globalization and free market, there is also another side to this coin, represented by the global changes of environment and easier spread of pathogens of humans, animals and plants. Climate change and world biota globalization constitute most important challenges which affect the functioning of natural as well as agricultural ecosystems. Understanding the consequences of inevitable global changes on biota and ecosystem functioning have to be primary interest of current biological research.

Aims

In this project I aim to determine the effects of climate change and biological invasions on worldwide distribution of fungal species. I also aim to determine how these changes in fungal species distribution, caused by climate change or biological invasions, will affect ecosystem processes.

Abstract

During the juvenile period the growth is determined by the nutrient intake and by production of growth hormones. Recently, we have identified intestinal bacteria as a key player in growth with specific Lactobacillus plantarum (Lp) strain being sufficient to reproduce the effect of the microbiota in monoassociated ex-germ-free mice. Our unpublished data show that Lp retains its growth promoting capacity after treatment of conventional mice and that this effect is Lp strain specific and independent of the Lp viability status. By using multilateral approach we will explore Lp- and Bifidobacteria-derived postbiotics and host receptors that are engaged in the molecular cross-talk resulting in the enhanced growth during chronic undernutrition. Further, we will characterize the impact of the protein undernutrition on the host immune system and its changes after treatment with selected postbiotics. Results of this project will shed light on the bacteria-host crosstalk during growth and pave way to amelioration of the long-term sequelae of undernutrition in children.

Aims

By using multilateral approach, this project aims at identification of lactobacillus- and bifidobacteria-derived postbiotics and host receptors that are engaged in the molecular crosstalk resulting in the enhanced host systemic growth during chronic undernutrition.

Abstract

Climate models predict substantial changes in temperature and precipitation patterns across the Arctic regions in future decades. Microbes are known to play key roles in determining the stability of soil carbon (C) and its possible release into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide and methane. Carbon-rich Arctic soil ecosystems are particularly vulnerable to C losses due to warming and subsequent ecosystem disturbances as wildfires. On the other hand, the release of C from soil to the atmosphere could be mitigated due to increased plant growth or reduced due to drought. Here we propose to characterize the response of soil microbes to the conditions caused by future climate change (increased winter precipitation, summer warming and wildfires); and to identify microbial processes affecting shrub expansion in Greenland. By combining soil, plant and microbial C pools and fluxes at the sites, the study will help in understanding whether Arctic soils will become C sink or source under future climate change.

Aims

The aim of the project is to comprehensively explore the response of soil microbial communities to the conditions caused by future climate change, specifically increased winter precipitation, summer warming and wildfire disturbance; and identify microbial drivers of shrub expansion in Arctic tundra.

Abstract

Phosphorus is a core, limiting macronutrient, but its global turnover is still little understood. For example, one quarter of all phosphorus in the ocean occurs as phosphonates, whose metabolism has only been thoroughly studied in bacteria. We identified unexpectedly widespread phosphonate enzymes in eukaryotic genomes and predict that they comprise a novel mitochondrial pathway. To test this, we will computationally map phosphonate enzyme distribution, expression, and cellular localization in all eukaryotes, then localize them subcellularly in two distantly related protists, Perkinsus and Capsaspora. We will next use labeled precursors to track phosphonate metabolism in both species, and measure the ability of a wide range of algae to utilize phosphonate substrates for growth. We will also reconstruct the evolutionary history of all phosphonate enzymes and how they relate to eukaryogenesis. Our findings will illuminate mitochondrial metabolism, eukaryotic evolution, and phosphorus turnover in cells and ecosystems, and identify new enzymes of potential commercial interest.

Aims

To illuminate the global phosphorus cycle, we will characterize the distribution, functionality, localization and evolution of phosphonate metabolism across the diversity of eukaryotes, a candidate novel and widespread mitochondrial pathway fundamental to phosphorus turnover in cells and ecosystems.

Abstract

The project aims to eliminate the gap between fundamental bounds and actual performance of inverse-designed devices in electromagnetism by revolutionizing approaches to design synthesis. A combination of local gradients of a performance metric over a fixed discretized model and the ability to avoid local minima are the main tools required to achieve this goal. Employing the exact reanalysis allows for unprecedented speed in evaluating full-wave models. A class of geometry- and topology-based operators is proposed to deal with regularity, conformity, and similarity of designs to act as constraints to remove highly irregular shapes, increase tolerance against manufacturing imperfections, and offer a full set of feasible designs. The proposed synthesis method is general and discoveries of structures with unique shapes and properties is expected from low to ultra-high frequencies. The project assumes intense collaboration with world-leading authorities and a multidisciplinary focus having the potential to open a new field of research.

Aims

O1: To formulate and solve the problem of shape synthesis using the exact reanalysis technique. O2: To develop geometry- and topology-based operators to regularize shapes. O3: To implement the theoretical findings of O1-O2 as a software package. O4: To experimentally verify O1-O3 on prototypes.

Abstract

This junior project aims on the design and manufacturing of a new class of interstitial Ti alloys and refractory metals high entropy alloys (HEAs) exhibiting the transformation induced plasticity (TRIP) effect. To achieve the TRIP effect in Ti alloys with increased content of interstitial oxygen (i.e. increased strength) and in HEAs, the composition must be carefully tuned with respect to the stability of bcc phase. Main applicant will employ his experiences with developing new Ti alloys and the fact that metallurgy of bcc HEAs is strikingly similar to the metallurgy of bcc Ti alloys. Manufactured materials will be thoroughly characterized by a wide variety of experimental techniques including scanning and transmission electron microscopy, x-ray, electron and neutron diffraction. These results will be correlated with mechanical properties determined by tensile tests complemented by digital image correlation. The effect of composition variations on the TRIP effect will be assessed to obtain the material with the best combination of strength and ductility.

Aims

The aim of the project is to design, to manufacture and to characterize interstitial Ti alloys, high entropy alloys (HEAs) and interstitial HEAs exhibiting the TRIP effect and consequently both the high strength and ductility.

Abstract

This project will develop a new method for spatial manipulation of light at the nanoscale by assembly of plasmonic nanostructures. I propose to use this method to advance visualization of densely packed biomolecules and their dynamics. Metal nanostructures are capable of massive enhancements of optical response, which arise from collective electromagnetic resonances called plasmons. Here, I propose a radically new idea of understanding plasmonic nanoparticles as nanoscale spatial manipulators for light emitting fluorophores, opening a new dimension of diverse applications. We will use single molecule localization microscopy, DNA self-assembly, and machine learning to describe and reconstruct sub-diffraction limited shifts in the projection of plasmon-coupled fluorophores and determine how to control them by altering the enhancement mechanism, fluorophore-plasmon distance, and their dynamics. The experimental systems developed in this project will bring new routes to answering fundamental questions in plasmonic enhancement well beyond the scope of this project.

Aims

To alternate the enhancement mechanism of plasmon-coupled fluorophore. To control the shift in the projected position of plasmon coupled fluorophore by enhancement mechanism. To determine the distance-dependence of the fluorophore projection. To construct dynamic plasmonic system.

Abstract

My research focuses on the regulation of protein trafficking at the cell surface by a highly dynamic process – endocytosis. This process determines the composition of the cellular plasma membrane and it is a major pathway for viral and pathogen entry, including Ebola and Coronovirus. The dysfunction of endocytosis is also a causal factor behind a number of human genetic diseases, and its dysregulation contributes to wide range of pathologies, including neuropathic pain. Despite its critical importance, surprisingly little is known about how it is regulated. A major regulation point is the dynamic phosphorylation of endocytic components by kinases. However, it is poorly understood which kinases (and phosphatases) control endocytosis even though they represent targets for disease-modifying therapies. My vision is to understand the regulatory role that protein kinases have in membrane-trafficking. My focus is on the Numb-Associated Kinase family (NAK) and their role in pain sensing.

Aims

“I seek to deliver a comprehensive, mechanistic model of the functioning of Numb-associated kinases (NAKs). Objective
1) Elucidating AAK1 and BMP2K related pathways,
2) Elucidating mechanisms of NAK regulation and
3) Determining the consequences of NAK deregulation for the plasma membrane proteome.”

Abstract

Alchemies of Scent investigates how the quest to extract, concentrate, compound and preserve the essences of plants influenced natural philosophy, medicine and culture in the ancient world. It focuses on the encounter of ancient Greek philosophy with the technologies of Egyptian perfumery from the time of Alexander the Great to Cleopatra VII (fourth–first centuries BCE). Using experimental replications of Greco-Egyptian recipes, it reconstructs the practices of this ancestor to modern chemistry and studies the ways these practices were understood. It will produce a lexicon of Egyptian, Greek, and Latin perfumery; a manual of recipes and procedures; three monographic studies on perfume making in the context of the history of science and culture; and it will encourage citizen science and education through exciting social media content

Aims

“1. Produce a lexicon of ancient Egyptian–Greek–Latin perfumery
2. Replicate ancient Greco-Egyptian perfume-making methods
3. Study perfumery in ancient Egyptian and Greek science, medicine, and literary and material culture
4. Encourage citizen science and education through public engagement”

Abstract

The overarching aim of this proposal is to understand molecular mechanisms underlying semaphorin-plexin signalling. Semaphorin ligands and their plexin receptors are one of the classical cell guidance factors that play essential roles in cell processes requiring discrete changes in the cytoskeleton. Although the field has made enormous advances in understanding semaphorin function at the level of genetic and cellular experiments, our knowledge of the molecular-level mechanisms of semaphorin signalling is still lacking. My laboratory will address three fundamental questions: (1) How do proteoglycans modulate the axon navigation towards their target? (2) How does OTK co-receptor control semaphorin-plexin signalling? (3) How does a signal from outside the cell pass to cytoplasmic plexin domain? To address these challenges, we will use a hybrid approach integrating X-ray crystallography with cryo-electron microscopy and tomography. This approach will be further combined with biophysical and cellular experiments in neurons and transgenic flies.

Aims

“1. Dissect molecular mechanisms of proteoglycan-based modulation of semaphorin function 2. Elucidate the interplay OTK co-receptor and semaphorin-plexin signalling
3. Explore the molecular mechanisms through which the extracellular and cytoplasmic segments of plexins communicate”

Abstract

Nitrifiers and methanotrophs are microbial guilds responsible for aerobic transformation of reactive nitrogen and oxidation of methane, respectively. Both processes are fundamental ecosystem functions linked to nutrient cycling and global change. We hypothesize that interactions between these two guilds substantially contribute to the modulation of process rates. However, such interactions have hardly been investigated. The proposed line of research will expose the cause and nature of interactions between nitrifiers and methanotrophs and quantify their ecological impact. The project will employ a unique combination of multidisciplinary techniques, i.e. next generation sequencing, stable isotope incubations with integrated approaches of metagenomics and metatranscriptomics, single cell sorting, and metaproteomics with synthetic microbial consortia. Collectively, these approaches are poised to gather a deep understanding of the links between carbon and nitrogen cycling to eventually be able to predict and mitigate climate change and protect Earths ecosystems.

Aims

The project will resolve interactions between nitrifiers and methane oxidizers, quantify their ecological implications, and develop models for predictions. It will fill knowledge gaps on microbial ecogenomics and -physiology, establish a new stable isotope probing method, and isolate new organisms.

Abstract

Public procurement accounts for 12% of GDP in developed countries. Hence, the efficiency of procurement markets is a first-order issue in modern economies. The proposed research project will focus on three key understudied aspects of public procurement that likely influence procurement outcomes (such as prices, quality, and delays) and economic efficiency of procurement markets: (i) single-bidding in procurement contracts, (ii) the availability of information about public procurement contracts to firms, and (iii) public online oversight and monitoring. The first and the third objective will be conducted on high-quality administrative datasets from the Czech Republic and Ukraine, respectively. The second objective will be addressed by a field experiment. We aim to contribute to the academic literature by identifying causes of inefficiencies in the procurement markets and quantifying their extent. Our findings and the policy recommendations derived from them should, if implemented, result in a more efficient public sector.

Aims

The main goal of the research project is to quantify the extent of inefficiencies on public procurement markets caused by three understudied institutional factors and suggest policies which would result in savings and/or a more efficient public sector if they were implemented.

Abstract

This is an interdisciplinary programme bridging cosmology, astrophysics and particle physics towards explaining dark energy in the Universe. The resolution of dark energy needs an extension of General Relativity. Theories aiming to explain it typically introduce new fields manifesting as a fifth force. The quest for their theoretical underpinning and observational imprints is currently paramount in cosmology. In the project’s first part, I will introduce helioseismology as a new precision probe for fifth forces in Nature. Within generic theories for dark energy, I will formulate the theory for solar pulsations, and with sophisticated simulations I will deliver the tightest constraints on the fifth force to date. In the second part, I will perform a complementary investigation of the fundamental character of general dark energy theories. With state-of-the-art field-theoretical methods I will deliver the first complete description of their quantum origin. With this, I will make robust predictions for gravitational waves for current and future surveys.

Aims

“Within generic dark energy theories:
1: Modelling of solar evolution in presence of the fifth force
2: Modelling of solar eigenspectrum and tight constraints on fifth force
3: Resolve their perturbative quantum structure and its phenomenology
4: Address their Wilsonian UV completion”

Abstract

Triatominae are important blood feeding disease vectors. The project focuses on structure and development of their microbiomes, including interactions with transmitted pathogens. Recently, we identified several novel aspects of triatomine-bacteria associations, which point out unique potential of these vectors for entirely new insights into the principles of insect-bacteria symbiosis. We have proved that i) the microbiomes undergo ontogenetic diversity shift, ii) the dominant microbiome taxa enter intracellular symbiosis, and iii) the microbiomes of wild Triatoma populations encounter a complex pathobiome. The project builds on these novel findings and proposes to investigate microbiome development and bacteria transmission mechanism, functional analogies between the intracellular assemblies and bacteriomes of other hematophagous vectors, pangenomes of microbial communities found within US native Triatoma populations, and specific microbiome changes in respect to an underestimated complexity of the pathobiome, including T. cruzi DTUs, other eukaryotic, bacterial and viral pathogens.

Aims

“To reveal
i) specific changes of Triatoma microbiomes in respect to the complex pathobiome,
ii) characteristics of intracellular symbiosis found in R. prolixus and its functional analogies to tsetse bacteriomes,
iii) pangenome capacities of microbiota associated with wild Triatoma populations.”

Abstract

We propose to develop analytical tools to support the investigation of the locomotion of softbodied animals and robots. Our study will be focused on limbless locomotion, adopted in Nature by earthworms, snakes and snails, and inspiring a new generation of bio-mimetic soft robots, with applications in medical intervention and survey of complex environments. Instead of singularly studying specific models, we propose to build up general results in an abstract framework, where all the various mechanisms employed by such locomotors can be included. We study properties such as stabilization and optimality, and propose to rigorously derive some features of the models using multiscale convergence results. The main mathematical challenges in the analysis of such systems are the soft body, implying that its actual shape is not directly controlled, the presence of non-smooth friction laws, such as dry friction, and the absence of Dirichlet boundary conditions. Our approach combines techniques from nonsmooth analysis, dynamical systems, calculus of variation and optimal control.

Aims

– Development of analytical tools from nonsmooth analysis for the study of stabilitation and optimality in soft locomotors – Rigorous derivation of some properties of the locomotors using multiscale convergence methods.

Abstract

Searching for quantum effects in biology is a grand topic of biophysics. On one hand, there are suggestions for quantum effects on such a macroscopic scale as a human brain; on the other hand, there are heated disputes over tiny localized intramolecular processes in proteins. There are experimental implications that certain quantum effects such as charge or exciton delocalization can indeed be purposely enhanced by the protein environment. Those are e.g. unusually long-lasting coherences observed by 2D spectroscopy in light-harvesting antennas of plants. Unfortunately, it has turned out that it is difficult to assess if the observed oscillations are genuine quantum effects. For assessing how “quantum” the nature of any molecular process is, we are missing “Occam’s razor” techniques. Here I propose that utilizing the deep connection between quantum decoherence and the entanglement collapse might provide such a tool. Generating and analyzing entangled bi-photons generated from chromophores in proteins (such as OCP) should provide direct insight into quantum effects in Biosystems.

Aims

The goal is to reliably set decoherence times of cofactors in proteins by generation of entangled photons in them. These times would be compared with decoherence times determined from free cofactors. This information should shed light on hypotheses about long living coherences in certain biosystems

Abstract

The interplay between DNA repair and transcription is a complex and poorly understood. On one hand, transcription is one of the mayor sources of DNA damage. On the other hand, under particular circumstances, cells use transcription machinery to efficiently initiate DNA repair. As the in vivo methods are inherently unable to uncover the causal relationships between DNA repair and transcription, we decided to study the above-mentioned processes by a combination of biochemical and structural approaches. The aim of the project is to determine the 3D structures of RNAPII with key factors promoting the cross-talk between transcription and DNA repair (BRCA1, SENATAXIN), coupled with a thorough biochemical analysis of the complexes. The combination of these approaches will provide a complex and detailed characterisation of the interplay between DNA repair and transcription.

Aims

“Our overall aim is to is to determine the molecular mechanism of the cross-talk between DNA repair and transcription. In particular:
(i) to solve the 3D structure of the complex between mammalian RNAPII with key DNA repair factors;
(ii) to biochemically characterise the abovementioned complexes.”

Abstract

We hypothesise that multinational corporations (MNCs) avoid paying corporate income taxes by exploiting a combination of globalisation and countries’ sovereignty to set tax policies. Consistent with this hypothesis, we propose a new framework: the inescapable trilemma of corporate taxation. We argue that only two of three policy goals in this trilemma – globalisation, sovereignty, and revenue – can be achieved at any given time. We hypothesise that, at present, revenue is not being achieved. We aim to test it by determining the extent to which the existing limited evidence of MNCs’ tax avoidance represents a general pattern. Unlike previous research, we will overcome the limitations of currently available data. We propose a new empirical methodology and use two breakthrough ideas to establish how much MNCs pay in taxes, where and why. First, we will pioneer the use of country-by-country reporting data from large MNCs. Second, we will combine that data with other sources and leverage their respective strengths to create the most comprehensive data set on MNCs.

Aims

We aim to establish how much MNCs pay in taxes, to what extent these taxes are paid in tax havens, and which factors drive these patterns. Ultimately, we will use our theoretical, methodological and empirical innovations to transform the understanding of corporate taxation in the globalised world.

Abstract

We will focus on the elementary question of ecology: Are niches of tropical species narrower than species in higher latitudes? The answer, although fundamental for understanding the global biodiversity organisation, lacks for pollination interactions, the key driver of most terrestrial ecosystems. We propose an intensive inter-continental study of latitudinal specialisation patterns by standardised sampling of interactions at a whole-community level along a large latitudinal gradient from tropical to subarctic biomes. Interactions will be recorded by our unique video-recording of floral visitors and modern NGS metabarcoding of pollen from pollinators. We will dissect the patterns for entire communities, and for particular groups of plants and pollinators, together with detailed analyses of plant traits related to their reproduction strategies. We hypothesise no simple answer, therefore such complex approach is necessary. The expected differences among groups of pollinators and plants be used for macroecological and macroevolutionary analyses of the global biodiversity patterns.

Aims

“1/ We will sample pollination interactions at 7 sites along latitude.
2/ We will combine ‚traditional‘ observation and experimental approaches with ‚modern‘ NGS metabarcoding.
3/ We will reveal latitudinal specialisation patterns of communities, as well as particular groups of plants and pollinators”

Abstract

Above 1 PeV, the properties of cosmic rays can only be inferred indirectly through the detection of extensive air showers. The interpretation of air shower observables at 10 EeV relies on extrapolations of accelerator data by about one order of magnitude in energy, where a proper description of the very forward physics, most relevant for the shower development, is lacking. This leads to unknown systematic uncertainties in the predictions of hadronic interaction models and inconsistencies in the description of air shower data. We aim at improving the current situation through a comprehensive study of the main shower observables (lateral and longitudinal profiles of muon and electromagnetic components) and of the properties of current hadronic interaction models using data of several air shower experiments. The analysis will be based on several popular simulation codes and will include an unprecedented wide scan on the hadronic parameters (cross-section, multiplicity, elasticity, pion-charge ratio) placing constraints on the hadronic interaction models and exotic physics scenarios.

Aims

Reduction of the uncertainties of current simulation codes towards an improved description of various shower observables via analysis of public data from several air shower experiments. Adjustment of the interactions model parameters causing inconsistencies in the interpretation of data.

Abstract

We will establish a new connection between the multiplicative and additive structures of number fields. This will have important implications, e.g., for 1. universal quadratic forms over (totally real) number fields, estimating their ranks and proving 290-theorems, and 2. class numbers of number fields, determining their precise asymptotic growth in a wide class of families and discovering new techniques for dealing with the class number one problem. We aim at proving the following fundamental hypothesis: For a given number field K, the larger the class number of K is, the fewer indecomposable algebraic integers in K there are, and the smaller the ranks of universal quadratic forms over K are. Methodology is based on a combination of geometric (quadratic lattices), analytic (modular forms, L-functions), and arithmetic (indecomposables, generalized continued fractions) techniques. Despite promising preliminary results over real quadratic fields, further progress will require substantial effort to achieve much needed breakthroughs, starting with the case of cubic fields.

Aims

“Our main goals are to:
1. describe indecomposables using generalized continued fractions;
2. characterize corresponding families of number fields;
3. apply the results to universal quadratic forms;
4. refine the theory of infrastructure in number fields to obtain new connection with class numbers.”

Abstract

Bioactive specialized metabolites from plants represent an essential source of chemical scaffolds for the development of new medicines, but new technological platforms are urgently needed to fully utilize this natural resource. In this project we will expand the capabilities of the popular MZmine platform for metabolomics into the domains of ion mobility separation and molecular networking, two state-of-the-art techniques that are essential for effective isolation and identification of diverse plant natural products. We will further develop and evaluate a novel bioinformatic approach based on genetic networking to associate plant natural products with their biosynthetic enzymes. We will demonstrate these technological advancements by mapping the chemodiversity of the Piperaceae plant family, widely recognized as a remarkable and underexplored reservoir of bioactive specialized metabolites.

Aims

“1. Expand the MZmine platform with ion mobility separation and molecular networking modules.
2. Develop a genetic networking approach to associate plant metabolites with their biosynthetic enzymes.
3. Map the chemodiversity and specialized biosynthetic networks of the Piperaceae plant family.”