Top Five Scientific Projects Win the Czech Science Foundation President’s Award

GACR Presidency member and awarded scientists 2020

(Prague, 23 September 2020) Alice Valkárová, President of the Czech Science Foundation (“GACR”) presented her awards to five scientists for their excellence in research within projects completed in 2019. These prestigeous awards have been presented since 2003, serving as proof of the superior quality of basic research in the Czech Republic, and confirming the significance of basic research for scientific discovery.

This winners of this year’s awards are research projects which stand to contribute to the development of ultrafast-charging batteries, the exploration of the origins of life on Earth, the understanding of defects in cells leading to malignant tumours, the critical publication of the complete works of composer Bohuslav Martinů, and the description of genome structure of certain crops.

“Year after year, it is always difficult to select the best of the best from among dozens of excellence projects. This year was no exception because the short-listed projects are world-class,” said RNDr. Alice Valkárová, DrSc., President of the Czech Science Foundation. “This year is special for me in that this is the fourth and last time I have presented these awards – this pleasant duty will be taken up by my successor, the new President of the Czech Science Foundation,” says Alice Valkárová, a nuclear physicist whose term in office ends later this year.

Every year, the President’s Award winners are selected on the basis of nominations from several hundred scientists participating in the evaluation of projects funded by the Czech Science Foundation. Thirty excellence projects from five areas of basis research made the short list. The experts selected winners in the areas of: Technical Sciences; Physical Sciences; Medical and Biological Sciences; Social Sciences and Humanities; and Agricultural and Biological-Environmental Sciences.

“The Czech Science Foundation has funded basic research for 27 years. We believe basic research is fundamental. Basic research pushes the borders of human discovery, and lays down solid foundations for future applied results. Apart from the excellence in standard projects, which are nominated for the President’s Awards, we also publish special calls for projects highlighting and facilitating international cooperation and junior scientists,” adds Alice Valkárová.

Due to the complications caused by the covid pandemic, the Czech Science Foundation has arranged an online broadcast to guests who were unable to attend the ceremony in person.

 About the President’s Awards

The Awards of the President of the Czech Science Foundation have been conferred every year since 2003 to 3 to 5 selected laureates as an appreciation of outstanding results achieved in GACR-funded projects completed in the previous calendar year. A total of 75 leading scientists and their projects have been awarded until present day (see the complete list). Each award winner receives a prize of CZK 100,000. The awards are presented in five areas of basic research.

About the Czech Science Foundation

The Czech Science Foundation (“GACR”) is an independent public organisation, the only institution of its kind in the Czech Republic providing public funds earmarked for basic research projects. Within its programme calls, the Czech Science Foundation funds scientific projects for seasoned scientists and teams, as well as young and junior scientists. Every year, the Foundation funds hundreds of research projects on the basis of multiple rounds of transparent tenders. The Czech Scientific Foundation was established in 1993.


Projects Awarded

Technical Sciences:

Multiscale Nonequilibrium Dynamics, RNDr. Michal Pavelka, Ph.D. (Faculty of Mathematics & Physics, Charles University, Prague)

The project’s objective was to find a unifying geometric description of the development of physical systems on various levels of detail. The investigators identified procedures to reduce levels of detail, while still obtaining irreversible behaviours associated with an increase in entropy. The findings are being applied in research related to e.g. new, ultrafast-charging batteries, the possibilities of antivirus nanoparticles, and machine learning.


Physical Sciences:

The Origins of Life on Earth and in the Universe, Judit E. Šponerová, Ph.D. (Institute of Biophysics, Czech Academy of Sciences, Brno)

The project made a fundamental contribution to how we understand the origins of the first molecules of genetic information on Earth. The project demonstrated that asteroid and meteorite impacts may have affected the creation of the first small RNA molecules. The project was also instrumental in generating possible scenarios of the origination of the first functional genetic molecules, composed of simple substances present on early-stage Earth, such as formamide, hydrogen cyanide, or formaldehyde.


Medical & Biological Sciences:

Detailed Analysis of the Functions and Regulatory Potential, and the Subcomplexes, of the Subunits of Eucaryotic Translation Initiation Factor 3 in Humans, Dr. rer. nat. Leoš Shivaya Valášek, DSc. (Institute of Microbiology, Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague)

The project explored the regulation of protein synthesis (aka translation), which is a process of the translation of genetic information – stored in the form of DNA in genes – into proteins. The investigators established how the eukaryotic initiation factor (eIF3) in humans ensures the assembly of ribosomal complexes in charge of detecting the exact start of the synthesis of individual proteins. This project’s findings are important mostly for the research of translation deregulation, which facilitates the progression of certain types of malignant tumours, and a number of other diseases.


Social Sciences & Humanities:

The Bohuslav Martinů Complete Edition (BMCE) Phase 2, Mgr. Aleš Březina, Ph.D. (Bohuslav Martinu Institute, benevolent association, Prague)

The major contribution from the project is the critical publication of nine volumes of the works of Bohuslav Martinů – a Czech music composer of worldwide acclaim. The project served to assemble and publish a database of the sources which are key to the discovery and examination of his life and works, as well as the history of 20th century music in the historical region of Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia, the United States, France, and Switzerland. The project also opens up nearly 900 letters from the voluminous correspondence of this leading Czech figure.


Agricultural and Biological-Environmental Sciences:

Missing Links: Genome Evolution in the tribe Camelineae (fam. Brassicaceae), RNDr. Terezie Mandáková, Ph.D. (Central European Institute of Technology, Masaryk University, Brno)

Camelina sativa (aka “gold-of-pleasure”, “false flax”, “linseed dodder”, “Siberian oilseed”, or “German sesame”) from the Brassicaceae family is an ancient oilseed crop cultivated in Europe as early as several thousand years B.C. This project was instrumental in the identification of the most likely parents in the family, characterisation of the genome structure of the five most closely related species, and the identification of the mechanisms of evolution of the genomes. The new findings provide the information necessary for the future cultivation of this significant crop.