The Lumina Quaeruntur Premium is to provide financial support for prospective researchers to set up their own research team for a period of up to five years. The Academy of Sciences presented the programme and its first six laureates during a ceremony held at Národní třída, Prague, on Thursday, January 17th. One of the laureates is RNDr. Hana Lísalová, Ph.D. from the Department of Optical and Biophysical Systems of the Institute of Physics of the CAS (FZU).
Under the Lumina Quaeruntur Premium, Mrs Hana Lísalová is planning to concentrate on the field of special functional surfaces and innovative biomaterials which have the potential of finding a broader use in different applications. These involve mainly modified surfaces with various functions where the sedimentation of organic impurities needs to be prevented. Such properties of surfaces are needed, for example, in medical diagnostics. As part of substance diagnostics, the detector must only interact with a particular type of molecule in a given biological environment, such as a pollutant in the blood, and the other substances, which may be contained in a million times bigger amount, must "ignore" the detector. However, well-functioning surfaces are needed in many other areas, such as food processing or sea transport. Although a large number of functional surfaces which – to varying degrees – resist sedimentation (or the non-specific adhesion of molecules) have already been developed, the existing problem is the insufficient theoretical understanding of the basic processes that hinder the faster development of these technologies.
Consequently, dr. Lísalová’ s newly built team will concentrate on developing any new models and hypotheses to better understand the real biophysical nature of the processes taking place on the surfaces. To achieve this goal, the project will use a combination of a variety of modern approaches, and its activities will be complemented by an interdisciplinary team of scientists composed of experts from different disciplines. A wide range of experimental devices and methods will also be used, such as advanced ellipsometric methods for monitoring individual protein molecules or confocal microscopy. The experimental part will be complemented by computer modelling.
"This new direction represents the missing link between material research, which has had a long tradition at the FZU, and the success of the biological research conducted in a recently built biological laboratory at the Department of Optics, and we are therefore delighted that the Academy of Sciences has supported the setting up of the team," says Michael Prouza, the director of the Institutes of Physics, about Mrs. Hana Lísalová’s plans.
Mrs Hana Lísalová graduated from biophysics and chemical physics at the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics, Charles University. After completing her doctoral studies, she spent two years working at the University of Washington in Seattle under the lead of prof. Jiang, with whom she has collaborated until today. Her stay in the US has led to a number of award-winning publications on functional surfaces and a licensed patent. After returning to the Czech Republic she spent about eight years working at the Institute of Photonics and Electronics of the CAS before joining the FZU in 2017. Now dr. Lísalová works at the Department of Optical and Biophysical Systems of the FZU. As regards the working conditions at the Institute of Physics, she would like to point out, among other things, the helpful attitude of the Institute towards its employees. “Neither my eye problems nor my family life demands are considered problematic,” she says, pointing at the baby cot placed in the corner of her office. “I appreciate that the Institute of Physics has been attentive to the needs of its employees.“
The Lumina Quaeruntur Premium seeks to fill the gap between junior grants and the programs intended for established scientists. The condition for the applicant is to apply for a prestigious grant from the European Research Council (ERC or its equivalent) during his grant, and his / her scientific experience must not be more than 10 years since the completion of his/her doctoral degree. Parental and maternity leaves are excluded.
"We intended to set up a means which would allow us to support new leaders in new fields to lead the Academy of Sciences in the years to come, in scientific or even managerial fields," says Eva Zažímalová, the president of the Academy of Sciences, about the Premium.