On September 28, the Neuron Endowment Fund awarded two leading scientists of the Institute of Physics. In the Pantheon of the National Museum, Václav Petříček received the highest prize awarded, Neuron Prize for Contribution to World Science, and Prokop Hapala was ranked by the Neuron Board among seven promising young scientists awarded.
An award for the life-long development of a unique crystallographic program called JANA went to RNDr. Václav Petříček. For more than 50 years, his work at the Institute of Physics has been focusing on the development of programme systems for the computation of complicated crystal structures. For the programme development Petříček received a prestigious Patterson Award awarded by the American Crystallographic Association. Three years earlier, the world-renowned crystallographer received the Max Perutz Award from the Crystallographic Association and as the very first Czech physicist ever, he was awarded the Charles Barrett Award by the International Centre for Diffraction Data.
A unique programme JANA represents the most complex tool for the measurement of crystal structures and it is used by thousands of users across the world. “I have never wanted money for my programme, only collaboration. If anyone finds a mistake there or can suggest an improvement, I ask the person to send it to me. This enabled me to establish collaboration with the best laboratories in the world,” Václav Petříček listed JANA’s successes. The programme origination is connected to Václav Petříček’s secondment at the Philip Coppens laboratory at the University of Buffalo in 1983. The necessity to part with his family for a year during his first secondment abroad is also reflected in the name of the programme – it has been named after his daughter.
Václav Petříček, as well as a lot of other physicists at Cukrovarnická, often go to work by bike. Living near Mělník, it means a hundred and ten kilometres to and fro. But as he says: “When I go to work by bike, I stop thinking about my work and concentrate only on the ride itself and I try to enjoy it as much as I can. By coincidence, the last part of both the journeys is uphill. So, I try to get the gear right and feel endorphins increasing my good mood and zest.”
Neuron Prize for Young Talented Scientists was awarded to Ing. Prokop Hapala in chemistry for explanation and theoretical elaboration of the basic principles of a new ultra-high resolution microscopic method. Prokop Hapala’s works are recognized by the scientific community as essential for imaging of atoms, bonds and electric fields in individual molecules.
In 2016, the world expert in the field of theoretical simulations of scanning microscopes and the electronic structure of silicon nanocrystals received the Otto Wichterle Award. His works have contributed to a deeper understanding of the luminescence of silicon nanocrystals and the material properties of molecules and nanostructures on solid surfaces. Hapala is a co-author of publications in leading scientific journals (Chemistry of Materials, Physical Review Letters, Nature Communications, Scientific Reports).
Neuron Prize for Contribution to World Science 2021 was awarded to Josef Prchal, a world-renowned haematologist, David Preiss, a genius mathematician, and physicist Václav Petříček. Together with the award, the laureates receive CZK 1,500,000, which the Neuron Endowment Fund pays from patron’s donations.
The Neuron Board awarded seven promising scientists and the laureates of Neuron Prize 2021 are: Jan Hladký (mathematics), Lenka Zdeborová (physics), Jitka Palich Fučíková (medicine), Prokop Hapala (chemistry), Zuzana Musilová (biology), Martin Tancer (computer science) a Petr Sedláček (social sciences). Each Neuron Prize for Young Talented Scientists comes with a cash gift of CZK 500,000.