Providing help in a crisis
On 24 February 2022, the lives of most Ukrainian people were turned upside down as in the early hours of the morning, the Russian forces carried out their first military strikes in Ukraine’s territory. “Masaryk University strongly condemns Russia’s violent actions and its policy of military conquest. The management of Masaryk University is taking and will continue to take steps to enable effective assistance to be rendered to the citizens of Ukraine, a country that has now become a victim of naked Russian aggression,” said the official statement released by MU Rector Martin Bareš after the invasion began.
Masaryk University responded immediately to the outbreak of war in Ukraine and has been providing assistance to Ukrainian students, staff and their families through the MUNI HELPS Volunteer Centre from the very first days of the conflict. It sent two full lorries with much-needed humanitarian aid such as clothes, hygiene items and blankets to the Regional Centre for Help and Assistance to Ukraine situated at the Brno Exhibition Centre.
For easier orientation, the MU helps Ukraine website has been created and made available in Czech, English and Ukrainian. Masaryk University has also opened a transparent bank account for educational and humanitarian purposes, to which over 800 donors have contributed nearly CZK 1.4 million, and initiated many other forms of aid.
MU continues to provide assistance to Ukraine over this academic year as well. If you want to get involved in volunteer activities, sign up via the MUNI HELPS Volunteer Centre app.
Brno at the centre of global science
The academic year 2021/2022 culminated with a scientific event of truly global importance. The Mendel Genetics Conference 2022 was co-organised by Masaryk University and brought to Brno four hundred leading scientists, including Nobel Prize winners Ada E. Yonath, Sir Paul Nurse and Thomas R. Cech.
The conference featured discussions on current topics in the field of human genetics with a focus on rare genetic disorders and predispositions to tumours, as well as animal and plant genetics, GMOs and the genetics of bacteria and viruses. Prominent international scientists also discussed ethical issues related to the diagnosis and screening of genetic diseases and the possible applications of new genomic technologies in medicine and agriculture.
“We are very pleased that the conference was so successful, both scientifically and in terms of smooth organisation. I believe that the speakers and other invited participants left Brno with not just a lot of new information, but also with extraordinary experiences gained from meeting great researchers and having a good time in our city,” said Šárka Pospíšilová, MU Vice-Rector for Research and Doctoral Studies.
Masaryk University’s role at the European stage
In the second half of the calendar year, the Czech Republic took over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union from France. EU Member States hold the six-month Presidency on a rotating basis. The Czech Republic first held the EU Council Presidency in the first half of 2009; this year’s Presidency will end on 31 December 2022.
The Czech Presidency also marks an important milestone for Masaryk University. “In principle, we are pursuing two main objectives: to highlight our achievements and international standing by inviting foreign partners to MU and, at the same time, to strengthen our visibility and importance in Brussels, right at the heart of the EU,” said Břetislav Dančák, MU Vice-Rector for Internationalisation.
Two major events support these objectives. The first was the ICRI 2022 (International Conference on Research Infrastructures), which took place in October and attracted a number of prominent personalities from the EU and the rest of the globe to Brno. More than 500 scientists and experts from all over the world attended the prestigious event, with another 600 joining online.
The second important event was the State of the Environmental Health in Europe: Scientific Solutions to Global Crises, a conference which MU RECETOX research centre helped to organise. The event was held in Brussels and focused on the topic of Europe’s environmental health.
Research awards and grants
Masaryk University also had a successful year in the area of research. In March 2022, Pavel Plevka was awarded an European Research Council (ERC) grant, which is generally considered to be among the most prestigious in the world. Pavel Plevka is a structural virologist from the Central European Institute of Technology (CEITEC). His current project – BioPhage – will focus on the study of phage infection of bacterial biofilms made of golden staphylococcus cells.
In July this year, the MU Faculty of Pharmacy also scored a significant success in the prestigious ERA Chairs grant call. In the strongly competitive environment, only one in ten projects can hope to receive financial support. The Faculty will use the money to build a new research centre.
The EDUC Alliance, an association of universities of which Masaryk University is a member, received an important EU grant as well – in August, it succeeded in a new European Commission call and will receive a grant of EUR 12.8 million over the next four years. A total of 52 international consortia applied for the call, but only 20 of them were successful.
Masaryk University was also recognised in the city of Barcelona, Spain, where representatives of Masaryk University received an award from the European Association for International Education (EAIE). This year, the association awarded higher education institutions that not only stand out for their internationalisation policies and efforts but inspire other universities at a time when societies around Europe feel the impact of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. EAIE particularly praised MU for the establishment of the MUNI HELPS Volunteer Centre.
In November, Masaryk University received grants for five research projects. In prestigious Czech Science Foundation grant calls, MU received financial support for three projects in the EXPRO competition for experienced scientists and two projects in the JUNIOR STAR competition for young researchers.
Finally, the eleventh ERC grant for MU was awarded to Madalina B. Moraru from the Faculty of Law, whose project succeeded among over three thousand other applications. The grant will provide funding in the amount of nearly EUR 1.5 million over a period of five years. Dr Moraru will research the role of courts in international refugee law.
On the path to sustainability
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused an energy crisis across Europe. That is why Masaryk University decided to embark on the path to becoming a sustainable university with a shared institutional culture of responsibility. The topic of sustainability also corresponds with the objectives of the MU Strategic Plan 2021-2028.
According to MU Bursar Marta Valešová, sustainability must be reflected in the university’s day-to-day life. “We can explain in simpler examples how each of us can behave sustainably, what each individual can do by themselves and how small steps can contribute to larger changes. That is why I would like us to create an environment and opportunities for students and staff to behave sustainably and be an example to others,” said Valešová.
Since this winter, Masaryk University has strived to smartly manage its resource consumption and employ renewable energy sources. Successful energy management starts with construction and concerns all new buildings and most renovated MU structures. In August 2020, the first stage of the implementation of the systemic energy management plan was completed in the eleven selected faculty buildings and university complexes. It was smoothly followed by modifications in dormitories and canteen buildings, as well as in the CEITEC campus.
In early October, Masaryk University management launched a campaign under the hashtag #MUNISAVES and drew up the Ten Principles for Saving Energy. Information on all MU activities related to sustainable development is available on the sustain.muni.cz website.
Karel Engliš commemorative banknote
At the end of March, the former rector of Masaryk University, Karel Engliš, was printed on the face of the second commemorative banknote series ever released in the history of the Czech National Bank. It was officially presented to the public in the auditorium of the Faculty of Law by MU Rector Martin Bareš, CNB Governor Jiří Rusnok, Dean of the Faculty of Law Martin Škop and František Plhoň, Karel Engliš’s grandson. “I am very glad that Masaryk University still remembers and honours Karel Engliš – apart from scientific conferences, the Munipress publishing house has published many of his writings, including his seminal work Velká logika (The Great Logic). Therefore, I would like to thank everyone at Masaryk University on behalf of all my grandfather’s descendants,” said František Plhoň, a medical doctor, at the ceremony.
Engliš has not only made his mark in the history of Masaryk University as one of its founding fathers and its first rector, but he was also present at the laying of the foundation stone of the building housing the Faculty of Law. “This day is dedicated to a truly great man. Today we are repaying a part of our debt to Karel Engliš, who was treated terribly by the communist regime after the 1948 coup. His life’s work was systematically destroyed and he ultimately died forgotten and destitute,” noted Mr Bareš in his address.
Although the face value of the banknote is CZK 100, this will not be the price for which it will be sold. Due to the limited series and the high collector’s value, the price will likely be several times higher. “Personally, I consider Karel Engliš to be the greatest economist in Czech and Czechoslovak history. I am convinced that the decision to honour Karel Engliš on only the second commemorative banknote in the history of the Czech National Bank will contribute to a greater public appreciation of his importance and legacy,” said Jiří Rusnok, the former Governor of the Czech National Bank.