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Pavel Plevka’s vision: To bring top international talent to CEITEC

Pavel Plevka, an internationally renowned expert in structural biology and virology who has received a number of prestigious grants and awards, will become director of CEITEC MUNI on 1 July. 

Pavel Plevka is a world-renowned expert in the fields of structural biology and virology.

Plevka was previously the deputy director of CEITEC MUNI, responsible for the research infrastructure of this top scientific institute that focuses on structural biology, molecular medicine, and brain and human cognition research. Plevka is also a well-known popularizer of science and is a recipient of the South Moravian Region Prize for 2022. At CEITEC MUNI he is taking over for Jiří Nantl, who has accepted the position of first deputy minister at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of the Czech Republic.

“Jiří Nantl has spent the last seven years of his professional life in the role of director and takes a great deal of credit for the fact that CEITEC is now considered one of the most advanced research centres in Central and Eastern Europe and in many respects is also a model for other domestic and foreign institutes. However, I am sure that CEITEC MUNI will be in good hands under the leadership of Pavel Plevka, as he is a prominent figure in Czech science and his research activities have top European parameters. In the past, Pavel Plevka has also demonstrated excellent managerial skills by building his own research group, which has implemented two ERC grants,” said Martin Bareš, rector of Masaryk University.

Pavel Plevka is a world-renowned expert in the fields of structural biology and virology. He studied molecular biology and virology at the Faculty of Science of Charles University, received his Ph.D. in structural biology from Uppsala University in Sweden, and spent four years at Purdue University in the USA. Plevka has been recognized for his scientific work both at home and abroad. In 2016 he received the Neuron Prize for Young Scientists in Biology, three years later he received the Silver Medal of Masaryk University, and in 2020 he was awarded the Werner von Siemens Prize for Discovery in Basic Research. He has also received many prestigious national and international grants and other awards, such as an ERC starting grant, an ERC-CZ consolidator grant, an ERC consolidator grant, an EMBO installation grant, and an EXPRO grant from the Czech Science Foundation. He also made a significant contribution to the establishment of the National Institute of Virology and Bacteriology in 2022.

“It is a great honour for me to be entrusted with the management of an institute with which I have a very personal relationship. I view the rector's decision as a great sign of trust and at the same time as a commitment. I would like to continue to develop the vision of CEITEC MUNI to be a leading European research centre known for its discoveries,” said Plevka, whose scientific outputs published by his research group have become the basis for more than 50 articles in the Czech and international media, including a media feature on viruses in the international edition of National Geographic. In connection with the COVID-19 epidemic, Plevka has given more than 100 media interviews, including to such periodicals as the New York Times.

Pavel Plevka will become director of CEITEC MUNI on 1 July. He is taking over for Jiří Nantl.

Plevka answered three questions for M Magazine in connection with his appointment as director:

What are the main tasks facing the management of CEITEC MUNI in the near future?

In the immediate and medium term, I see several important tasks for CEITEC management. The first is to further develop the research centre and strengthen its position internationally. We will focus on creating the conditions for attracting further major national and international projects to support ongoing research and innovation. A major challenge is the successful completion of negotiations with incoming leaders of new research groups, which will allow CEITEC to broaden its research focus and bring top international talent to the centre. Another important challenge is the development of cooperation with partner organizations to expand the network of collaborating institutions and create new opportunities for the exchange of know-how and the establishment of scientific collaboration. We will continue to monitor trends in scientific technology to ensure that the centre’s facilities and research focus are relevant and innovative and that we are ready to address topics of societal importance.

CEITEC MUNI is located in Bohunice University Campus in Brno.

Rector of MU Martin Bareš said the following about you: “I am confident that CEITEC will move MU even closer to its vision of becoming a leading European research centre known for its discoveries.” What is key to realizing this vision?

Several factors are key in realizing the vision of CEITEC MUNI as a leading European research centre known for its discoveries. The first is a strong and high-quality scientific community. CEITEC must attract and retain top scientists who are capable of leading research projects at an international level and achieving outstanding results. Involving young scientists and supporting their development are also essential. Another key factor is building strong partnership links. CEITEC scientists should develop collaboration with renowned research institutions, universities, and industrial partners to create an environment for know-how exchange, resource sharing, and joint projects. In this way, we will gain access to a wide range of expertise and technologies, which will enable us to produce high-quality scientific outputs that are essential for building up CEITEC's prestige in the international scientific community. Financial support is an important element. CEITEC needs sufficient financial resources to enable our scientists to carry out ambitious research projects. Support from the University, the government, European funds, and industrial partners is essential to realize this vision. Flexibility and the ability to adapt to rapidly changing trends in science and technology are also important. CEITEC researchers should be able to respond to new challenges and guide their research towards areas with the potential for major breakthroughs and innovation.

How do you combine the managerial position of a director with the work of a researcher and, in your case, also a popularizer of science who is of interest to the media?

Combining the managerial position of director and the role of the researcher is a big challenge for me, which will require discipline, flexibility, and good organization. I have the privilege of working with a very high-quality research group featuring members with a broad range of expertise, high enterprise and independence, and a strong interest in discovering new knowledge. As director, I will take over from Jiří Nantl a strong team that will help me with managerial responsibilities and the operation of our research centre. As director, I will focus on planning and prioritization. I have set aside specific blocks of time to focus on research and publications. Science communication is now only an occasional activity for me, since society has lost interest in the coronavirus pandemic, and will not take up much of my time.