Thirty-five Czech researchers, students, and non-profit workers will travel to the USA in the upcoming academic year thanks to the Fulbright Program. Six Czechs and one Slovak come from Masaryk University. They will continue to work on their projects at US universities and research centres, taking advantage of the new results, experience and contacts once they come back to the Czech Republic.
According to Hana Ripková, executive director of the Fulbright Commission: “This year, a large group of grant recipients from Masaryk University successfully overcame the traditional dominance of scholars from Charles University and the Czech Academy of Sciences.”
A number of applicants from regional universities, such as the University of South Bohemia, University of Pardubice, and Silesian University, also succeeded in the selection process. “It has been our long-term goal to include more universities and research institutions outside Prague,” adds Ripková.
The best decision of my career
According to Martin Bareš, vice-rector for academic affairs at MU, the Fulbright grants are some of the most prestigious grants supported by the US government.
“Internationalisation of academic workers is key for increasing the prestige of Masaryk University, which benefits its students as well. In this respect, we are successful rivals to Charles University. At the moment, I am discussing plans with the dean of the Faculty of Social Studies to create an informal platform at Masaryk University for Fulbright scholars to meet and talk about their experiences,” says Bareš.
He himself is a former Proshek-Fulbright scholar at the University of Minnesota. “I think that the decision to apply for this prestigious grant was the best decision I made in my professional career. My stay in the USA resulted in joint grants, publications, stays of my colleagues, and also my achieving an adjunct professorship at my second alma mater in the US,” he says, listing all the benefits.
The brain imaging research project that Bareš worked on in the US together with Prof. Ash went so well that Bareš continued to work on it as a postdoctoral researcher for another year after coming back from the US.
“I go back to Minneapolis every year for consulting. I am actually planning another trip to the US at the moment. Together with Ceitec MU leaders, we will visit the Minneapolis MRI centre, which is among the very best in the world.”
Grantees represent sociology and the natural sciences
Altogether, seven scholars from Masaryk University will travel to the US in the next academic year. Among them are three sociologists: Pavel Pospěch, Jakub Macek (also a media expert) and Lucie Jarkovská from the Faculty of Social Studies at Masaryk University. The other three successful applicants are PhD ecotoxicology students from the Faculty of Science at MU – Zdena Moosová, Markéta Hůlová, and Pavla Plachtová.
The seventh in the group of Masaryk University researchers heading to the US is Michal Mochťak, a political scientist at the International Institute of Political Science of the MU Faculty of Social Studies who was awarded a grant from the Slovak Fulbright commission. He will focus on electoral violence while at Yale University.
Jakub Macek will spend the spring semester at Pennsylvania State University. “After more then ten years, I will get away from the local teaching and research routine, and I think that’s a very good thing,” he says.
“In my research, I will focus on the role of trust or distrust towards mass and online media as sources of information under the current polarisation of public and political discourse, and how this trust or lack of trust relates to people experiencing the world as a meaningful, understandable, and safe place,” says Macek about his research project. He explains why he will focus primarily on the role of online and social media: “What we see with the rise of online media is not only a boom in information sources but, it would seem, also a relativisation of information authorities.”
Besides his research plans, he also plans to visit colleagues in Boston and Berkeley and at Yale. His itinerary also includes a trip to Calgary to visit US professor and media expert of worldwide renown Maria Bakardjieva.
The University of California will be hosting PhD ecotoxicology student Zdena Moosová, whose stay is funded through the Fulbright-Masaryk programme. “Besides a high-quality project proposal, which I prepared together with the host institution, I also had to demonstrate that I actively participate in civic or public life. The design of this grant, which reflects values connected with T. G. Masaryk, greatly appeals to me,” she says.
The lab led by Prof. Bruce Blumberg, where she is going, focuses on endocrine and metabolic disruptions. In her project, Moosová will compare the effects of selected materials used in plastic materials on lipid metabolism.
The Fulbright Commission, which oversees the educational exchange between the Czech Republic and the US under the Fulbright Program, is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Over the quarter of a century since it was established, almost 900 Czech students, researchers, lecturers and secondary school teachers have visited the US while over 700 of their American colleagues have stayed at Czech academic institutions. Since 1946, when the Fulbright Program was established, their have been more than 300,000 “Fulbrighters”. Every year, around 8,000 grants are awarded in 155 countries.