Although neither of them remembers the exact year when they first met, the meeting changed both their lives. Hana Sedláčková, who was then a secondary school student, now studies in Copenhagen in Denmark, and Lumír Krejčí, the head of the Masaryk University lab who took her on as a trainee, started to look for other talented secondary school students and offers them extensive support.
Lumír Krejčí seems to have a knack for choosing his students, who often win various international prizes and are published in prestigious journals.
“I don’t remember which year it was, but I have very clear memories of the day we first met. The campus construction had not been finished yet and I was wandering around looking for the lab. Although everyone tried to point me in the right direction, I was still about an hour late,” says Hana Sedláčková who smiles at the memory during our Skype interview.
She chose Lumír Krejčí’s lab in a programme run by the South Moravian Centre for International Mobility, which offered traineeships at universities for secondary school students. “I was sceptical – I thought we just might possibly be able to train her in a couple of the methods that we use. However, Hanka was an absolute breakthrough in working with secondary school students. Before she came to work with us, I thought you could only find talent among people at universities,” admits Krejčí, adding that he was thrilled when she suggested she could start working on a real research project once her traineeship ended.
They agreed that as a part of a professional development competition for secondary school students, she would work on a project involving the RECQ4 protein, whose mutations cause a genetic disorder called Rothmund-Thomson syndrome. She continued with this research even after enrolling at Masaryk University as a biochemistry student.
“It was amazing that all those years ago, Lumír opened his lab to someone with zero experience. I think there is no other place in the world where you can do that at such a young age. When I won the Undergraduate Award in 2015, participants from other countries were very surprised by the number of results in my bachelor’s thesis,” says the young researcher.
She adds that other people at the campus labs were always friendly, even if they sometimes disagreed. However, as Lumír Krejčí says with a smile, “Different opinions are important in research, including being able to say them out loud. Sometimes, when supervisors try to steer their students in a certain direction and the students still do certain things in their own way, it can be the start of an interesting experiment.”
Thanks to his first secondary school student, Lumír Krejčí opened his lab to other motivated teenagers, looking for young talent through the Bioskop science education centre. “It started as an education project for popularising science, but Hanka suggested that we start a club and this evolved into a means of finding young people who want to do science,” he says.
Krejčí seems to have a knack for choosing his students, who often win various international prizes and are published in prestigious journals. “Meeting good teachers and mentors in your life is the most important factor. If you are also talented, motivated, and patient, things get even better,” says Sedláčková, emphasising the role of teachers. She smiles as she adds that she has already received inquiries from other Copenhagen labs as to whether they could find another talent at Masaryk University.
Sedláčková worked in Brno for seven years but transferred to Copenhagen for her PhD studies and now focuses on cell biology. Both she and her former supervisor agree that changing labs is a necessary part of every researcher’s path to gaining more experience. As she explains, “While you get the best possible master’s education in the Czech Republic with loads of hands-on experience, the standard of PhD programmes abroad is higher mostly due to the more stringent requirements for both students and teachers.”