Charles University, founded on 7 April 1348, is celebrating its 674th birthday. On this occasion, the university awarded five scientists Donatio Universitatis Carolinae prizes. This is the sixth year they have been issued, worth a financial reward of one million crowns.
This year's recipients are: demographer Dagmar Dzúrová, mathematical linguist Jan Hajič, organic chemist Martin Kotora, Turkologist Jitka Malečková and hematooncologist Jan Trka.
The aim of the Donatio Universitatis Carolinae research support is to recognise outstanding scientific personalities who make exceptional contributions to the prestige of Charles University. In this sixth year, two laureates received this support during a ceremony marking the 674th anniversary of its foundation, which took place on Wednesday 6 April in the Great Hall of the historic Carolinum building.
Professor Dagmar Dzúrová (Faculty of Science, Charles University)
Dagmar Dzúrová is a professor of demography, she deals with geo-demography, social inequalities in health, quality of life, health status of the population and socio-pathological processes in society. She works at the Department of Social Geography and Regional Development at the Faculty of Science of Charles University, which she has headed in the past and is now deputy head of the department.
In the last two years she has been heavily involved in a number of initiatives addressing the Covid-19 pandemic: she is a member of the MeSES Initiative, a twelve-member apolitical interdisciplinary group on epidemic situations.
Her long-term research also focuses on themes in international migration, health and integration processes. She heads the University's Research Centre of Excellence with the project "Regions and localities in conditions of intense globalisation: drivers and mechanisms of their development" (UNCE, 2018-2023), which brings together young researchers across the four departments of the Geography Section. In 2015, she established a unique in the Czech Republic MSc programme in Social Epidemiology, which also involves colleagues from University College London (UCL).
She is a member of several scientific boards and a number of committees and professional societies in the Czech Republic and abroad. She has served for a number of years on the European Research Council (ERC) evaluation panel in the social sciences and humanities and on the European Science Foundation. She was recently interviewed in the UK Forum magazine.
Professor Jan Hajič (Faculty of Mathematics and Physics, Charles University)
Professor Hajič is an internationally recognized expert in the field of computational linguistics - the processing of natural language by mathematical methods, which are applied, for example, in machine translation but also in other areas requiring work with text and human-computer communication.
He works at the Institute of Formal and Applied Linguistics (IFAL) at the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics of Charles University, where he is the main coordinator of the LINDAT/CLARIAH-CZ digital research infrastructure. Many linguistic tools and software are being developed there, which are also of interest to commercial entities, including the largest ones such as Google and Microsoft. They are thus able to successfully translate their scientific outputs into practice by licensing the commercial use of these software solutions for language analysis and processing. For example, the automatic translator, which beats competing programs in competitions and is generally on par with professional translators, can be highlighted. They have recently developed a Czech-Ukrainian version in response to the invasion of Ukraine and refugee crisis.
Professor Hajič has also been involved for a long time in the creation of Czech language corpora, which are among the best in the world. The recognition of the scientific community is reflected, among other things, in a number of awards Professor Hajič has received, or his placement in the international ranking of Top Computer Science Scientists last year.
Professor Martin Kotora (Faculty of Science, Charles University)
Professor Kotora is an internationally known and respected organic chemist. He graduated from the Faculty of Science of Charles University, and during his postdoctoral stay he worked in the laboratory of Professor Ei-ichi Negishi, who later won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Since 2000 he has been working at the Department of Organic Chemistry, Faculty of Science, Charles University, where he leads the Catalysis in Organic Synthesis Group, which has an international reputation and is one of the world leaders in the field. His extensive scientific activity with a broad scope is reflected in high publication frequency in prestigious journals and also very high citation rate of published papers.
He has also received numerous awards for his scientific findings, including the prestigious Rudolf Lukeš Prize 2013 for excellence in organic, bioorganic and medicinal chemistry awarded by the Czech Chemical Society. In 2020, he received the highest award from the European Chemical Society (Chemistry Europe Fellow), which is awarded to personalities who have made a major contribution to the development of chemical knowledge.
Among other things, he initiated the creation and subsequent organization of the Quo Vadis Chemistry lecture series at the Faculty of Science, where renowned scientists from all over the world lecture on the latest findings in various fields of chemistry.
Professor Jitka Malečková (Faculty of Arts, Charles University)
Professor Jitka Malečková works at the Department of Near Eastern Studies at the Faculty of Arts, Charles University, where she is the guarantor of the Middle Eastern Studies programme and Turkology. Although Professor Malečková's academic background is as a historian of modern history, her publications are valuable for their rich interdisciplinary overlapping into strategic studies, gender studies, and literary history. Examples include the recently published English monograph "The Turk" in the Czech Imagination (1870s-1923), published by Brill, or the study Attitudes and Action: Public Opinion and the Occurrence of International Terrorism (with Alan Krueger), published in the prestigious journal Science and widely cited in foreign publications.
She also deals with the current topic of relations between Europe and other regions, for example in a publication entitled Central Europe and the Non-European World in the Long 19th Century, which he co-edited with Professor Markéta Křížová (accepted for publication by Frank & Timme, Berlin).
In addition to teaching and research, she is actively involved in university and faculty activities, where he shares his expertise with the academic community, including the youngest generation of academics and PhD students, as well as with the wider public through popularization activities. She was also one of the founding members of the Prague Gender Studies Centre and is involved in the KREAS project - research focused on the foundations and nature of European identity, including comparative studies of non-European civilizations, in a broader cultural perspective.
Professor Jan Trka, Second Faculty of Medicine of Charles University
Professor Trka is an internationally renowned hematooncologist who specialises in research on the biology of childhood leukaemia. He graduated from the Faculty of Paediatrics at Charles University (now the Second Faculty of Medicine of the Charles University) and received his Ph. D. in molecular genetics. He is the head of the Laboratory Centre of the Department of Paediatric Haematology and Oncology at the Second Faculty of Medicine of Charles University and Motol University Hospital in Prague.
In 1995, he founded a laboratory focused on molecular genetic diagnostics and research of childhood leukaemias, which since 1998 has been called CLIP (Childhood Leukaemia Investigation Prague) and has become internationally known and respected. Professor Trka has authored or co-authored more than a hundred publications in international peer-reviewed journals and the CLIP laboratory regularly publishes in the most prestigious journals in the field, such as Leukemia (ranked 1st in Hematology by Web of Science), Blood (ranked 2nd) and Haematologica (ranked 4th).
Since 2008, Professor Trka has also been the first and only Czech to serve on one of the working committees of the American Society of Hematology, the largest and most important international hematology specialty society. In the past, he was the Vice Dean for Science and Research at the Second Faculty of Medicine, actively involved in cultivating the academic environment, and for many years organized the legendary Scientific Conference of the Second Faculty of Medicine.