Key Research Directions
The Faculty of Science of Palacký University is involved in research in the field of natural sciences, where it successfully develops new knowledge and applications, especially in mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, earth sciences and environmental sciences. It is often an interdisciplinary type of research, not only across the faculty's fields but also across other parts of the university. A great emphasis is placed on cooperation at national and international level. The Faculty of Science can thus be proud of its participation in international consortia, such as CERN-ATLAS, Pierre Auger Observatory, CTA, FAST, or the creation of joint workplaces with institutes of the Czech Academy of Sciences.
Scientific papers from the Faculty of Science are widely published in top scientific journals belonging to prestigious publishing houses, such as the American Chemical Society, Elsevier, Wiley or Nature. The list of 6,600 Highly Cited Researchers from more than 60 countries of the world, according to Clarivate™ 2021, also includes the name of expert in the plant hormones analysis Ondřej Novák from the Laboratory of Growth Regulators, which is a joint workplace of the Faculty of Science and the Institute of Experimental Botany of the Czech Academy of Sciences. In 2022, Professor Radim Filip from the Department of Optics received the František Běhounek Award at the Wallenstein Palace of the Senate of the Czech Republic. This prestigious award is intended for scientists who have contributed to spreading the good name of the Czech Republic in European research and development.
Research in various areas is traditionally supported by grant agencies for basic research, such as the Czech Science Foundation, or research directed towards cooperation with the commercial sector and the transfer of research results into practice, which includes in particular the Technology Agency of the Czech Republic. To a large extent, the faculty is also involved in calls for proposals announced by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports. Within the international projects, the faculty tries to participate in calls under the Horizon 2020 programme, either as coordinators or partners. An example of the development of international cooperation within this programme is the NONGAUSS project, which focuses on collaboration in the field of theoretical non-Gaussian quantum physics with scientific colleagues from the Sorbonne University in Paris and the Technical University of Denmark in Lyngby. The results of the joint research should find future applications, for example, in the design of high-performance computers or in telecommunications. Another example is the ADAPT project, which aims to identify the molecular mechanisms by which potatoes can adapt to combined environmental stresses.
Students at all levels of study are heavily involved in research. Their results are recognized in various national and international competitions, such as the Laurus Award, Award of Spectroscopic Society of Jan Marek Marci, Jean-Marie Lehn Prize, etc. A number of Ph.D. students can boast of having received scholarships at prestigious universities such as Cambridge – UK, ETH Zurich – Switzerland, Max Planck Institute – Germany, or CERN Geneva – Switzerland. They are also often co-authors of published scientific papers.
Research in mathematics focuses on theoretical and computational analysis of mathematical models, development of structural theory of algebraic and geometric systems, and the use of mathematics and statistics in data processing from a wide range of applications. Active research is conducted in the field of differential equations and dynamical systems, applied statistics, data optimization and approximation, differential geometry, or multivalued and quantum logic. In computer science, research is focused on algorithms for challenging problems, computational complexity problems, logic, artificial intelligence and new methods for analysis and processing of relational data. In these areas, our departments are among the leading workplaces on an international scale.
In the field of physics, theoretical and experimental research is carried out in four complementary departments. Researchers at the Department of Optics investigate a wide range of topics in classical and quantum optics and light-matter interaction. These include for instance optical quantum information processing, quantum interaction of light with ensembles of neutral atoms and trapped ions, quantum measurement and tomography, quantum optomechanics, optical super-resolution, spatial light modulation, advanced microscopic methods, or Raman spectroscopy and optical activity. The Department of Experimental Physics has long been devoted to nuclear spectroscopic methods, including Mössbauer spectroscopy, synthesis and characterization of nanomaterials, electron lithography, image information processing, metrology, numerical simulations of physical processes and design of measurement systems. It also offers the study of didactics of physics. The Joint Laboratory of Optics concentrates its research on applied optics, quantum and nonlinear optics and wave optics. Local researchers develop special all-sky cameras and mirrors for telescopes for observatories monitoring the passage of energetic particles through the Earth's atmosphere. They also participate in the ATLAS-CERN project for the study of elementary particle interactions. The Department of Biophysics investigates the role of reactive oxygen species in living systems, the structure-function relationship of protein complexes, biophysical aspects of plant physiology and molecular and cellular pharmacology.
Research in the field of Chemistry is oriented in several directions. One area of research is the development of methods for the preparation of advanced chemical compounds, conjugates and materials, with emphasis on potential applications in the form of drugs with antitumor, antibacterial, antituberculotic, antileishmanial or antiradical activity. Alongside the work in the laboratory, attention is also paid to the use of so-called computational chemistry, where the interactions of various drugs with DNA or cell membranes can be studied using modern computational methods. In addition to medically oriented projects, the focus is also on applications in agriculture or industry closely linked to the development of new materials and technologies, for example in the field of the environment and carbon-neutral energy. Thus, the chemistry departments also focus on the development of new catalysts based on inorganic and organic compounds, which can be further anchored on various polymer supports and nanomaterials. In another area, the optical and magnetic properties of substances that can be used as storage media or sensors are being studied. A significant part of the research is also carried out on living organisms at the molecular level, where the laws of metabolism, developmental processes, defence mechanisms and stress factors are revealed, also using interactions of inorganic or organic low molecular weight compounds, advanced conjugates or nanomaterials. This knowledge is further applied in the breeding of new plant varieties, in the control of parasites and infectious diseases of bees, and in the development of new advanced biotechnological methods. Pushing the limits of research is inherently linked to the development of new analytical methods. Above all, chemical and physical processes useful for the analysis of chemical compounds are being studied. These findings are used to construct new analytical instruments in the field of mass spectroscopy or microscopic imaging methods. Analytical methods are further applied, for example, to the measurement of pharmaceutical samples, disease markers, metabolites, drug detection, and analysis of archaeological samples and works of art.
Biological and ecological fields encompass a wide range of research directions with interdisciplinary overlap. Botanists are dedicated to taxonomy and ecology of plants, algae and cyanobacteria, biotechnological applications, plant genetics or the influence of stress and pathological factors, and research on the gene pool of selected groups of cultivated plants progenitors. Zoologists show excellent results in the field of speciation and hybridization, diversity and phylogeny of beetles and Hymenoptera, evolution of nest parasitism and biodiversity, phylogeography and pathogens of herpetofauna. In the field of ecology and the environment, research is being developed on the population dynamics of mammals, landscape ecology and processes in agricultural landscapes and soils, and in the conservation biology of invertebrates. Cell biologists and geneticists study the mechanism of action of foreign substances on the human organism, inter-drug interactions and antitumor and anti-inflammatory effects of metabolites of the human intestinal microbiome. They also focus on the identification of unknown natural compounds and the preparation of new compounds useful for the therapy of serious human diseases; in particular, they focus on regulatory enzymes from the group of protein kinases. Important are also works on plant hormones and their functioning at the molecular and cellular level. New derivatives generated in the field of natural substance and growth derivatives biology based on knowledge of physiological processes in plants find numerous applications in plant tissue cultures and in sustainable agriculture.
Earth Science researchers work on multidisciplinary projects in a wide range of geographic, geological and environmental disciplines, supported by geographic information systems. The main research directions include the study of the spatial distribution of ecosystems and landscapes on the Earth's surface and the interaction between them, as well as environmental contactless landscape monitoring and modelling of geographical phenomena in a GIS environment, the relationship between humans and the natural environment, development geography, geographical aspects of population migration and mobility, and research on sustainability indicators. Geographers deal with the regional delineation and spatial interactions, issues of urban climate and green infrastructure in cities, renewable energy sources, spatial perception and historical landscapes. Geoinformaticians are among the domestic leaders in atlas cartography, and they also work on ecosystem services modelling, advanced applications of 3D printing, and research on map reading using eye-tracking technology, which is based on the principle of tracking human eye movements. For geologists, research on sedimentary rocks as an archive of information on climate, surface geological processes and pollutant transport is a key topic. Other areas of geological research include the application of mineralogy and petrography in archaeology and regional geological research, economic geology and geophysical research, and the emerging field of natural hydrocarbon deposits. Experts from the Department of Development and Environmental Studies focus on the issues related to all three pillars of sustainable development within the Czech Republic and abroad (ecological, economic and social pillars). The department's research directions include the analysis of development assistance and measurement of sustainable development, development of geo-participatory spatial tools, and projects examining biocultural diversity and ecosystem services of forests in the context of a changing climate. The results of basic and applied research in the multidisciplinary field of Earth Sciences are regularly published in prestigious scientific journals, at international conferences and in the form of professional monographs.