The ESET Science Award recognizes its new winners. They were selected by an international commission, headed by Nobel prize winner Kip Thorne, on the basis of a demanding evaluation process. Fedor Šimkovic was named laureate in the category Outstanding Personality of Slovak Science, Tamás Csanádi was named winner in the Outstanding Young Scientist under 35 category, and Ivan Varga became the Outstanding University Teacher laureate.
The aim of the ESET Science Award is to highlight personalities within Slovak science whose contribution is significant not only for Slovakia, but also in the international scientific research arena. The winners of the scientific categories: Exceptional Personality of Slovak Science and Exceptional Young Scientist under 35 were selected by an international commission and based on demanding criteria, such as current scientific research results and publications, measurable scientometric data, involvement in international scientific projects, communication and popularization, cooperation with other scientific disciplines, the principles of scientific ethics, the potential impact of scientific work on other areas of life, and its use as a touchstone reference by close collaborators and students.
The International Commission was chaired by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Professor Kip Thorne, one of three awarded scientists involved in the first direct detection and observation of gravitational waves. Professor Thorne is one of the world’s leading experts on the astrophysical implications of Einstein’s theory of relativity. He is actively involved in the popularization of science, including writing books and collaborating on the creation of Christopher Nolan’s popular film Interstellar, in which he was not only a consultant but also a co-author of the original film concept.
“Science and technology based on scientific research are key to solving problems such as pandemics or global warming – they can save the world,” Professor Thorne stated during his speech to the scientific community in Slovakia. “I consider it equally important to encourage respect among both politicians and the public in science, and in the views of scientists. We also need a new generation of world leaders who will lead the world to responsible and science-based solutions. The key benefit of the ESET Science Award is this inspiration, and its approach to highlighting the importance of science for society.”
Other esteemed members of the commission are Czech chemistry expert Hana Dvořáková, British biologist Fiona Watt, German physicist Rolf-Dieter Heuer, German chemist Ralf Riedel and Hungarian mathematician Tibor Krisztin. The laureate for the Outstanding University Teacher category was chosen by representatives of Slovak scientific universities. The winners were announced to the public through an online statement on Wednesday, October 14, 2020.
Fedor Šimkovic, laureate in the category Exceptional Personality of Slovak Science
Fedor Šimkovic, CSc., works at the Department of Nuclear Physics and Biophysics, Faculty of Mathematics, Physics and Informatics, Comenius University in Bratislava, where he leads a team of young scientists and doctoral students. As part of his scientific work, he deals with neutrinos, which are among the most widespread elementary particles in the universe. They arise in nuclear reactions in the Sun (in the stars), in the collisions of cosmic rays with our atmosphere, in the decay of heavy nuclei inside the Earth, but also in our bodies.
In his research, Šimkovic uses atomic nuclei as a laboratory to study the fundamental properties of neutrinos. Its activities cover the fields of atomic physics, nuclear physics and particle physics, with an expansion into astrophysics. These areas of research are interconnected by a unique process of neutron-free double beta decay of nuclei (0vββ), which has not yet been observed and is of great interest to the scientific community. Its aim is a comprehensive theoretical description of this process in connection with the issue of theories of grand unification, the structure of nuclei and atoms.
Fedor Šimkovic’s portfolio also includes a number of international collaborations. He gained most of his scientific contacts during stays at Karls-Eberhard University in Tübingen, Germany. Cooperation with the International Institute of Technical and Experimental Physics of the Czech Technical University in Prague is also very valuable for him.
Šimkovic has published many articles with foreign colleagues, for example from CALTECH, the University of Ioannina, the University of Valparaiso, University College London, the ITEP Institute in Moscow and many others. For the last seven years, he has been one of the main organizers of the Bruno Pontecorv International Summer School in the field of neutrino physics, at which renowned scientists give lectures.
Tamás Csanádi, laureate in the category Outstanding Young Scientist under 35 category
MSc. Tamás Csanádi, PhD., from the Institute of Materials Research of the Slovak Academy of Sciences in Košice, investigates the deformation behavior of ceramics on a micro / nano scale in order to develop new advanced structural ceramics with improved plasticity. As a result, the materials can have increased reliability, and could thus serve as an alternative to metals, but with a higher melting point and better hardness and strength.
The new structural ceramics could improve quality and durability of a number of types of machinery – usually fabricated from metal. In addition, the ceramics could be used as a protective layer for materials exposed to extremely high temperatures (above 2000°C) – as metals cannot withstand such temperatures.
One of Csanádi’s greatest achievements has been the discovery that on a microscopic scale and under specific conditions, grains of ceramic material can deform. Using micro / nanomechanical testing, he found that ceramics were not as brittle as thought and even likely to bend. The goal of this research is to figure out how to achieve this behavior on a larger scale, and to enable the production of materials of required size(s). Csanádi began his doctoral studies at Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) in Budapest and continued his research activities at the Institute of Materials Research of the Slovak Academy of Sciences in Košice.
Ivan Varga, laureate in the category Outstanding University Teacher
Ivan Varga works at the Medical Faculty of Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia. His research team was one of the first in the world to describe the wide lymphatic spaces in the fallopian tube wall and the occurrence of specialized immune system cells suppressing defense reactions in the fallopian tube lining. The team now builds on this basic research and explores how the new knowledge could be used to treat female infertility. They also managed to confirm the connection between some congenital heart defects and altered microscopic structures in children.
In recent years, Ivan Varga has also been intensively involved in the innovation of nomenclature used in microscopic anatomy. Within the framework of the international expert program FIPAT, he and his team strive to help unify nomenclature worldwide – with scientists from other countries – so that experts, regardless of their focus or nationality, can always communicate precisely. Varga perceives pedagogical and scientific work at research universities as connected vessels, as teachers provide students with the latest knowledge, to which they also contribute through their own research. In his view, developing disciplines are necessary to pass on the latest information. He thinks that a good teacher must highlight the vast amount of knowledge that the student will use in practice. He identifies with his father’s life credo: that it would be a tragedy if students were not smarter than their teachers.
Richard Marko, CEO of ESET, comments that “all the winners, but also the finalists of the award, are an example of how contemporary science in Slovakia should look. Their scientific work is connected to international research and looks at problems from the perspective of multiple scientific disciplines. Their research also corresponds to current problems faced by both Slovaks and the international community at large. I congratulate the winners and wish them further success in their scientific work.” You can find more information at www.esetscienceaward.sk
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