Solemn awards ceremony of the National Institute of Biology
On Monday, November 7, 2011, a second solemn awards ceremony of the National Institute of Biology was held at the Biological Centre on Večna pot 111 in Ljubljana. The awards are named after Prof. Dr. Miroslav Zei, who was among the founders of the Institute. Last year, the National Institute of Biology (NIB) celebrated its 50th anniversary and for the first time in its history gave awards of Prof. Dr. Miroslav Zei to individuals for their extraordinary achievements in fundamental and applicable research in the field of life sciences and in the field of realising the vision and mission of NIB.
The solemn ceremony was also attended by the minister of agriculture, forestry and food, Dejan Židan, M. Sc. In his solemn address, he exposed the global importance of food sources and especially safe food especially due to the increasing population of our planet. Safe food is also one of important fields, in which NIB co-operates with the Ministry of Food. The term healthy food has many underlying activities. The cases of genetically modified organisms (GMO) are widely known and NIB is very active in developing know-how and technologies used in detecting undesired GMOs, helps the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food in preparing measures and directives for co-existence and food control. A not less important aspect of healthy food is care for drinking water, which extends from knowing eco-systems, from which it originates, through discovering poisons, mutagens and various microorganisms harmful to humans and plants, to developing the methods of cleaning. New commercial ways and climatic changes cause a quick introduction of new pathogens and destroy the balance in ecosystems. The minister thanked the associates of NIB for their co-operation in the past and asked them for further assistance in critical an acute issues in the country, like the threatening epidemic of grapevine yellows, mass bee deaths, fireblight etc., which present a threat to Slovene economy as well.
NIB awarded the following awards:
Grand Award of Miroslav Zei for research work in the field of life and environmental sciences was received by Prof. Dr. Alenka Malej.Prof. Dr. Alenka Malej is head researcher in the field of ecology of littoral waters and sea biology. Her basic research activity concerns sea plankton with orientation to ecology and biology of gelatinous plankton. The results of her scientific studies were published in scientific articles that were quoted more than 700 times. As Head of the Marine Biology Station Piran of the National Institute of Biology she has co-ordinated multidisciplinary work of the group for over twenty years and managed as many as 23 international projects in the field of sea research and monitoring. She has been a national co-ordinator of the programme Mediterranean Action Plan at the Environmental Programme of the United Nations for years and the President of the National Committee of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO. Since 1985, she has been member of numerous co-ordinating committees for the protection and monitoring of the Adriatic and Mediterranean Sea and was appointed to an expert group in 2010 for the preparation of paragraph 180 for the resolution of the General Assembly of UNO on oceans and maritime law. She was a visiting researcher and teacher at respectful maritime institutions and international schools. She participated in numerous international scientific meetings as invited lecturer or organiser. She had a decisive role in signing a co-operation agreement between the National Institute of Biology and the leading French research and medical university Pierre et Marie Curie. She was awarded a medal of the mentioned university for her contribution to the signing of the agreement. Together with her colleagues Dr. Jadran Faganeli and Dr. Neda Fanuko, Professor Malej received an award of the Boris Kidrič fund. This fund is now called Zois awards for scientific achievements.
The prize of Miroslav Zei for extraordinary achievements in the field of research activity of the institute was given to Prof. Dr. Jurij Piškur and assistant professor Dr. Rade Injac.The main research fields of Prof. Dr. Jurij Piškur, full professor of molecular genetics at the Department of Biology at the University of Lund in Sweden cover metabolism of nucleic acid precursors, genetic treatment, comparative genomics and molecular evolution of yeasts. In the past 5 years Prof. Piškur published 46 articles out of a total of more than 120, among which also publications in the most respected scientific journals. Some of his discoveries were patented, he is co-author of three books and co-founder of three spin-off biotechnological companies. A special acknowledgement of his research achievements is his 2005 election to the Royal Fisiographic Society in Lund, one of the Swedish royal academies. Although Professor Piškur has lived and scientifically worked abroad for over 25 years, he has maintained professional and personal contacts with his home country. Since 2010, he has been active in the Committee for Science of the Council for Slovenes Abroad as a consulting body of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia. Since 2009, he has been co-operating with the laboratory for microbiology of the Maritime Biology Station of the National Institute of Biology in the field of research of maritime microorganisms in adapting to modified environmental factors.
With his innovative scientific approach and use of the latest pharmacological and analysis methods assistant professor Dr. Rade Injac managed to prove a potential use of fulerenol as an organ-protective agent in the therapy of cancer diseases with doxyrubicine. His work has set foundations for numerous further research of pharmacological applicability of fulerenols and made an important step towards implementation of active ingredients of this type in medical practice. His scientific research is excellent, which is shown in 34 scientific articles in the past five years, which have been quoted more than 240 times. His knowledge of pharmaceutical technology is reflected in four international patent applications.
The award of the National Institute of Biology for an extraordinary doctoral thesis in the field of research activities of the Institute was given to Dr. Jana Petković.
For the first time in the history, the National Institute of Biology awarded a prize for an extraordinary doctoral thesis defended in the past academic year. This year's award was given to Dr. Jana Petković. The results of her doctoral thesis with the title Mechanisms of Toxic and Genotoxic Activity of Titanium Oxide Nanoparticles were published in five scientific articles and a chapter in a book published by an international publishing house. She was the first author of three articles and the mentioned chapter. Two articles were published in the most eminent journals from this field. Jana Petković was also awarded a Krka Prize for her doctoral thesis.
At the ceremony, all young researchers of NIB who obtained PhD titles in the period from January 1, 2010 to September 30, 2011 were mentioned:
Dr. Irena Bertoncelj, Dr. Branko Bogunović, Dr. Urška Čepin, Dr. Maarten De Groot, Dr. Duška Delić, Dr. Mateja Grego, Dr. Saša Kenig, Dr. Urška Koce, Dr. Polona Kogovšek, Dr. Borut Mavrič, Dr. Petra Nikolić, Dr. Franja Pajk, Dr. Jana Petković, Dr. Manca Pirc, Dr. Anja Pucer, Dr. Tomaž Rijavec, Dr. Ana Rotter and Dr. Alenka Žunič.