Palacký University

Research

The Faculty has great creative potential; it can pride itself on a rich portfolio of original scientific results that are pushing the limits of our knowledge and multilateral international cooperation. Some of the research teams rank very high in the international context. According to the methodology of the Czech Research, Development and Innovation Council, the Faculty of Science ranked fifth in 2011 among all faculties and scientific institutes in the Czech Republic. In 2010, the faculty ranked sixth. Among the students of the Faculty of Science, there are winners of prestigious awards, such as the Česká hlavička (Czech Mind) Award or Scopus Young Researcher Award. The faculty is very successful in obtaining national as well as international grants.

Within the framework of the operational program Research and Development for Innovation, the faculty obtained two important projects and is building two new research centres: The Centre for the Region Haná for Biotechnological and Agricultural Research and The Regional Centre of Advanced Technologies and Materials.

Ornithology

The Laboratory of Ornithology focuses on the main trends in its field: speciation and hybridisation (Science 2007, Molecular Ecology 2009), brood parasitism (e.g., explaining why a cuckoo does not parasitise common and noticeable species of potential hosts – J. Anim. Ecol. 2011, the discovery of a chemical basis of cuckoo’s egg mimicry – Proc. R. Soc. 2012, image 1), parental investments and maternal effects (Biol. Rev. 2011, Molecular Ecology 2011) and the importance of predation in the evolutionary process (Oikos 2010, Ecography 2011).

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Molecular Phylogeny

The Laboratory of Molecular Phylogeny is equipped for high-throughput DNA sequencing. It focuses on the reconstruction of phylogeny, phylogeography, and the evolution of mimicry and neoteny in model groups (Science 2007, Evolution 2010, Molecular Ecology 2010, Nucleic Acid Research 2010) and the classification of organisms (Systematic Entomology 2009, Cladistics 2012). In 2009, the laboratory’s research received an award from the President of the Grant Agency of the Czech Republic for the best project financed by that foundation. Both laboratories cooperate on international research projects.

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Non-classical states of light and optical methods for tomographic reconstruction

The Department of Optics has been focusing for 20 years on research of which the results have been of international importance. They are regularly published in prominent journals such as Phys. Rev. Lett., Opt. Lett. and Opt. Express. This is research in the theoretical and in the experimental field on the border between optics and quantum informatics – e.g. optical information processing based on protocols of quantum tomography, non-diffractive and vortex structures, tomographic analysis of the vortex states of light with their possible application for super-precise measurement, the vortex encoding of information, transfer of momentum and angular momentum of light, optical and digital imaging or detection and reconstruction of the optical signal phase.

Among the most significant results of the research are the first design and the experimental realisation of vortex information transmission, the correlation reconstruction of 3D objects with resolution below the diffraction limit, the formulation of the fundamental relations of uncertainty for vortex quantum states, experimental quantum reconstruction of partially coherent fields and a new method of the characterisation of complex quantum systems based on entropic information principles. The team actively cooperates with colleagues in Madrid, Erlangen, Vienna, Glasgow and Singapore.

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Quantum Optics and Quantum Informatics

Quantum Optics and Quantum Informatics at the Department of Optics are among the leading European research institutes for quantum information transfer and processing. They have many years of experience in the field, in both theoretical and experimental research. They deal with design and optical implementation of quantum gates, i.e. the elementary circuits for quantum information processing and quantum computation.

The department also focuses on quantum information transfer, including methods of quantum cryptography. The scientists study the effect and the possibility of the reduction of quantum noise – e.g., they proposed a “noiseless quantum amplifier”. Both discrete systems and continuous variable systems are objects of study. They study the non-classical states of light, e.g. states with a certain number of photons, entangled states, squeezed states and other exotic states as well. It is fascinating research, concerning the fundamentals of Quantum Theory. The results are published in prestigious international journals. In the last 5 years, three papers have been published in Nature Physics, one in Nature Photonics, one in Rev. Mod. Phys., fourteen in Phys. Rev. Let., and more than seventy-five in Phys. Rev. A.

In the past 5 years, members of the team have received 8 prestigious awards. The two most important in recent years have been the Award from the Minister of Education of the Czech Republic for Research in the Field of Quantum Information and Quantum Optics (doc. J. Fiurášek, 2010) and the Award from the Grant Agency of the Academy of Science of the Czech Republic (doc. R. Filip, 2011). The team cooperates with colleagues from Germany, Austria, Italy, Denmark, Japan, Spain and other countries.

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Analysis of Biomacromolecular Channels

Since 2004, members of the Department of Physical Chemistry (http://fch.upol.cz), led by prof. Otyepka, have been participating in the development of a system for analysis of biomacromolecular channels and pores (BMC Bioinformatics, 2007; more than 200 citations), i.e., the design of algorithms and their implementation in software that allows autonomous navigation, e.g. inside proteins (http://mole.upol.cz, Nucleic Acids Res., 2012). The system for example defines access paths to the enzymes’ active sites, thus allowing intentional mutation of enzymes for bioengineering applications (Nature Chem. Biol., 2009) or understanding important aspects of drug metabolism (Curr. Drug Metab., 2012). In the field of the biomacromolecular research, they have been cooperating with leading Czech scientists, e.g. with Prof. Pavel Hobza, who received the Česká Hlava [Czech Mind] Prize in 2008, but also with a number of foreign institutions such as the University of Cambridge, Imperial College London and the University of Michigan. Since 2012 they have also been participating in research projects of the Centre of Excellence.

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Nanomaterials

Synthesis, characterization and application of nanomaterials are at the forefront of the research at the Department of Physical Chemistry. The works on the preparation, antibacterial activity and toxicity of silver nanoparticles (J. Phys. Chem. B, 2006, more than 400 citations) and works on hybrid materials with silver nanoparticles, which find application, for example in medical imaging (Biomaterials, 2011) have been widely recognized by the worldwide scientific community. They also focus on the preparation of carbon nanomaterials (Chem. Rev., 2012), particularly carbon quantum dots (Chem. Matter, 2008) and graphene (Small, 2009). Scientists from laboratories in Olomouc have also prepared the thinnest insulator – fluorographene (Small, 2010) and they have theoretically designed an analogue semiconductor (J. Chem. Phys., 2012).

It is one of the leading laboratories in the field of synthesis and use of nanoparticles of iron and iron oxide (Chem. Matter, 2011), which can be used for groundwater remediation, degradation of chemical warfare agents, for combating cyanobacteria (Environ. Sci. Technol., 2012) or for medical diagnosis by magnetic resonance imaging (Biomaterials, 2009).

The department focuses on cooperation with leading international laboratories – e.g. Cornell University, the Florida Institute of Technology, Tokyo University and EPFL Lausanne. In 2011, the research programme leader of the nanomaterials research and the general director of RCPTM, (www.rcptm.com) Prof. Zbořil, received a Czech Ministry of Education Youth and Sports Award for extraordinary results achieved in the field of research, experimental development and innovations.

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Methods of Chemical Analysis

The Department of Analytical Chemistry focuses its research on the development of new methods for identification of metabolites and for identification and determination of controlled substances, such as drugs or precursors of chemical warfare agents. Scientists at the department are trying to define new approaches to food safety and detection of food adulteration, e.g. use of microcolumn high-performance liquid chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry for wine quality testing, based on anthocyanin dye profiles; another example is cheese authenticity verification (“cheese fingerprinting”) by infrared spectroscopy. They are developing analytical instrumentation and studying the corresponding basic physicochemical processes; e.g., new modifications of ion sources for mass spectrometry and their applications were proposed. New types of detectors using phospholipid membranes are also being developed at the department, as well as a new design of the mercury-drop electrode.

Another significant part of the research is the use of inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry and laser ablation for the study of surfaces of geological, archaeological and clinical materials. The group of electromigration methods is focused on the analysis of microorganisms and characterization of nanoparticles by capillary electrophoresis. Members of the Department of Analytical Chemistry also conduct contract research funed by the industrial sector this line of research is centred mainly around the development of analytical methods and measurements for manufacturing companies.

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Bioinorganic Chemistry

The team at the Department of Inorganic Chemistry focuses their research on several areas: what could be considered the most significant is the study of biologically active coordination compounds of selected transition metals which exhibit anti-tumour, anti-inflammatory or anti-diabetic activity. The most significant results of the research have been obtained with the series of coordination compounds of platinum, which demonstrated much higher anti-tumour efficiency on human cancer cell models (in vitro) in comparison with clinically used platinum based cytostatic drugs such as Cisplatin, Oxaliplatin and Carboplatin.

Another important finding is that the studied compounds are effective on Cisplatin-resistant cancer cells. The originality of these complexes, and especially their biological properties with potential pharmaceutical use, has led to a series of publications in renowned international journals and two national patents: “Cyclobutane-1,1-dicarboxylato complexes of platinum with N6-benzyladenine derivatives, method of their preparation and use of these complexes as drugs in anticancer treatment” and “Oxalato complexes of platinum with N6-benzyladenine derivatives, method of their preparation and use of these complexes as drugs in anticancer treatment” which legally protect the methods of preparation of the above-mentioned substances and their possible use as drugs in anti-cancer treatment.

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Methods of relational data analysis

The Department of Computer Science has long been developing methods for relational data analysis. The department ranks among the world’s leading institutions in relational data theory and analysis. The results of the members of the Department of Computer Science have been frequently cited abroad. The most significant results include a new method for factor analysis in binary data which is being further developed at present. The method is used to determine relevant factors in huge amounts of data – i.e., the “determinants”—which are essential for understanding the nature of often very complex data. The revelation of the factors contributes to faster and better quality data processing. The new method is based on a theoretical result that constructively describes the optimal factors in the data. Results have been published in leading computer science journals.

Another significant research direction is the development of fast algorithms for relational data analysis. A team of authors from the Department of Computer Science (P. Krajča, J. Outrata, V. Vychodil) received an award at the 2009 ICCS Conference for the fastest algorithm for computing certain formulae from data, essential for many methods of data analysis. The results have been presented e.g. at the prominent ICDM Conference in 2011 and they were published in the journal Annals of Mathematics and Artificial Intelligence. A new, promising area of research is the application of knowledge of cognitive psychology in the methods of data analysis. In 2011, the leading American publishing house, MIT Press, published the book Concepts and Fuzzy Logic, a co-author of which is R. Bělohlávek from the Department of Computer Science. The book, whose authors include renowned experts in cognitive psychology from UC Berkeley and City U. of London, presents the latest results in this field.

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Hyperfractals

Motivated by the needs of quantitative linguistics, the Department of Mathematical Analysis and Applications of Mathematics introduced the study of a new class of geometrical objects – hyperfractals. Unlike more classical fractals (i.e., infinitely intricate objects whose dimensions may be in non-integers), visualisation of hyperfractals is very difficult and it is possible only in some cases. The results have been published in prestigious international journals.

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Quantum structures and multiple-valued logic structures

One of the main research directions of the Department of Algebra and Geometry is the study of quantum structures and structures of multiple-valued logic. The department deals with mathematical objects used in the mathematical formalisation of quantum mechanics phenomena and multiple-value logic. The department investigates, for example, their algebraic properties and the issue of the existence of “states”. The results have been published in prestigious international journals (e.g. Fuzzy Sets and Systems and Algebra Universalis).

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Atlas Cartography

The Department of Geoinformatics is the most prominent Czech academic institution in atlas cartography. It is renowned for its production of thematic scientific atlases; publishing activity in the field of cartography; organising special events; and scientific education of young cartographers. The Faculty of Science has produced, for example, the Climate Atlas of Czechia and the Phenological Atlas of Czechia.

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Last update: 16. 01. 2014, Daniel Agnew