Skip to main content

Establishing Laboratory of Advanced Materials at the Comenius University

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - LAMatCU (Establishing Laboratory of Advanced Materials at the Comenius University)

Reporting period: 2019-12-01 to 2021-12-31

Comenius University (CU) in Bratislava is considered to be the top university in Slovakia. However, in terms of commonly used international metrics, its performance is severely lagging behind similar universities within the EU. This is documented by various global rankings in which CU is typically ranked at 500th place or even lower. Due to the ongoing lack of adequate financial resources in education and research, not only CU, but the entire Slovak higher education system has struggled to reach international competitiveness within the European Research Area (ERA). As a result, outstanding researchers are not seeking long-term employment at CU, which leads to a severe brain drain from Slovakia. Reversing this trend requires a long-term, sustained effort in which creation of a competitive and attractive research environment will play a key role.

The main goal of the project is to help in addressing this challenge by establishing at CU a world-class interdisciplinary research laboratory focused on advanced materials research. The new laboratory, Laboratory for Advanced Materials (LAM), will be led by an internationally recognized scientist, an ERA Chair holder, identified and recruited through a broad international search. Establishment of LAM is expected to:
• strengthen the potential and the contribution of CU in the area of materials research in the wider ERA in tight connection to the central idea of the Work Programme - Spreading Excellence and Widening Participation
• help counteracting the eminent brain drain taking place in Slovakia by attracting and retaining brilliant young researchers from both Slovakia and abroad
• strengthen the position of CU as a leading research and educational institution in Slovakia and elevate its significance in Europe.

The structure and management of LAM is designed to ensure its future self-sustainability and continuity of its research. Project funds are to be utilized to establish LAM and maintain its operations for an initial period, during which following actions are to be taken to secure its future financial sustainability:
• top-quality research personnel are to be recruited and, where necessary, trained in the relevant areas of materials research
• scientific collaborations with internationally recognized research institutions are to be established
• research grants connected to the area of research interests are to be applied for
• external collaborations with industry are to be actively sought
• opportunities to utilize research outputs as intellectual property and patents are to be exploited
• public outreach activities are to be focused on stimulating interest and engagement among the most talented students from Slovakia and abroad

Within this scheme, the project funding is to serve as the initial kick-start of a new internationally recognized research facility, LAM, establishing materials research program within the CU, and providing positive long-term effect on the status of research excellence in Slovakia.
During the Reporting Periods 1 & 2 covering the first 3 years of the project following advances were made towards the project objectives:
• ERA Chair, LAM director was recruited through a broad international search.
• ERA Chair and the new LAM director developed a detailed research plan focused on advanced materials research, built on his previous international research experience
• Completion of the construction of the state-of-the-art chemistry laboratory for the preparation of advanced materials and nanomaterials
• Establishing operations of the Laboratory for Advanced Materials via:
• Procurement of critical equipment and development of key experimental capabilities for preparation and characterization of advanced materials
- Establishing safety practices and documentation using principles of Integrated Safety Management, following the best practices from US national laboratories; the procedures and documents were recommended as a model to the National Health Authority of Slovak Republic
- Establishing local collaborations essential for the characterization of prepared advanced materials, complementary to the LAM internal capabilities
- Establishing a high-quality international LAM technical team via international recruiting, hiring and on-site and external training
• Securing multiple research grants from the main Slovak grant agencies
• Establishment of local and international scientific collaborations including multiple prestigious international institutions
• Production of scientific output in form of ten publications in high impact journals (all open access), with a measurable impact on the quality of the overall scientific output of the CU
• Delivery of fourteen invited and contributed scientific lectures promoting materials science and LAM and CU
• Generating awareness of LAM and materials science by establishing media presence (website, social media)
• Delivery of multiple public lectures by ERA Chair and invited guests promoting materials science, LAM and CU
• Co-organization and active participation in numerous outreach and recruiting activities aimed at high school students, with hundreds of participants, such as summer schools, open days, correspondence seminars
• Stimulating interest in application for EU grants among the CU faculty (including LAM founding departments), with nine submitted EU grants, one successful and two pending.
Substantial advances in research activities following the three major research topics as laid out in LAM Research Programme were achieved during the Reporting Periods 1 & 2:
• Construction of new state-of-the-art laboratory for the preparation of advanced materials and nanomaterials
• Establishing of the operations for a new advanced materials laboratory
• LAM safety standards recommended as future standards for the national health authorities
• Establishing a high-quality international LAM technical team via international recruiting, hiring and on-site and external training
• Securing multiple research grants from the main Slovak grant agencies
• Establishing local and international scientific collaborations including prestigious international institutions
• Production of scientific output in form of ten publications in high impact journals (all open access), with a measurable impact on the quality of the overall scientific output of the Faculty of Natural Sciences
• Delivery of fourteen invited and contributed scientific lectures promoting materials science and LAM and CU
• Marketing LAM and materials science by establishing media presence (websites, social media)
• Delivering multiple public lectures by ERA Chair and invited guests promoting materials science, LAM and CU
• Co-organizing and active participation in numerous outreach and recruiting activities aimed at high school students, with hundreds of participants, such as summer schools, open days, correspondence seminars
• Impact on the interest in the application for EU grants among the CU faculty
LAM cover image