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More Grants for Young Scientists
August 2, 2010   
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The Foundation for Polish Science (FNP) has handed out a new batch of grants to the country’s most talented young scientists via its Start program.

The foundation is a self-financing, nonprofit, nongovernmental organization that is the largest source of science funding in Poland outside of the state budget.

This year, 159 researchers, all of them under 30 years of age, won grants. Each received zl.24,000. One outstanding researcher won an additional grant of zl.12,000. It will be up to the recipients to decide how they intend to spend the money, the foundation said.

The prizewinners will be able to take part in the annual Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings, which provide an internationally recognized forum for the transfer of knowledge between generations of scientists, under a special agreement between the Foundation for Polish Science and the Meetings organizers.

The prizewinners

Most of the prizewinners, 60 in all, come from Warsaw scientific institutions. Another 30 come from Cracow and 16 from Wrocław. Some will be receiving grants for the first time; some also received grants last year.

Radosław Adamczak, from the Department of Mathematics, Information Technology and Mechanics at the University of Warsaw, is the outstanding researcher who won an additional prize, granted this year for the first time. The sum of zl.36,000 awarded to Adamczak is the largest grant in the history of the Start program.

Adamczyk’s field of study is the theory of probability and its application in functional analysis, asymptotic convex geometry, statistics, and combinatorics, a branch of mathematics concerning the study of finite or countable discrete structures.

Some of Adamczyk’s work has been published in the Journal of the American Mathematical Society, one of the most prestigious mathematical journals in the world. The Annals of Probability has also twice published Adamczyk’s work. The young researcher has won many awards and is often invited to participate in scientific conferences in countries such as the United States, Canada and Britain. He has won Poland’s top award for young mathematicians, the Kazimierz Kuratowski Prize, and in 2007 the Institute of Mathematics of the Polish Academy of Sciences singled out his Ph.D. thesis for praise.

The Start program

Prof. Maciej Żylicz, the president of the FNP, congratulated all the winners of this year’s Start program at the award ceremony April 24. He pointed out that the number of award-winning mathematicians was higher than in previous years.

Żylicz said, “We have awarded seven grants to young mathematicians, which is testament to the quality of research this year. The judges gave them unusually high marks.”

The Start program is targeted at young researchers, who although are just starting out on their careers, have already achieved success in their chosen fields. The grants are awarded in recognition of scientific achievements to date and provide funds for continued career development.

Grant applicants must be able to meet three basic criteria: not be older than 30 years of age, work in or be a Ph.D. student at a Polish research institution, and have publications to their credit in recognized scientific periodicals. Applicants must be put forward for the program by the institution in which they work or study or attach a recommendation from the head of that institution to their application.

The Start jury is made up of a team of independent experts, each a recognized authority in their given field. Each application is assessed by at least three judges and of greatest importance are scientific achievements to date and future research plans.

The highest marks go to those candidates who show creativity, formulate research hypotheses, develop theories and applications. What a candidate has had published and where, particularly in renowned international periodicals, also weighs heavily with the judges. The candidates are assessed on their research plans, how significant these will be to science as a whole, research schedule and preparation progress, creativity and level of independence.

1,968 winners in 18 years

The total number of Start winners since the program’s launch 18 years ago has now reached 1,968. This year’s program attracted 995 candidates and grants will be paid out to a total sum of over zl.3.8 million. Among the winners are 13 chemists, 10 physicists, eight engineers, seven mathematicians, seven literature experts, six biochemists, and six medical biologists.

The prizewinners’ fields of research include such diverse areas as clinical psychology, neuropsychology, film studies, archeology, new-media research, urban planning, culture studies, and pharmacology.

One of the prizewinners, Michał Harciarek from the Psychology Institute of the University of Gdańsk, is researching behavioral disorders caused by poor organ functioning. His Ph.D. thesis dealt with the effect on cognitive function of a successful kidney transplant operation in patients with chronic kidney disease. Marcin Adamczak, from the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, received a grant for his work comparing the Hollywood and European styles of film production. Another grant winner, Paweł Wiczling, from the Medical University of Gdańsk, is researching automated selection methods for use in the production of pharmaceuticals.
Julia Pawłowska
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