J. Heyrovský Institute Fills ERA Chair Position

J. HEYROVSKÝ INSTITUTE FILLS ERA Chair POSITION: Štefan Vajda to Manage New Nano-Catalysis Department

A valued new team member is joining the J. Heyrovský Institute of Physical Chemistry to lead its new department. Dr Štefan Vajda will be in charge of the Nano-Catalysis Department, which will allow the Institute to focus more closely on research into nano-technologies and nano-materials and their possible utilisation in both industrial and environmental fields. Dr Vajda’s hiring is the result of last year’s successful application for the significant ERA Chairs grant, which provided financial resources amounting to EUR 2.5 million to make the department a reality. The goal of the ERA Chairs programme is to allow European institutions to acquire first-class academics who can elevate specific research departments to the highest levels worldwide.

PRAGUE – 16 January 2019

Last year, the J. Heyrovský Institute of Physical Chemistry declared a recruitment process to fill the position of head of its new Nano-Catalysis Department. This position was advertised on the websites of several prestigious science magazines, and a total of ten scientists from all over the world applied for the position in the two-round recruitment process. ‘The transparent recruitment process for the head of the new Nano-Catalysis Department had multiple criteria, the most significant being scientific excellence in the field of nano-catalysis, key managerial capabilities, visions for the operation of the new department, and, last but not least, motivations for working at the J. Heyrovský Institute,’ said the director of the Institute, Martin Hof. The selection panel agreed upon Dr Vajda as the most suitable candidate, as did the members of the international counselling body of the J. Heyrovský Chair project, which consists of well-known scientists from all over Europe. Dr Vajda started working at the Heyrovský Institute on 1 January of this year.

Led by Dr Vajda, the Nano-Catalysis Department will be focused on studying the catalytic properties of metal parts smaller than one nanometre, which are known as clusters. These particles, about a thousand times thinner than a human hair, can exhibit unique catalytic properties, including significant acceleration of chemical reactions. Research at the new department will be predominantly focused on identifying and understanding the function of new catalysts in a variety of processes, including industrial and environmental applications. The removal of carbon monoxide from car exhaust or the conversion of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide to chemical products, including fuels, are particularly promising example.

The scientific team led by Dr Vajda is expected to also include six other scientists. Five positions have been defined directly in the text of the project, and the sixth will be provided by the J. Heyrovský Institute. Recruitment processes for those positions are still under way.

‘Since the establishment of the department with Dr Vajda in charge, we’re mostly expecting further development of this scientific area, which has thus far not seen that much research. Our Institute has been achieving great long-term results in the research of chemical catalysis, which is why we consider it a logical step to focus on this new, very important branch of catalysis,’ Martin Hof added.

Dr Habil. RNDr Stefan Vajda, CSc, has had a rich scientific career beginning with his graduation from the Faculty of Science at Charles University and his earning a CSc diploma in physical chemistry. Already as a scientific worker at the Faculty of Science, he spent a year at the University of Chicago as a Fulbright Scholar, continuing the research of ultra-quick processes in molecules and solvents. After his return from the United States and another brief stint at Charles University, he moved on to Freie Universität Berlin, where he researched ultra-quick processes in clusters. It was in Berlin where Vajda habilitated in the field of experimental physics. In 2002, he founded a new research method at Argonne National Laboratory in the United State focusing on basic studies of catalytic properties of clusters under realistic reaction conditions. During his years in the United States, he was also active at Yale University and the University of Chicago. Just before his return to Prague and joining the J. Heyrovský Institute, he had worked at the US Department of Energy, where he was in charge of a range of university scientific projects as part of the Chemical Separation Program for chemical, geological, and biological sciences.

The J. Heyrovský Institute of Physical Chemistry looks to develop the legacy of the Nobel Prize laureate and professor Jaroslav Heyrovský in fields related to physical chemistry. Over two hundred scientists are engaged in excellent basic and applied research at this public research institute, from promising young researchers to distinguished and world-renowned experts.  Theoretically discovered and experimentally acquired knowledge about physical–chemical events taking place within molecules and atoms is significant for industrial catalysis, energy production and storage, healthcare, and the environment.

Author: Tomáš Hergeth, PR.Konleadektor