Publish Date: 03.04.2020

Category: News from the University

The European Commission has announced the results of the open call for the 2019 ERC Advanced Grant. All three established Slovenian researchers that have been awarded this prestigious grant are physicists: Peter Križan and Igor Muševič, who work full-time at the University of Ljubljana Faculty of Mathematics and Physics and part-time at the Josef Stefan Institute, and Matej Praprotnik, a full-time employee at the National Institute of Chemistry and a part-time associate of the University of Ljubljana Faculty of Mathematics and Physics. Among approximately 1,900 applications, the ERC has awarded the grant to 185 projects, including three new Slovenian projects, which demonstrate the success, high quality, and ground-breaking achievements of Slovenian physicists at the global level.

The ERC Advanced Grants support researchers who are already established research leaders with a recognised track record of research achievements in the last ten years. Grants are awarded to individuals based solely on scientific excellence, irrespective of the field of research or host institution. The basic criteria are that the projects provide an original and ground-breaking idea, are ambitious, feasible, and provide important advances in science.

As the project leader, Peter Križan has received this grant for the five-year project FAIME (Flavour Anomalies with Advanced Particle Identification Methods), whose research challenge is to identify new phenomena in particle physics. The project will focus on exploring certain rare decay products stemming from the electron-positron collisions in the Belle II experiment. New, highly advanced charged particle identification methods will also be developed as part of this project, which will be carried out by two teams of physicists: one at the Jožef Stefan Institute and one at the Ljubljana Faculty of Mathematics and Physics.

As the project leader, Igor Muševič was awarded the grant for the five-year project LOGOS (Light-Operated Logic Circuits from Photonic Soft-Matter). The aim of this project is to develop a new technology for producing logic circuits made of liquid crystals and powered exclusively by light. The project extends far beyond the existing technologies and represents an exceptional scientific challenge. If its goals are attained, this would bring about a technological revolution and complete transformation of data centres and optical telecommunications. The project will be carried out by two teams of physicists: one at the Jožef Stefan Institute and one at the Ljubljana Faculty of Mathematics and Physics.

The European Research Council has also awarded the grant to the five-year project MULTraSonicA (Multiscale Modeling and Simulation Approaches for Biomedical Ultrasonic Applications) led by Mateja Praprotnik. The main goal of this project is to use new physical models and intense computer simulations to understand the control of ultrasound-mediated targeted drug delivery or cell activation in tissues, and the physics behind these processes. This is a non-invasive imaging and drug delivery technique that will facilitate the advanced development of biomedical ultrasound applications in treating cancer, various inflammations, cardiovascular and other diseases. This project will be carried out at the Chemistry Institute.

These ERC grants demonstrate the ground-breaking activity and success of Slovenian physicists at the global scale. The projects funded by the ERC allow researchers to develop their ideas and provide them with several years of financial independence in conducting research and setting up and expanding their research teams.

“For a number of years, the University of Ljubljana Faculty of Mathematics and Physics has been offering high-quality and internationally comparable programmes and research excellence at the global scale. All successful researchers who have received the ERC grants are professors, who enable our students to come in contact with top-class science, especially at the higher levels of study. The research projects they lead are conducted at top-quality Slovenian institutes and our faculty, which forms an ideal combination of top-quality research and instruction. In this way, the University of Ljubljana Faculty of Mathematics and Physics also promotes the development of future generations of top-quality Slovenian researchers,” noted Anton Ramšak, Dean of the Ljubljana Faculty of Mathematics and Physics.

The European Research Council began funding projects in 2007. The first ERC funding was awarded to a Slovenian project in 2011, when the meteorologist Nedjeljka Žagar from the Ljubljana Faculty of Mathematics and Physics won the ERC Starting Grant. Then the ERC Advanced Grant was awarded to two physicists, Dragan D. Mihailović (a full-time employee at the Jožef Stefan Institute and a part-time associate of the Ljubljana Faculty of Mathematics and Physics) in 2013, and Tomaž Prosen at the Ljubljana Faculty of Mathematics and Physics in 2016. In 2016, the ERC Advanced Grant was also awarded to Marta Verginella from the Ljubljana Faculty of Arts, who thus became the first established Slovenian female researcher to have won this prestigious grant and the first Slovenian researcher to have been awarded this grant for a project in social sciences and the humanities. In 2017, Matevž Dular from the Ljubljana Faculty of Mechanical Engineering won the ERC Consolidator Grant, and in 2018 Jaka Tušek from the same faculty received the ERC Starting Grant.