Most Prominent Research Achievements in 2016

University of Ljubljana every year traditionally opens the University Week with the presentation of the most prominent research achievements. The purpose of the event is to emphasize the university’s focus on research and to present those researchers who achieved especially visible results this year.

When selecting the creators of the ten most prominent research achievements of the University of Ljubljana, the commission primarily takes into account international prominence, which is evident from quotations and the influence of the journal in which the work was published. Also affecting the selection are the completed entirety of the achievement, the interest to the wider expert and general public and the benefits of its use.

List of the ten most prominent research achievements of the University of Ljubljana in 2016:

1. The First in the World to Show Interaction of Related Bacillus Subtilis Bacteria Strains

This discovery by a team of researchers from the Biotechnical Faculty of the University of Ljubljana and their colleagues from Harvard University opens new possibilities in the development of probiotics and biofertilizers.

Authors: Polonca Štefanič, Barbara Kraigher, Nick Lyons, Roberto Kolter, Ines Mandić-Mulec
 

A team of researchers from the Biotechnical Faculty of the University of Ljubljana (Polonca Štefanič, Barbara Kraigher and Ines Mandić-Mulec) and their colleagues from Harvard University (Nick Lyons and Roberto Kolter) were the first to show the world that the Bacillus subtilis bacteria strains are implementing kin discrimination. This means that only the swarms of the most closely related strains interact. This research and its findings were published in the renowned journal PNAS and triggered exceptional interest in the international research community, since the descriptions of kin discrimination in microorganisms are extremely rare, and no one had yet examined the kin discrimination in sympatric bacteria populations.

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2. During Times of Crisis, Companies Invest in Energy Efficiency, Not in Clean Technology

An empirical analysis of the Slovene manufacturing companies conducted by researchers from the Faculty of Economics of the University of Ljubljana showed that companies invest in energy efficiency even during a crisis, while they are more frugal with investments in clean technologies.

Authors: Nevenka Hrovatin, Nives Dolšak, Jelena Zorić
 

Researchers from the Faculty of Economics of the University of Ljubljana (Nevenka Hrovatin, Nives Dolšak and Jelena Zorić) analyzed the factors that influence the decisions of Slovene manufacturing companies to invest into energy efficiency and clean technologies with the help of a (bi-variable) probit model on a panel of companies' data in the 2005 to 2011 period. The findings were published in the internationally renowned Journal of Cleaner Production.

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3. Efficient Monitoring of the Development and Treatment of Brain Diseases

The automatic MR image analysis development at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering of the University of Ljubljana enables very detailed monitoring of development of brain diseases and the course of their treatment.

Author: Žiga Špiclin
 

Brain diseases are among the leading causes of chronic disability. The development of injuries or lesions in the white-matter and/or increased atrophy of the whole brain-matter and smaller brain centres are characteristic for the majority of neurological and cerebrovascular diseases. The radiologic tomographic 3D MR imaging technique is currently the most efficient method for displaying healthy and pathological brain structures.

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4. Promising Discovery for the Improvement of the Treatment of Autoimmune and Inflammatory Conditions and Cancer

Researchers from the Faculty of Pharmacy of the University of Ljubljana discovered new possibilities for the treatment of autoimmune and inflammatory conditions and cancer by preparing small nonpeptidic molecules that inhibit the immunoproteasome enzyme.

Authors: Izidor Sosič, Martina Gobec, Boris Brus, Damijan Knez, Matej Živec, Aleš Obreza, Irena Mlinarič-Raščan, Stanislav Gobec
 

Immunoproteasome is the enzyme whose elevated expression and more expressed activity are associated with numerous autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, as well as different types of cancer. The findings show that inhibiting its activity indicated a promising therapeutic approach. The majority of known immunoproteasome inhibitors are peptidic in nature. Low bioavailability and poor metabolic stability are characteristics of these structural types of compounds.

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5. Discovery that Significantly Reduces the Cost of Hydrogen Production

Boštjan Genorio from the Faculty of Chemistry and Chemical Technology of the University of Ljubljana and his colleagues developed mixed CoSx and MoSx catalysts, which lower the costs of hydrogen production significantly.

Authors: Boštjan Genorio, Jakub Staszak-Jirkovský, Christos D. D Malliakas, Pietro P. Lopes, Nemanja Danilović, Subrahmanyam S. Kota, Kee-Chul Chang, Dušan Strmčnik, Vojislav R. Stamenković, Mercouri G.Kanatzidis, Nenad M. Marković 
 

Hydrogen (H2) is the fuel of the future; it has applications in internal combustion engines as well as in fuel cells. One of the main reasons why hydrogen technology is not more widespread is the issue of hydrogen production. It is produced by electrolysis of water, where the excess electrical energy is transformed into chemical energy. The issues that limit the electrolysis process and make it more expensive are still unsolved. The key issue that numerous scientists around the world are trying to solve today is stability of the system, which is related to a) low efficiency rate, b) short catalysts lifetime and c) lack of low-cost materials.1

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6. Prestigious Financing for Quantum Transport Research

Tomaž Prosen from the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics of the University of Ljubljana was awarded prestigious European financing – an ERC Advanced Grant for the study of quantum transport, where the field of use is the possibility of studying ballistic (ideal) high-temperature transport.

Author: Tomaž Prosen
 

The imbalance of a many-body quantum system in one or two spatial dimensions and in situations when all incoherent processes (for example murmur or dissipation) will be studied within the framework of the mentioned grant. A mathematical theory of dynamic quantum phases will be designed with applications in the theory of quantum transport and nanoscale devices, which manipulate heat, information, charge or magnetization.

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7. Innovative Thermodynamic Model for Real-Time Simulations of Vehicle Propulsion Systems

The model environment developed by Tomaž Katrašnik from the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering of the University of Ljubljana is the only one in the world that enables mechanical real-time modelling of modern multi-cylinder engines for personal vehicles.

Author: Tomaž Katrašnik
 

Computer models than enable testing of particular physical components in simulated real-time environments have to be capable of implementing real-time simulations, they must have a high level of accuracy and predictiveness, and preferably mechanistic modelling basis. Tomaž Katrašnik was successful in the area of thermodynamic simulations of internal combustion engines. Innovative generic modelling framework for simulating thermodynamic processes in internal combustion engines [1], which was developed by him, is namely the unique tool that allows for mechanistic simulation of multi-cylinder high speed passenger car engines in real-time.

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8. Connection between the Zika Virus and Microcephaly

Discovery of the first scientific evidence that the Zika virus infects the foetus brain through the infected mother was delivered by researchers from the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Ljubljana.

Authors: Tatjana Avšič Županc, Jernej Mlakar, Miša Korva, Nataša Tul Mandić, Maša Popović, Mateja Poljšak Prijatelj, Jerica Mraz, Marko Kolenc, Katarina Resman Rus, Tina Vesnaver Vipotnik, Vesna Fabjan Vodušek, dr. Alenka Vizjak, dr. Jože Pižem, dr. Miroslav Petrovec
 

On 10 February 2016, researchers from the Faculty of Medicine in Ljubljana (Tatjana Avšič Županc, Miša Korva, Mara Popović, Mateja Poljšak Prijatelj, Jerica Mraz, Marko Kolenc, Katarina Resman Rus, Alenka Vizjak, Jože Pižem, Miroslav Petrovec) published a breakthrough research paper proving that the Zika virus from the infected mother can infect the fetal's brain and can cause permanent brain damage and microcephaly.

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9. Multi-functional Durable Sol-Gel Film with Increased Wash Fastness

The sol-gel film developed by researchers from the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Engineering of the University of Ljubljana and the National Institute of Chemistry is extremely important for the production of high-tech developed technical textile products with protective properties and high added value.

Authors: Jelena Vasiljević, Milena Zorko, Danaja Štular, Brigita Tomšič, Ivan Jerman, Boris Orel, Jožef Medved, Barbara Simončič
 

Researchers from the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Engineering of the University of Ljubljana (Jelena Vasiljević, Danaja Štular, Brigita Tomšič, Jožef Medved, Barbara Simončič) and researchers from the National Institute of Chemistry (Milena Zorko, Ivan Jerman, Boris Orel) developed a new fabrication process for multifunctional durable inorganic-organic hybrid sol-gel film for frequent washing to achieve simultaneous superhydrophobicity, self-cleaning, antimicrobal activity and improved thermal stability of polymeric substrates.

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10. Important Discoveries in Relation to the Development of the Spleen

The results of the research of scientists from the Veterinary Faculty of the University of Ljubljana are important not only for understanding normal spleen development but for understanding the emergence of inborn disturbances in its development.

Authors: Gregor Majdič, Katja Kozinc


Researchers from the Veterinary Faculty of the University of Ljubljana Katja Kozinc and Gregor Majdič and their Italian colleagues researched molecular mechanisms of the development of the spleen and disturbances that lead to human diseases, which are still largely unknown. They primarily assessed the impact of the TLX1 gene in spleen development.  

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