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JU researchers win the first Polish-French Science Award

JU researchers win the first Polish-French Science Award

Dr Marcin Szwed from the Jagiellonian University Institute of Psychology and Prof. Laurent Cohen from the Brain and Spine Institute have been recognised for their innovative research on processes occurring in the brain when reading, whereas Prof. Jakub Zakrzewski from the JU Faculty of Physics, Astronomy and Applied Computer Science and Dr Dominique Delande from the National Centre for Scientific Research have been awarded for their achievements in the field of physics of quantum mechanical systems.

The Maria Skłodowska and Pierre Curie Polish–French Science Award was established in 2019 by the Foundation for Polish Science (FNP), the French Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation (MESRI), and the French Academy of Sciences to mark the Polish–French Year of Science. The aim of the award is to support and promote the Polish–French research cooperation. The EUR 15,000 award for each laureate is bestowed by a committee consisting of eminent Polish and French researchers appointed by the Foundation for Polish Science and the French Academy of Sciences..

“This is another initiative by the Foundation for Polish Science supporting cooperation between Polish researchers and researchers from foreign institutions,” explains the FNP President Prof. Maciej Żylicz. “We are very pleased that, together with our French partners, we have succeeded in bringing this idea to fruition. The competition attracted lots of interest, which reflects the growing cooperation between researchers from Poland and France. We expect the Polish–French Science Award to be one of important factors contributing to the strengthening of that cooperation.”

As a result of their collaborative effort that began in 2007, Dr Marcin Szwed and Prof. Laurent Cohen have demonstrated that groups of neurons in the visual cortex appear to specialise in reading text, and that this phenomenon does not depend on culture or writing system. Experiments by the scientists have shown that in blind persons, reading using the Braille alphabet stimulates the same visual fields as reading by sighted persons. This was a breakthrough, as it turned out that the cortical specialization of the brain arises from the specific nature of the task: the visual portion of the brain’s cortex learnt to read Braille, even though it might be expected that this task would be assumed by the tactile portion. The experiment showed that the brain is more flexible than scientists had previously assumed, and the areas of the cortex responsible for sight or hearing can adapt to receiving information from other senses. The results of the research have been presented in seven articles.

Prof. Jakub Zakrzewski and Dr Dominique Delande, honoured for their research in the field of physics of quantum mechanical systems, started their cooperation in 1991. Over the period of 28 years they have managed to build a model system for long-term cooperation between Polish and French research teams, contributing to the creation of a prolific Polish–French school in the theory of quantum physics of chaotic and/or disordered systems. The achievements of Zakrzewski–Delande duo involve phenomena triggered by disorder in low-temperature ensembles of atoms at dimensions relevant for experiments and future quantum technologies. Their research is theoretical and computational, focusing on realistic quantum systems combined with experimental groups.

The understanding of fundamental microscopic processes occurring in quantum systems is of great importance for the development of quantum technologies. Zakrzewski and Delande’s research has resulted in 36 joint publications, including seven articles in the prestigious journal Physical Review Letters.

Source: Foundation for Polish Science

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