Endowment Fund prize given to two high school students – and one professor – studying the effect of light on plants

The common tomato
Photo: Ota Blahoušek
Wednesday 16 December 2020, 8:00 – Text: Šárka Chovancová

The Jaroslav Heyrovský Endowment Fund Prize for excellence in high school science was given this year to Anna Hýsková and Hana Berhardová. Both students assisted Martin Fellner from the UP Faculty of Science Laboratory of Growth Regulators.

Anna Hýsková impressed the jury by her high school work dealing with the interaction of blue light and auxins (hormones, or plant growth regulators) in plant growth and development, which she worked on within the Badatel (Researcher) project at the Faculty of Science. Hana Bernhardová was successful in her dealing with the role of light in reactions of plants to abiotic stress within the Otevřená věda (Open Science) project of the Czech Academy of Sciences. Both students carried out their experimental work in the Laboratory of Growth Regulators at the Faculty of Science, Palacký University Olomouc.

“In my work I explored how plants react to stress due to salinization and in conjunction with whether they are exposed to red or blue light, or remain in the dark. I was also interested how these responses influence mutation in blue light receptors – cryptochromes,” said Bernhardová, describing her research on stress reactions in the common tomato and thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana).

In her prize-winning work, Anna Hýsková determined how light influences plant growth via the auxin plant hormone. “I was interested in how this mechanism in some way is connected to red light photoreceptors – phytochromes.”

Both students had praise for their cooperation with the Faculty of Science and Prof Martin Fellner. “The lab work was fantastic. Even if at first not everything went as planned, thanks to the help of Prof Fellner and the lab assistants I was able to carry out various laboratory methods and gained valuable skills and knowledge,” Hýsková observed. “I made use of them at the Science Olympics, science competitions, and I’ve benefitted from them during my university studies. I also got to meet loads of inspirational people who have really pushed me further in life, for which I am most grateful,” added the student, who attended the J.A. Komenský Gymnazium in Uherský Brod.

According to Berhardová, the UP Faculty of Science offers high school students inviting and high-quality facilities. “Everyone was super nice and willing to show me everything and even explain things to me, again and again. I could plan my experiments according to my needs and my school workload, which really helped me to manage everything. Prof Fellner even helped me afterwards with preparing my competition work and presentations,” she said. Berhardová, who studied at František Palacký Gymnazium in Valašské Meziříčí, gained experience which she later put to use in high school science competitions, other scientific projects, and at her entrance exams to the University of Oxford. “I’m now studying biochemistry there,” she added.

The Jaroslav Heyrovský Endowment Fund gives prizes for high school science competitions and academic Olympics. It also gives awards to teachers and consultants for their help with high school science projects. This year Prof Martin Fellner was also awarded. “The successes of students in various competitions always gives me enormous pleasure. I believe that the fundamentals of experimental work and the experience which I have been able to provide to students is something they can use in their future work – and that they will also give to their own students, further on down the line,” said Prof Fellner of the Laboratory of Growth Regulators.

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