Year 2021 at the Faculty of Biology, University of Warsaw
Year 2021 brought the Faculty of Biology at the University of Warsaw many reasons to be proud of. The University of Warsaw was ranked first in all categories of courses taught at the Faculty of Biology in the ‘Perspektywy 2021’ ranking. In the ranking of courses in biology and biotechnology, the Faculty of Biology of the University of Warsaw came first ex aequo with the Jagiellonian University, while among the courses in environmental protection – first ex aequo with the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań.
Due to the COVID-19 epidemic, teaching in the 2020/2021 summer semester took place remotely. Thanks to the significant involvement of our staff, it was possible to conduct lectures and seminars in an interesting way. The examination session and recruitment for the new academic year were also conducted remotely. However, in the summer, the students went for field classes at the Geobotanical Station in Białowieża and the Hydrobiological Station in Pilchy. October 2021 brought hope for a return to normalcy as students returned to the Faculty of Biology’s corridors and laboratory rooms. Education in the 2021/2022 winter semester took place in a mixed mode as lectures were held remotely and exercises – in the building, in compliance with relevant sanitary standards.
Last year also brought educational awards for employees of the Faculty of Biology. Takao Ishikawa, PhD, assistant professor at the Department of Molecular Biology, was awarded the Didactic Award of the Rector of the University of Warsaw. Whereas Dr. Marta Wrzosek from the Botanical Garden received an individual award in this category. In addition, during the inauguration of the 2021/2022 academic year, the Student Council at the Faculty of Biology, for the first time, honoured 17 academic lecturers for their exceptional contribution to teaching during remote education.
In the Shanghai Global Ranking of Academic Subjects 2021, the University of Warsaw was ranked at the positions 2001-300 in Ecology and at the positions 301-400 in Biotechnology.
Over PLN 32.6 million constitute the total budget of grants obtained by employees of the Faculty of Biology within the competitions of the National Science Centre, the National Centre for Research and Development, and the Ministry of Science and Education in 2021. There are 24 projects in total, including four international ones: two within Grieg 2 competition, one Sheng 2, and one JPI AMR. Last year, as part of the IDUB Program and the publication support program, employees of the Faculty of Biology were awarded 73 grants for a total amount of over PLN 761,000. In addition, many scientists have also received prestigious scholarships. Among them are Dr. Anna Karnkowska and Dr. Przemysław Decewicz, who became laureates of the Mieczysław Bekker Program of the National Agency for Academic Exchange (NAWA); Anna Karnkowska also became a scholarship holder of the 20th edition of the L’Oreal-UNESCO program for Women and Science in the postdoctoral category; Dr. Anna Podgórska was awarded the Women in Research scholarship, Aleksandra Bilska, MA, became a laureate of the START competition of the Foundation for Science in Poland (100 of the most talented Polish scientists under 30), and Monika Fluks was the winner of the 2021–22 Fulbright Junior Research Award.
In 2021, employees and doctoral students of the Faculty of Biology were authors or co-authors of 230 scientific articles and chapters in nine scientific books (data based on the Polish Scientific Bibliography). The publications appeared in such prestigious journals as Nature Communications, Nucleic Acids Research, The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Earth System Science Data, The ISME Journal, Journal of Hazardous Materials, Biosensors and Bioelectronics, Cell Reports, Bioresource Technology. In addition, in the journal Science, a letter was published entitled ‘Poland’s border wall threatens ancient forest’ by Professor Bogdan Jaroszewicz and Dr. Katarzyna Nowak from the Białowieża Geobotanical Station of the University of Warsaw and Dr. Michał Żmihorski from the Mammal Research Institute of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Białowieża.
When it comes to publishing, employees of our Faculty had premieres of their books. Professor Zbigniew Markiewicz, Dr. Dorota Korsak and Professor Magdalena Popowska are the authors of ‘Antibiotics in the Era of Increasing Drug Resistance’, published by the Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN. ‘Protected Mushrooms of Poland. Distribution, Threats, Protective Recommendations’ is a monograph co-authored by Dr. Julia Pawłowska and PhD student Alicja Okrasińska from the Institute of Evolutionary Biology. It was published by the Institute of Agricultural and Forest Environment of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Poznań. Professor Wiktor Kotowski, Dr. Andrzej Mikulski and Dr. Barbara Pietrzak were among the experts and co-authors of the textbook ‘Climatic ABC. Interdisciplinary Foundations of Contemporary Knowledge about Climate Change’, published by the Wydawnictwa Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego.
In 2021, three scientific conferences co-organized by the Faculty of Biology took place: 10th edition of ‘Aspects of Neuroscience’ Conference, 12th edition of EMBO Young Scientists Forum (EYSF) and 1st Conference of the project ‘Integration and Mobilization of Data on Eukaryota Biotic Diversity in the Resources of Polish Scientific Institutions’ (IMBIO).
Three Professors from our faculty – Danuta Maria Antosiewicz, Jerzy Dzik and Z. Maciej Gliwicz – have been included in the group of the most influential scientists in the world in the context of all scientific achievements. The list of 2% of the most influential scientists worldwide, representing all fields of science, was published for the third time. The database was created based on citations and related performance indicators available in the Scopus database, and it contains a list based on two categories: the entire scientific output and only one year.
Dr. Marcin Jan Równicki received the Prime Minister’s Award for his doctoral dissertation entitled ‘Searching for New Targets and Carriers for Antisense Oligonucleotides with Antibacterial Activity’, defended in 2019 at the Faculty of Biology, University of Warsaw. The dissertation was written under the supervision of Professor Dariusz Bartosik from the Department of Bacterial Genetics, Faculty of Biology, and Professor Joanna Trylska from the Centre of New Technologies at the University of Warsaw. At the end of the year, the biotechnology company BACTrem, founded in 2016 and headed by Professor Magdalena Popowska, head of the Department of Bacterial Physiology at the Institute of Microbiology, won the main award Green Eagle of ‘Rzeczpospolita’ as part of the Fight for CLIMATE project in the enterprise category.
Last year, researchers from the Faculty of Biology were selected to the scientific committees of the Polish Academy of Sciences, which proves their significant position in the scientific community. Dr. Marta Wrzosek from the Botanical Garden of the University of Warsaw was elected a member of the mycological section of the Committee of Organismal Biology of the Polish Academy of Sciences. Dr. Piotr Tykarski from the Institute of Functional Biology and Ecology was elected a specialist member of the Committee of Organismal Biology of the Polish Academy of Sciences and was appointed a member of the zoology section of this Committee. Moreover, Professor Marcin Zych, director of the Botanical Garden of the University of Warsaw, was appointed to the Rector’s team of the University of Warsaw for ecology and climate crisis for the 2020-2024 term.
The Faculty of Biology provides a wide range of services aimed at both the world of science and business. In 2021, five new service units were established: the Genomics-Transcriptomics Laboratory, the Embryology Laboratory, the Image Information Laboratory, the Collection of Microorganism Cultures and the Multimedia Laboratory. Currently, the Faculty of Biology of the University of Warsaw has 13 service units operating in the field of biochemistry and analytical chemistry, microbiology, genetics and animal breeding. In addition, there are over 200 specialised research equipment pieces and 30 services at your disposal.
KUMAK Masurian Biodiversity and Education Centre in Urwitałt
Year 2021 is the time of intensive construction works at the University of Warsaw’s field station in Urwitałt, i.e., in the Professor Kazimierz Dobrowolski KUMAK Biodiversity and Education Centre. At the end of December, both buildings of the new Centre were closed to the building shell. At the same time, a contractor was selected to implement the part of the project related to the active protection of naturally valuable habitats in the vicinity of Lake Łuknajno by stopping the decline in the surface and groundwater levels.
The construction works are so advanced that there is a plan to make a research and teaching facility available to employees and students of the Faculty of Biology in the second half of 2022. This year, the contractor of the educational exhibition in the second building will also be selected. The KUMAK Masurian Biodiversity and Education Centre in Urwitałt will be a modern educational facility where classes for schools, students and other interested groups will be conducted. The exhibition on essential topics, including biodiversity protection and climate change, will be open to all visitors.
The completion of the Centre’s construction is planned for 2022, and its official opening for 2023. Under the Regional Operational Program, the amount of EU funding for the construction of the KUMAK Masurian Biodiversity and Education Center in Urwitałt is about PLN 23.8 million, and the value of the entire investment is estimated at approximately PLN 32.9 million. It is estimated that approximately 10,000 people will visit the Centre annually.
The Botanical Garden of the University of Warsaw
Year 2021 was a record year as far as the number of visitors to the Botanical Garden of the University of Warsaw goes. It is estimated that over 80,000 people came to see the Garden. In the first months, online nature consultations were conducted, but on March 21, i.e., on the first day of spring, the gates at Ujazdowskie Avenue were opened for visitors. By the end of the year, nearly 200 nature walks were carried out, in which almost 5,000 people took part.
In October 2021, the scientific team of the Botanical Garden co-organised the 35th Annual Meeting of the Scandinavian Association for Pollination Ecology. This event took part in the Botanical Garden and in the European Centre for Geological Education in Chęciny and gathered 150 participants from 27 countries.
In 2021, visitors to the Garden could admire two exhibitions. In June, an exhibition of works by the students of the Faculty of Design of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw was held at the grounds of the Botanical Garden under the title ‘Design inspired by nature’. In November, an exhibition of botanical illustrations entitled ‘Materia Botanica’ by Izabela Wolska-Kuśmider was opened. At the end of the year, the book’s premiere entitled ‘Botanical from the Inside – Seasonality All Year Round’ took place. The book includes recipes and photos by Marianna Wojcieska, seasonal gardening tips from Monika Latkowska and Dorota Szubierajska, and recipes for herbal infusions by Magdalena Oprządek.
For the first time in its 200 years of history, the Botanical Garden remained open to visitors during the winter season. On this occasion, the ‘Magical Botanical’ exhibition was prepared, where light structures were presented, referring to the most exciting plants in the Garden’s collection, the relationship between nature and humans, as well as fairy tales and legends. The employees of the Garden also organised an event as part of the Night of Museums. They were also co-organizers of the conference ‘The art of education. Nature and Art – the Ecosystem of the Future’ together with the Zachęta National Art Gallery and the Służew Culture Centre.
The Botanical Garden of the University of Warsaw announced that dye and fibre plants would be the leitmotif of the new season of 2022.
Popularisation of science
Popularising science is one of the missions of the Faculty of Biology. In 2021, the 10th Biologists’ Night changed its formula and instead of a single night event became a ‘polar night’, lasting from 8 to 17 January. The event, which was entirely online, was attended by as many as 346,000 participants of lectures transmitted through Facebook and 20.8 thousand views of YouTube videos (for comparison, the 9th Biologists’ Night in 2020, which was a stationary edition, gathered 6.5 thousand participants). The employees of the Faculty of Biology of the University of Warsaw were also organisers or delivered lectures or workshops for the celebrations of the World Wetlands Day, Rare Diseases Day, Ochota 21 Campus Explorers’ Day, 13th International Stem Cell Day, 24th Science Picnic, 6th Fascination of Plants Day and 25th Jubilee Warsaw Science Festival. Scientists from the Faculty of Biology of the University of Warsaw also took part in the series of podcasts ‘Hard Science Can Be Easy’ carried out by the Centre for Cooperation and Dialogue of the University of Warsaw and in the series of meetings ‘The University of Warsaw’.
The teachers from our Faculty also share their knowledge and passion on the YouTube channel of the Faculty of Biology, where there are currently nearly 140 videos, with views exceeding 172,000 (since the channel’s establishment at the end of November 2020).