Marius Jakulis Jason (MJJ) Foundation has announced a list of six researchers who have won grants to continue their scientific research in Lithuania. The philanthropic MJJ Foundation was established two years ago and is dedicated to providing financial support to talented business developers, academics and students that can and want to contribute to the growth of the Lithuanian economy.
In order to attract researchers working abroad who would like to continue their innovative research and teach here in Lithuania, the MJJ foundation allocated even more grants for two- and three-year scholarships than last year – EUR 223 000.
“We believe that in times of economic challenges, it is very important to invest in innovations and the people creating them. The whole world is competing for the brightest minds, and the biggest challenge for a researcher who wants to come or to return to Lithuania is that a salary here is often lower than that in foreign universities. Therefore, we want to help our science centres attract the best minds. The experience of these researchers and their relevance to the communities of universities and businesses is important to us,” says Kotryna Stankutė-Jaščemskienė, Head of the MJJ Foundation.
The MJJ Foundation is celebrating its two-year anniversary soon and has already provided 13 grants for researchers who have come or are returning to work in Lithuania and want to share their knowledge.
“Foundations as this are critically important because they help to attract talented people to the country. And they do not only contribute to science – they also bring new ideas, new work culture, and create a cooperative environment, thus encouraging others to keep moving forward. We are very pleased as thanks to the MJJ Foundation two new fields of science are emerging at the FTMC Center – quantum optoelectronics and microfluidics. Both fields come together with two scientists and will significantly complement the FTMC’s range of scientific and technological activities,” says Gintaras Valušis, Director of the Center for Physical and Technological Sciences (FTMC).
Gintaras Valinčius, Director of the VU Life Sciences Center, emphasizes that for many young researchers, the support of the MJJ Foundation is an important factor that not only helps them to decide to return from abroad but also encourages them to start their careers as independent researchers in Lithuania. “The work of the Marius Jakulis Jason Foundation creates new traditions of research and support of researchers which are lacking in Lithuania,” he believes.
The six scientists who are starting their work this year are planning to set up laboratories, establish connections with foreign partners, write projects for international financing, actively share their knowledge with students and develop possible business projects:
- A biochemist and biophysicist, Algirdas Toleikis is returning to Lithuania after a nine-year scientific career in the United Kingdom. After graduating from biochemistry studies at VU and winning a “Wellcome Trust” scholarship, he continued his studies in the prestigious UCL University for a doctorate’s degree, afterwards having his post-doctoral internship at the University of Warwick. The scientist, who has always wanted to return to Lithuania, also brings the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) grant for devices and regents, given to a scientist of Lithuanian descent for the first time. In the international EMBO selection, a highly evaluated project of biochemist Algirdas Toleikis will allow the establishment of a molecular biology laboratory that meets EMBO standards at the Center of Life Sciences of Vilnius University. The MJJ Foundation is pleased that with the help of the grant, it is able to contribute to the establishment of the scientist’s salary for three years.
- Scientist Rasa Giniūnaitė is returning to Lithuania after spending eight years at prestigious universities in the United Kingdom. She has successfully completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics at the University of Warwick. During the last year of studies, she received an award for her high achievements. During the time studying the doctorate of Mathematical Biology at the University of Oxford, Rasa was modelling the migration of embryonic cells and after receiving the three years’ grant from MJJ Foundation she will develop and teach this research field at Vilnius University. After returning to Lithuania, Rasa will continue her close international cooperation with the researchers from the University of Oxford. While still living abroad, Rasa contributed to the organization of young Lithuanian mathematicians’ meetings, and now, after coming back, she will seek to contribute to the popularization of mathematics among Lithuanian students.
- Aleksej Železniak, a Lithuanian who started his scientific career 13 years ago abroad, specializes in the fields of bioinformatics and systemic biology. The researcher set up a laboratory back in 2017 at the Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden and is currently working there with a team of eight other researchers. Starting this year, thanks to the cooperation between the MJJ Foundation and the VU Center of Life Sciences, Aleksej will be able to set up a parallel laboratory at Vilnius University and carry out scientific activities, further contributing to the expansion of VU GMC interdisciplinary sciences.
- Kirill N. Alekseev’s field of research is quantitative optoelectronics. He is currently considered as one of the best experts in the theory of artificial spatial periodic semiconductor nanostructures in all of Europe. Kirill, who is descending from Russia, has taught at the prestigious Loughborough University in the United Kingdom for twelve years and worked as a senior researcher at the University of Oulu in Finland for seven years. The academic has won a number of prestigious research awards, has curated research groups that have attracted European Union funding, and has trained many young and successful researchers worldwide. Thanks to the partnership between the MJJ Foundation and the Center for Physical and Technological Sciences, Kirill will contribute to the development of world-class science in Lithuania.
- Neuroscientist Robertas Guzulaitis defended his doctoral dissertation and finished his studies at Vilnius University, and in 2014 he left to carry out his post-doctoral internship at the University of Copenhagen and the Florey Institute at the University of Melbourne. He returned to Vilnius six years later with the goal to continue research of adaptive processing of human brain sensory information and its understanding with other researchers at Vilnius University.
- Tadas Kartanas has been living abroad for ten years. He has finished biophysics and nanotechnology doctorate studies at the University of Cambridge, during which he has researched microchip and biosensor systems and applied practical knowledge in various companies. Until now, he has worked at the TTP company group of technology consulting and product development in the United Kingdom, and after receiving the grant from the MJJ Foundation this year, he will start working at the Center of Physical and Technological Sciences in Vilnius with the goal of creating a research group of microfluidic physics.
Thanks to UAB “FMĮ Myriad Capital”, Vygandas and Rebecca Juras, Ramūnas Stepanauskas and Simonas Jurgionis for their contribution to the grants. Let’s create the future of Lithuania together!