Dr. Imrich Barák – Personality of Science and Technology
Awarded RNDr. Imrich Barák, DrSc., is an expert in microbiology – also for medical, pharmaceutical, veterinary, agricultural, forestry and water management sciences from the Institute of Molecular Biology of the Slovak Academy of Sciences in Bratislava.
The culmination of the Week of Science and Technology in Slovakia is the awarding of awards for work and achievements in the area of science and technology. The awards ceremony took place on 10 November 2016 at 7PM in the INCHEBA Expo in Bratislava. The Award for Science and Technology in five categories (Personality of Science and Technology, Lifelong Achievements in Science and Technology, Personality of Science and Technology Under 35 Years Old, Populariser of Science, and Scientific and Technical Team of the Year) were given by the Minister of Education, Science, Research and Sport of the Slovak Republic Peter Plavčan, who is the patron of the event. The Award for Science and Technology has been awarded since 2014, replacing the award of the Minister of Education, Science, Research and Sport of the Slovak Republic. The objective of this transformation is to increase the social prestige of the awards for science and technology.
RNDr. Imrich Barák, DrSc., was awarded the Award for Science and Technology in the category Personality of Science and Technology. Proponent: Slovak Academy of Sciences.
RNDr. Imrich Barák, DrSc. (1961), was born in Nové Zámky. In 1984, he graduated from the Faculty of Natural Sciences of the Comenius University in Bratislava in Nuclear Chemistry. In 1991 – 1993, he was a postdoctoral student at the University of Georgia in the USA and between 1996 – 2002, he carried out several scientific visits at the University of York and the University of Oxford in the UK. In 2011 and 2013, he was a visiting professor at the University of Cagliari in Italy and at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland.
Currently, he is the head of the Department of Microbial Genetics of the Institute of Molecular Biology, Slovak Academy of Sciences. For more than ten years, he has been dedicated to molecular microbiology, in particular the mechanisms of cell division, sporulation and bacterial programmed cell death. His long-term scientific work has contributed significantly to the understanding of these mechanisms by utilising and developing many new methodologies of microbial genetics, molecular biology, structural biology and microscopy. In addition to the importance of his work for basic research, these results have also a wider application in the development of new drugs against pathogenic bacteria, in the preparation of new very compact and usable vaccines, as well as the utilisation of spore proteins in nano-biotechnologies.
His extensive scientific work includes 90 peer-reviewed articles, three chapters in foreign books and more than 1100 citations. He has been for a long time involved in the European research, where he represents the Slovak science also as a member of the Management Committee of the European organisation BACELL, which combines basic and applied research in Europe in the field of study and utilisation of model organism – Bacillus subtilis. He is also a board member of SFX and XBI consortiums in European XFEL (X-ray Free Electron Laser in Hamburg). In 2001, he was awarded the Award of the Slovak Scientist of the Year.
We interviewed RNDr. Imrich Barák, DrSc.
M. BARTOŠOVIČOVÁ: You are among the three awarded in the category Personality of Science and Technology. How do you feel about receiving this award?
I. BARÁK: "Of course I appreciate this award and consider it as an important part of science popularisation within the Week of Science and Technology in Slovakia. As for the award itself, I consider it an award for all my colleagues at home and abroad, without whom I could not reach the majority of the results I have reached. In our research area – molecular microbiology – cooperation is essential, because we have to use all available expertise in the world and the most advanced methodology, which is currently impossible to embrace in one group."
M. B.: You have received the award for a significant contribution to the elucidation of the molecular mechanisms of cell division, sporulation and bacterial programmed cell death. Could you at least briefly explain your research?
I. BARÁK: "For example, within the bacterial cell division, we ask how can a rod-shaped cell find its exact centre, where it then splits. Thus, how is the cell able to measure its length, accumulate the necessary building blocks (proteins) in the middle of the cell, which build the septum and allow the formation of two identical daughter cells. Of course, such research is important not only in terms of basic research, but the proteins involved in cell division are the target of the preparation of new drugs against the pathogenic bacteria. In case of sporulation of Bacillus subtilis cells, as a model microorganism, we want to understand, at the molecular level, the simplest process of cell differentiation. In case of bacterial cell death, we try to explain why single-celled organism has a system for suicide."
M. B.: How long have you worked on this research and what is its main contribution?
I. BARÁK: "I have worked on this research for more than 25 years. The main contribution of our research is to understand the basic cellular processes at the molecular level in which we often have to develop new and unique methodologies. Moreover, the results of this research can have use in the preparation of new antibiotics. We can anticipate further use in nano-biotechnologies, like in the case of spore coat proteins, which we recently demonstrated are capable of forming specific nanostructures."
M. B.: What are you working on at the moment and what would you like to work on in your next research?
I. BARÁK: "Regarding our fundamental research, it seems to me as a never-ending story, because once we answer one question, it creates at least three others. The nature has evolved for millions of years and is so complex, especially at the molecular level that after a couple of decades, we only understand a very small portion of it. Accordingly, interesting questions will exist for a long time. On the other hand, the application of the research has often the product, which humankind can benefit from. Our team tries to combine these two types of research."
M. B.: Thank you for the interview. On behalf of the editorial staff, I congratulate you for the award and wish you many more success.
The Award for Science and Technology has been awarded since 2014, replacing the Award of the Minister of Education, Science, Research and Sport of the Slovak Republic. The objective of this transformation is to increase the social prestige of the awards for science and technology.
Please visit the event's website Week of Science and Technology in Slovakia (only Slovak version) to find the list of all awarded in the individual categories, or see the e-newspapers Scientific kaleidoscope.
The main organiser of the Week of Science and Technology in Slovakia is the Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport of the Slovak Republic in cooperation with the Slovak Centre of Scientific and Technical Information and the National Centre for the Popularisation of Science and Technology in Society. The general partner of the event is Huawei.
Interview prepared and published by: Marta Bartošovičová, NCP S&T within the SCSTI
Photo: Ján Laštinec, NCP S&T within the SCSTI
Portrait in the introduction: from the archive of Dr. Imrich Barák
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