Three laureates of NCN calls to receive a prestigious ERC grant

Monday, 7 September 2020

Prof. Urszula Stachewicz of the AGH University of Science and Technology in Krakow, Dr Wojciech Czerwiński and Dr Michał Pilipczuk, both of the University of Warsaw, were awarded in the European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant call under the Horizon 2020 programme. All three are winners of the National Science Centre calls.

The first of the grant recipients is Prof. Urszula Stachewicz of the AGH University of Science and Technology, who in her project Bioinspired Composites Strategies for Saving Energy will work on innovative insulation materials that will reduce daily energy consumption. The aim of the research is to develop a material that will reproduce the insulating properties known in nature. It will be based on fibrous membranes that effectively dissipate but also release heat as required. This will result, among other things, in lower energy consumption. Such solutions can be used in the building industry as insulation, in electronic devices or cabling infrastructure. For her five-year project, Urszula Stachewicz, PhD, has been granted nearly EUR 1.7 million. The research will begin early in 2021.

Professor Stachewicz has implemented four projects under NCN calls: Investigating the properties of nature-inspired polymer nanofibre networks in the context of their application to water recovery and energy generation (SONATA BIS 5), 3D image analysis of electrospun fibre scaffolds for bone tissue engineering (SONATA 8), Cell responses to electrospun polymer fibres for tissue engineering applications (OPUS 17) and New constructions of bio-inspired polymeric nanocomposites under the UWERTURA 1 call, the specific aim of which is to support scientists conducting research in Polish research institutions in their efforts to apply for European research funds and to increase their participation in the group of ERC grant winners.

Another of the winners is Wojciech Czerwiński, PhD. He is active in the fields of automatics theory, concurrency models, databases and logic in computer science. In the years 2017-2019, he carried out a SONATA-11-co-financed project titled Separation problems in automata theory. His current project, Challenging Problems in Infinite-State Systems (INFSYS), to which the ERC has allocated EUR 1.34 million, aims to address a number of important challenges concerning the information systems known as infinite-state systems. Among other things, the aim of the research is to create an algorithm which, for a given system, would determine the initial situation and the set of movements available, would answer the question of the possibility of moving to a specific end situation. In the future, the algorithm may be useful for automatic verification of programmes, and thus vetting programmes for errors.

The third Polish laureate of the ERC grant is Michał Pilipczuk, whose earlier project, Optimality in Parameterized Complexity, was also awarded under the NCN SONATA 6 call. In the project Decomposition Methods for Discrete Problems, he will examine structural and decomposition properties of the network and try to use them to create fast calculation methods to solve difficult problems. Dr Pilipczuk’s research team will be involved in the application of graph structure theorem in four areas: theory of sparse graphs, dynamic parameterized algorithms, algorithms in planar graphs, and algorithms in forbidden sub-structure graphs. The ERC has allocated almost EUR 1.4 million to the project.

Researchers from Poland were among the 436 awarded researchers from all over the world. This year, EUR 677 million was allocated to projects. The projects will be implemented in 25 countries, a majority of them in Germany (88), Great Britain (62) and the Netherlands (42). The call is addressed to independent researchers with an established track record, who are 2 to 7 years after their doctorate, and their projects may last up to 5 years. Receiving a grant in the ERC call is a great distinction, its mission being funding breakthrough and pioneering research. The only criterion for evaluating research under the call is its scientific excellence.

See the complete list of winners on the ERC website.