18. July 2022
To broaden her scientific horizons, she went on numerous internships and conferences abroad. As part of her PhD at the Laboratory of X-ray Micro and Nano Tomography at CEITEC BUT, she worked on the development of a data processing algorithm. The results of her work were applied by an international giant in the field of X-ray technology, Rigaku, a corporation based in Japan. After her studies, she was immediately offered a job. She was also awarded the prestigious Josef Hlávka Prize for her outstanding scientific work. One of her latest joys is her nine-month-old daughter, to whom she is fully devoted. In the meantime, she is following the work of her former colleagues at CEITEC.
What was the topic of your dissertation?
Research on phase contrast in X-ray computed tomography, a special technique that focuses on imaging biological soft tissue samples and is used on synchrotrons. My job was to investigate how the technique could be used in a laboratory setting. In layman's terms, we put a specimen into a machine in the lab that is irradiated with X-rays from all angles, and from these projections on a computer we created a 3D image of the object. So we can look inside and see what it looks like, what the structure is. You know in medicine, for example, where you examine a person. But we're looking at samples – industrial, biological samples like mouse embryos, bones, drugs. And I've been doing nanotomography, which is high-resolution scanning. I used a phase contrast technique on a Rigaku machine, which turned out to be successful. The output was an algorithm that is applied to the measured data that improves the contrast and shows structures in the sample that would not otherwise be there.
Based on this, Rigaku invited you to collaborate?
Yes, they were very interested in this technique. My goal was to get the results of my work, i.e. the specific methodology and the selected algorithm, into their software and then to their customers.
How lengthy was the process?
I started working on this topic as part of my thesis, for about a year, then for three years for my PhD. So I would estimate about four years of work on this topic. Obviously, a PhD student does a lot; however, this was the main line that I pursued.
So what does your data processing method give the customer?
They can see and measure things that would be difficult to observe without it. This includes biological samples of soft tissues, plastics, polymers, polymer structures, scaffolds, composites, drugs, etc.
What are scaffolds?
Scaffolds are biodegradable structures that can be thought of as scaffolds for cell growth. They can be used, for example, as an auxiliary step in the repair of missing bone. Thanks to 3D tomographic measurements, we can see what these structures look like inside, measure their parameters and thus control and optimise the production process. As another point of interest, I would like to mention the scanning of meteorites that have been found after analysing records of light trails in the sky. Here we studied the volumes of the different materials inside the meteorites and their porosity.
You received the Josef Hlávka Award for outstanding students. In one of your articles, you attributed it to the fact that you are interested in new trends, you are constantly expanding your horizons, you travel, and it was important for you not to get tired. That was the key to your success. Does being a mother influence this view? Do you feel like you're missing out?
I still agree with that. I kind of got away from the science with a particular assignment for Rigaku. I don't look for articles on maternity leave and I don't travel for work. I think if you get back into a functioning team, then it catches up quickly. Even now I try to keep an eye on what's going on in the company from afar. I'm curious to see how the project is going (laughs). By using everything I could during my studies, by getting a lot of things done, that was enough for a while and now I'm enjoying my maternity leave. It's often the case that when a male scientist has a child, he goes abroad for a few years on an internship and his wife goes with him and takes care of the children. That model wouldn't work for us. So I'm glad I was able to enjoy it during my studies, that's how I planned it. I wanted and want to enjoy every stage of my life to the fullest.
This is an inspiring approach, mostly for female students. How do you remember your studies at CEITEC?
I am glad that I studied for my PhD at CEITEC, that I was in a good group where the group leader gave us a lot of opportunities. CEITEC cares a lot about the students, both financially and also allowing them to travel abroad for internships and conferences. We were even obliged to travel as part of Erasmus. And I was happy to take advantage of all these opportunities. I thought that was great. I also enjoyed the variety; for example, if I wasn't enjoying one project at the time, I would do another. Moreover, CEITEC cooperates with laboratories from different parts of the Czech Republic and abroad. I also liked the pressure for continuous results, which helped me to finish my studies slightly ahead of the normal study period.
Apart from your daughter, what do you consider to be your greatest achievements?
Successfully completing my PhD and having some of my papers published in impact journals. Then some papers at international conferences, where one can check live if one's work is correct and if it makes sense. And the fact that my academic output had a practical application, at Rigaku, where I got a job.
And what about the Josef Hlávka Award?
This prize is for active students who write papers, write grants, go to conferences, do the science and get results. The fact that I got it was actually a confirmation for me that I was on the right track. I'm happier with a job well done, which for me was the articles. The things I spent time on when I came up with something or came up with a novel idea.
You mentioned that you moved away from research after your studies. So what is your position in the company?
: ) That's still science, isn't it?
The work itself is similar. I see the difference in what happens to the results of the work. I don't go to conferences to present the results of my scientific work and I don't write them up in articles for scientific journals. I present them to my boss. But we'll see what happens next. Right now I don't have any clear working vision. I'm focusing on my daughter and my family.