22 students and young researchers will be able to continue their education and research at the Jagiellonian University. The National Science Centre has just announced the results of a scholarship scheme directed to students and doctoral students seeking refuge in Poland. Amongst them is Alona Szulenko, who will continue her studies at the JU Faculty of Biology under the supervision of Prof. Ryszard Laskowski.
Alona Shulenko’s reintegration plan aims at improving her practical skills in microscopy, histology and analytical methods, getting a broader knowledge of biology, and practicing foreign languages.
Alona Shulenko has been working at the Ukrainian Bat Rehabilitation Center (UBRC) (Kharkiv, Ukraine) as a bat care worker and event manager for two years. Simultaneously she did her Bachelor's research project on forest ground snails at H. S. Skovoroda Kharkiv National Pedagogical University (Nature Science Department). At the beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian war in 2022, she voluntarily decided to stay in Kharkiv to save and care for rehabilitated bats and preserve the scientific collection of both bats and snails. Together with the UBRC team, she sorted out biological samples for different scientific projects and research areas, such as morphometry, ecotoxicology, anatomy, craniometry, etc. One such ongoing project, on trace metal contamination in bats, is carried out by the Terrestrial Ecosystems and Ecotoxicology Group from the JU Institute of Environmental Sciences under the supervision of Prof. Ryszard Laskowski. The project is carried out in close cooperation with UBRC, where most of the bat samples come from, and personally with Dr. Anton Vlaschenko, the head of UBRC. The project already has considerable scientific results: a PhD student supervised jointly by Prof. Laskowski and Dr. Vlaschenko, an article published in the high-ranked international journal – Environmental Pollution, and presentations at international conferences. This well-established collaboration guarantees smooth integration of Alona Shulenko into the research team. She will participate in this line of research, working mostly in a histological laboratory, making the teeth cuts and preparations for the determination of bat age, and in an analytical laboratory, she will assist in trace metals analysis in bat tissues. The team has secured resources to perform the activities planned within this proposal.
The activities planned for Alona Shulenko within this proposal are supposed to be linked with the project of another applicant, Valeria Bohodist, if both applications are successful. The parallel project planned by Valeria Bohodist is on blood cells size and numbers in bats originating from different areas in Ukraine, and both would make up an excellent major research project, while at the same time being independent so that there is no risk of not completing the project if only one happens to be successful.
Apart from the research project, Alona Shulenko will also participate in a couple of English- language and Polish-language courses taught at the Institute of Environmental Sciences. The proposed courses are: Ecotoxicology and Ecological Risk Assessment, Tropical Ecology, Statistics, and Research Communication. In turn, the possibility to participate in the weekly English-language seminars held at the Institute will allow her to get a broader picture of different fields of ecology and meet international scholars who regularly visit the Institute.
Altogether, the activities within the project, together with the courses taken, will let Ms. Shulenko learn new practical skills (histology, atomic absorption/emission spectrometry, preparing conference presentations, publishing research papers) and gain more general knowledge in the area of ecology and ecotoxicology.
After completing the programme, Alona Shulenko is going to return to Ukraine to continue her research and education (Master's degree). The skills and knowledge gained during her stay at Jagiellonian University will greatly improve her capabilities in research and will certainly help her in proceeding with her next degree(s). Last but not least, when working at Jagiellonian University, she will also start building an international network of collaborators which can appear very beneficial in her future career.
The National Science Centre scholarships, funded by EEA and the Norway Grants, will be given to 15 women and 7 men. Before the war, they studied or carried out their research projects chiefly in Kyiv and Kharkiv. They will continue their work at Polish universities in Warsaw, Poznań, Lublin, Rzeszów, Szczecin i Olsztyn, among others.