Lithuania’s life sciences sector has been gaining worldwide traction for the past decade. The industry is the fastest-growing of European countries, thanks to world-class biotechnology research and educational institutions that allow academic works to flourish.
Prof. Virginijus Šikšnys is one of the most prominent Lithuanian pioneers in life sciences, who has contributed to the discovery of the Nobel Prize-winning “genetic scissors.” To celebrate V. Šiksnys’ achievements and encourage further research in the field, an international scholarship in his name was established in Vilnius in December 2020.
The scholarship was open to third cycle (Ph.D.) life science students worldwide studying and conducting their research in Vilnius. After completing a thorough selection process, the jury selected the two most meritorious young scientists, who were awarded scholarships.
Žiaunys and M. Šimoliūnienė, Ph.D. students at Vilnius University’s Life Sciences Centre, are this year’s recipients of the fellowship. Both are leading prospective research in the field, with M. Žiaunys exploring proteins related to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases; while M. Šimoliūnienė inquires into the search for bacteriophages.
Lithuania’s capital city hopes the scholarship encourages young scientists to do research in life sciences and apply their findings for the advancement of people and the environment. The EUR 10,000 grant has been handed out for the first time since its inception this year, with two Vilnius University Ph.D. students, Mantas Žiaunys and Monika Šimoliūnienė, being selected for the award.
“The achievements of V. Šiksnys and his team inspired Vilnius to keep pursuing a leading role in worldwide life science research. We hope that the scholarship will aid research development and provide young scientists with the tools to make a difference in the world, allowing Vilnius to become a flourishing hub for the field,” said Remigijus Šimašius, Mayor of Vilnius.
Prof. V. Šikšnys is pleased that the scholarship will be a good incentive for young scientists to actively continue their research, "I see the scholarship in my name as an important initiative of the city to support talents and to encourage young scientists to continue to actively pursue their work in Vilnius instead of anywhere else."
The City of Vilnius has pledged to fund the Prof. V. Šikšnys Scholarship for the next five years.