Martin Toul: MUNI Mendel Doctorandus is an opportunity to move and develop

The first of the fabled first swallows to graduate from the MUNI Mendel Doctorandus (MMD) programme was a student of the Faculty of Science of Masaryk University, RNDr. Martin Toul, Ph.D.

Martin completed the program, fulfilled all the requirements and defended his dissertation in the European Doctorate mode. In addition to the diploma and the International Certificate, thanks to the support of the Dean of the Faculty of Science, Prof. Tomáš Kašparovský, he will also receive an incentive scholarship for successful MMD graduates.

30 May 2023 Linda Nosková

Photo: Irina Matusevic

“If PhD students want to move and develop during their studies, then this is definitely a very good opportunity,”

Martin Toul summarised his experience with MMD.

Martin can boast a number of other academic achievements that he has already accomplished during his PhD studies. For example, he and his colleagues in the Loschmidt laboratories have elucidated the previously little-known mechanism of the luminescence of the sea urchin luciferase, the violet renile. This brings them one step closer to its potential use for sustainable lighting.

But we asked him about his experience in the MUNI Mendel Doctorandus programme for gifted PhD students.

Martin Toul with another MMD graduate Libor Šulc from RECETOX.

Martin, as a successful, award-winning student, what convinced you to apply for the MMD programme? What was the decisive benefit for you?

It was an excellent opportunity to differentiate myself on the job market from other PhD graduates and to get something extra on top of my diploma. As I had been taking part in various courses, workshops and internships abroad during my studies anyway, I realised when I started filling out applications for the MMD that I had already fulfilled most of the requirements. So I thought it would be a sin not to take advantage of this opportunity and get the MMD International certificate and the European Doctorate, with almost no extra work.

You are the first student in the MMD programme to defend the European Doctorate. How do you look back on the differences that this entails?

(Note: At least one opponent and one committee member must be from a European country other than the Czech Republic. Both the defence and the dissertation itself must be in English.)

I would have written my dissertation in English in any case, and I was actually glad for the necessity to conduct the defence in English. I have gotten so used to English over the years of working with foreign colleagues in my research group and presenting at conferences abroad that sometimes some terms don't even jump out at me in Czech anymore. Moreover, occasionally Czech equivalents of specific scientific methods do not even exist, so presenting in Czech would paradoxically be more challenging for me.

The necessity of having foreign opponents was also a great experience because it was possible to choose experts in the field who fully understood the issues of the thesis being defended. Thanks to this, their questions were not too general, and an interesting discussion was held entirely on the topic, which I enjoyed myself. Since only a small number of research groups worldwide are involved in my research area, selecting opponents from the Czech Republic only and maintaining this quality of discussion would have been considerably more difficult.

Perhaps the most significant "difference" was the logistics associated with having an opponent from abroad - pick them up the day before the defence, or help with accommodation assistance.

On the day of the defence, we also travelled to the university together, and after the defence, we had lunch together.

I don't think that would have happened with my opponent from the Czech Republic :-)

RNDr. Martin Toul, Ph.D.

  • Is a graduate of Masaryk University, where he worked as a researcher in the Protein Engineering Team of Loschmidt Laboratories, RECETOX, Faculty of Science, MUNI, under the supervision of Prof Zbyněk Prokop and Prof Jiří Damborský.
  • Among others, Martin is the recipient of two MU Rector's Awards for outstanding students of both Master's and PhD programmes.
  • Brno PhD Talent Awards (2018/2019) laureate.
  • In 2020, he was awarded a Fulbright Postdoctoral Scholarship for PhD students, thanks to which he spent a semester at the University of Texas at Austin in the group of Prof Kenneth A. Johnson. After obtaining his PhD, this "passionate" scientist, snowboarding and ballroom dancing enthusiast moved to his new location at the VIB research institute in Ghent, Belgium.

Martin Toul on DVTV

Martin Toul received the Rector's Award 2023 for Outstanding Students in Doctoral Programmes . Photo: Martin Indruch.

Would you recommend the MUNI Mendel Doctorandus program to other PhD students?

If they want to move and develop during their studies, then this is definitely an excellent opportunity! Continually fulfilling the MMD requirements will help to include these extension activities fixed in their schedule, not put them behind other research commitments and be officially supported by the university. Thus, those who would have fulfilled most of the conditions anyway now have the opportunity not to do it "just for themselves" but even to be rewarded with a certificate that may be useful in the future. It is one of the items that can set one apart from other graduates, so this is also one of the pieces that contribute to successfully winning an award, grant funding, or a new job position in the future.

Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us, and I wish you every success in your future career.

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