I really appreciate that the teachers are real “brainboxes” in their fields

David Zimčík comes from Uherské Hradiště. After graduating from the local grammar school, his steps were directed to our faculty, and specifically to the field of Biochemistry. He is currently studying a follow-up Master's degree with a specialisation in Genomics and Proteomics. In addition, he is a member of the Generation Mendel student association, who celebrated great success last autumn in the iGEM international competition with their synthetic biology project. David is 23 years old and in his free time he likes to read, especially the fantasy genre and his favourite author J.R.R. Tolkien. He enjoys popularising science, making friends and travelling.

10 Feb 2021 Barbora Kameníková

Photo: Helena Brunnerová

What did you want to be when you were young?

As a kid, I wanted to be just about anything, from a garbage man to an astronaut to an archaeologist. However, ever since I saw the Stargate series my heart has drawn me to become a scientist. Right from the beginning, in elementary school, I longed for a deeper understanding of astrophysics, but after attending grammar school I was drawn more to biology.

How specifically?

I fell for the beauty of biology mainly thanks to two people, my biology teacher at grammar school and my good friend, who was studying biology teaching. I was fascinated by the huge number of real-life applications; and what's more, the forest, meadow and park take on a new dimension with a knowledge of the organisms that live there. I like to say that I’m a soul biologist. In contrast, I was always rather average at chemistry; I certainly wouldn’t say that I excelled at it. But I must say that I have always wanted to know the mechanisms behind reactions.

So why did you choose biochemistry in the end?

I was determined to study molecular biology and genetics. However, one of the teachers at the grammar school eventually convinced me that biochemistry has a much wider application. In the end, the results of the student evaluation tests decided for me. I can’t say I wasn’t a little disappointed at first, but over time biochemistry has become much more relevant to the issues that interested me when I entered university, such as describing the cycles and mechanisms of processes in organisms. In a way, it blends strongly with molecular biology, making it a win-win situation for me.

What led you to choose the Faculty of Science in Brno?

The main reason was that both the teacher from grammar school I mentioned above and Marek Orko Vácha, whose books played an important role in my love of biological thinking, studied at the faculty. At the same time, I don't like life in big cities so Prague was out of the question. Brno is located not far from my native Uherské Hradiště and I was amazed by the campus. It’s a wonderful place for someone who wants to be a scientist. In the end, it was probably the prestige of Masaryk University that convinced me; one always reads about the amazing things that have been discovered in Brno! It is like a Silicon Valley in Moravia. So, it was a clear choice – Masárna is in Brno and Brno is a “village” at the centre of scientific events.

Would you choose our faculty again?

Probably yes, but I have to say that I don't really have anything to compare it with as I have only studied at MUNI. As for the facilities, I was really impressed; the Bohunice campus amazed me when I first saw it. The library is a fantastic place, both for learning and taking a short nap. But most importantly, I really appreciate that the teachers are real “brainboxes” in their fields, and I am lucky that many of these people also have the gift of being able to pass on their knowledge.

Which subject has impressed you most and why?

I just don’t have the time to study all the interesting things that are taught at the faculty, any of which I would happily have studied. However, I was definitely impressed by Organic Chemistry and Bioethics. I was fascinated by the structure in Organic Chemistry, and in Bioethics, for the first time, I had the opportunity of looking into some of the problems that science can bring, alongside all the discoveries and progress.

What possibilities are there for involving students in practical research?

From my point of view, there are many doors open at the university for those who want to do practical research. I have even seen high school students working on their SOČ take part in research here. I would say that the only obstacle stopping a MUNI student getting involved in research is their fear that they have nothing to offer, but this is a mistake.

Have you taken the opportunity to study or work abroad?

I haven’t taken the opportunity yet, though the thought and desire are there.

How did you get into Generation Mendel?

I’d say it was a huge coincidence. That year, thanks to one of my biochemistry classmates, I joined the IBIS biological seminar, which included one of the initiators of the idea to participate in iGEM. He just asked me if I was interested. Later, all those who showed an interest met with Standa and Barča, who outlined what lay in front of us, and I just went for it.

What have you gained from your participation in Generation Mendel?

A huge amount of experience and many interesting and good people you can count on. Lots of in-depth conversations about science, biology, philosophy or cooking soup - and I have to say I may have got my first grey hairs! I have to say that since I’ve been at university, I missed being with a group of friends. But I’ve got a bad habit in that I really like to get to know new people, so it didn't take long to find new friends among the biochemists. But Generation Mendel is something even bigger for me. The feeling that comes with the desire to achieve something together is incredibly strong, and it becomes all the stronger when you reach that goal in the end.

What are your plans for the future?

I definitely want to finish my Master’s degree and I’m currently thinking a lot about my Doctorate. I’m still considering what I really want to do in the future. Recently, I’ve been very interested in research on aging. I definitely want to continue in the popularisation of science and in educating the general public about the fields of genetically modified organisms and synthetic biology. I would definitely like to travel and learn new languages. I’m currently working on French, but for me it’s more a way of relaxing than hard work. In fact, there are many possibilities; however, I’m almost certain that my future will be connected in some way with Generation Mendel.


Translated by Kevin Roche.

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