On the morning of Saturday, 31 May, the diploma ceremony for this year’s START programme beneficiaries took place at the Royal Castle in Warsaw.The recipients of this prestigious scholarship– the ablest young scholars from throughout Poland – received their diplomas from Prof. Irena Kotowska, Vice-Chair of the FNP Advisory Board, and Prof. Maciej Żylicz, President of the FNP Board. This was the 22nd time the scholarships were awarded.
The first recipients of scholarships to be awarded their diplomas were those who also received a distinction for their academic achievements in the competition: Dr inż. Piotr Hańczyc from the Faculty of Chemistry of Wrocław University of Technology (the first recipient in the history of the START programme of the Barbara Skarga Scholarship for a young scholar whose research displays courageous breaking of interdisciplinary boundaries, opening new research perspectives and creating new values in science), as well as Tomasz Kamiński from the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Dr inż. Joanna Olesiak-Bańska from the Faculty of Chemistry of Wrocław University of Technology and Dr inż. Weronika Wituszyńska from the Faculty of Horticulture, Biotechnology and Landscape Architecture of Warsaw University of Life Sciences – SGGW. Dr Agata Cygan from the Faculty of Physics, Astronomy and Informatics of Nicolaus Copernicus University also received a distinction, but was unable to attend, and her father collected her diploma on her behalf. The scholarships of these four beneficiaries (whose applications were rated most highly by the competition reviewers) were increased to 36,000 PLN from funds which the FNP receives from the 1% income tax pledge to a public benefit organisation.
In his speech to the beneficiaries, Prof. Maciej Żylicz stressed that the FNP scholarship gives them a start in science, comparing the path to becoming a scholar to mountain climbing: “Sometimes you have to stop, change your route, and even turn back from your chosen path. But reaching the peak makes all the effort worth it. From the peak we can see much more – we can feel free.”
The ceremony was attended by beneficiaries and their guests, as well as representatives of the academic community. The beneficiaries received letters from Polish President Bronisław Komorowski, who wrote, “I am certain that every investment in young, able Polish researchers is an investment in our country’s science and the most promising investment in its development, its competitiveness, in creating conditions for technological and economic innovations,” as well as Marshal of the Sejm of the Republic of Poland Ewa Kopacz and Minister of the State Treasury Włodzimierz Karpiński. The Minister of Science and Higher Education was represented by Undersecretary of State Prof. Włodzisław Duch, who personally congratulated the recipients of scholarships.
Alongside the FNP Prize, the START programme is one of the FNP’s two longest-lasting programmes. It is also the largest scholarship programme in Poland for the best young scholars. In this year’s 22nd edition of the competition, 136 beneficiaries received START programme scholarships. They were selected after a multi-stage competition procedure from 1250 candidates who entered. The annual scholarship amounts to 28,000 PLN, to be used at the discretion of the beneficiary. This year, the Foundation will allocate over 3.8 million PLN to START programme scholarships.