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Students from Split - Croatia
Students from Split – Croatia

Ingenious discovery of Split students on helichrysum oil

Working on the project ‘Biochemistry of Essential Oils’, students of the graduate study of Biology and Chemistry at the Faculty of Science in Split noticed that helichrysum essential oil causes the death of breast cancer cells, which is why they received the Rector’s Award.

-The aim of this project was to investigate the impact of Mediterranean plant essential oil on healthy and carcinogenic human cells. Research has shown that helichrysum essential oil causes the death of breast cancer cells, which provides guidance to scientists for further research.

That news was reason enough to visit those responsible for this success. Zvonimir Jazo, project manager, initially described to us how they came to this discovery.

Focus of research

Our research was focused on the study of natural compounds found in essential oils, whose biological activity could have useful applications. All research was conducted with essential oils isolated by distillation from a wild plant. The collection of wild plants was done in ecologically acceptable locations throughout Dalmatia, from the island of Sipan to the Kornati, one sample of helichrysum is from Herzegovina.

Studies of the biological activity of sage and helichrysum essential oils on healthy skin cells and breast cancer cells were conducted at the Mediterranean Institute for Life Studies. I would like to thank the management and coordinator of the Institute, Dr. sc. Branka Bernard, and the leader of the scientific group Biology of Robustness dr. sc. Katarina Trajković, on the expressed support and opportunities to work in their laboratory for cell cultures.

Without the support of the Institute, our project would not be feasible. I would like to express my special thanks to the member of the mentioned scientific group, my colleague Vlatka Paštar, who trained two participants in the project to work independently with the stations

Zvonimir Jazo – student leader of project
Helichrysum plant - healing miracle
Helichrysum italicum – Immortelle

The obtained results are more correctly defined as a positive experimental observation

After the project “Biochemistry of Essential Oil” was awarded the Special Rector’s Award, sensational news about the discovery of Split students was released to the public.

I would not characterize the achieved results as a discovery, we did not find a cure for breast cancer, the obtained results are more correctly defined as a positive experimental observation.

Our entire research can be characterized as a preliminary study that provides guidance to other scientists and more modern laboratories for further and more detailed experiments.

Zvonimir Jazo – student leader of project

What was not mentioned in the media after the Rector’s Award, and which I consider a special success as a project manager, is the use of electron microscopy to study the surface of cells. By searching the literature, the students independently devised and developed a simple protocol according to which the outer surface of the cell membrane of adherent cells can be imaged. This protocol can be used by scientists in the natural and medical professions for the purposes of their research, says the project manager Jazo.

They are especially grateful to the University and the Faculty, without whose help their success would not have been possible.

For several years now, they have been actively conducting tenders through which funds are awarded to finance student projects in various categories. It is a competition to which all interested students can apply with their projects. Without the financial and administrative support of the University of Split, many student projects would remain only at the level of an idea. The possibility of independent organization of research projects means a lot to students in the development of their careers, gaining experience in writing, organizing and participating in a scientific project, as well as all activities envisaged by the project.

The Faculty of Chemical Technology has provided students with significant support in the form of providing laboratory space and equipment. Procedures for isolating essential oils from collected plant material were performed in the same laboratory where professors carry out their projects.

We had the significant support of our professors, I would especially like to thank our dean prof. dr. sc. Igor Jerkovic, who enabled us to use GC-MS devices for the analysis of essential oils, and doc. dr. sc. Zvonimir Marijanovic who helped us during the analysis. Support and guidance to students during the research was expressed by postdoctoral student dr. sc. Ivana Carev. In 2019, students presented the scientific results of this collaboration with a poster presentation at the international congress in Lovran “Crossroads in Life Sciences” organized by the Croatian Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Happy atmosphere
Students and teachers in a happy atmosphere after the discovery

Newly equipped laboratories provide us with all the conditions necessary for quality work

After Zvonimir explained to us in detail what their achievements were, we moved away from the topic and asked the students of both faculties if they were satisfied with the conditions in which they are academically educated.

  • The study conditions at the Faculty of Science in Split are extremely high. Our teachers are very qualified, approachable and accommodating, and the newly equipped laboratories provide us with all the conditions necessary for quality work. Also, we are always informed in detail and in time about the possibilities of international cooperation such as student exchange, going on professional internships and the like. These are just some of the series of aspects that we are really satisfied with, and we would like to take this opportunity to once again thank all the staff of our faculty who are responsible for the implementation of such a high quality of education.

  • Something we would definitely like to improve is the involvement of students in research projects. Unfortunately, a large number of them are still graduating from college without participating in additional activities. The view that it is too difficult and perhaps unfeasible to be far from the truth prevails unjustifiably. In the future, we would certainly like to see progress in bringing experimental work closer to students. The experience and acquaintances gained in such a project are an indispensable and valuable part of higher education. We are very grateful that we have many opportunities for work and progress, and we hope that others will recognize them and bravely embark on new challenges, says student Ena Ivic, who participated in the implementation of the project.

Her colleague from the Faculty of Chemical Technology shares the same views.

  • The Rector’s Award is the result of good conditions we have at the Faculty of Chemical Technology, as well as excellent communication with professors. Our Faculty has modernly equipped laboratories that work in small groups, which allows students to quickly and easily master the material and apply everything they hear and learn in lectures and seminars.

What I think would improve study is maybe more freedom in work and focus on independent student research at graduate school, at the expense of certain subjects perhaps a little less important for study, or the direction we chose,

Antea Hrepic graduate student of organic chemistry and Biochemistry, which received two awards this academic year: the Rector’s Award for Excellence and the Special Rector’s Award for participation in the Biochemistry of Essential Oil project.

Many of our teachers are renowned and proven scientists in their fields worldwide

In the end, we talked to the deans of both faculties, prof. dr. sc. Igor Jerkovic (KTF) and prof. dr. sc. Nikola Koceic-Bilan (PMF), to whom we asked several questions.

You must be proud of your students. How much does this mean for the faculty you head?

Dean of the Faculty of Chemical Technology, prof.dr.sc. Igor Jerkovic: “Of course we are all proud of our students, especially when they succeed in the realization of their student projects that include scientific research. It is very important that students get involved in scientific work during their studies, which will motivate them and that after graduation they continue their further education and training, and maybe decide on a scientific career. “

In what ways do you invest in student progress? What can you be proud of?

Dean of the Faculty of Chemical Technology, prof.dr.sc. Igor Jerkovic: “We invest in student progress in different ways: through the mentoring system, increasing the number of teaching bases, co-financing student activities, raising standard studies at KTF, etc. We can boast that in the last 5 years we have significantly raised the standard of study: moving to a new building with modern infrastructure (including 10 new student laboratories), realization of the project Functional integration of the University of Split through the development of scientific research infrastructure. scientific research equipment, improvement of the computer classroom, etc. “

What competencies do PMF students acquire after completing their studies to work in a scientific or educational field? How do such projects affect this and what are their advantages?

Dean of the Faculty of Science, prof. dr. sc. Nikola Koceic-Bilan: “All study programs of the Faculty of Science, and these are studies in basic sciences within the STEM field, traditionally give students a broad education, regardless of whether they studied in a teaching or research field. It is this quality education, which is not directly focused exclusively on the future profession, that gives students the flexibility and ability to adapt to find employment after graduation in different jobs and in different sectors. The labor market has long recognized the staff who left the Faculty of Natural Sciences and I am sure that it will remain so in the future.

Student projects directly give students an insight into scientific work and enable them to research and connect the theory and practical principles of their field. They enrich them with the skills needed for career development, and they themselves become highly competent in the labor market. In addition to understanding the methods of scientific work and developing technical skills, it is also important to encourage creativity and critical thinking in students. This experience increases motivation and has a positive effect on their cognitive abilities. ”

What makes your faculty different from others, that is, what makes you stand out?

Dean of the Faculty of Science, prof. dr. sc. Nikola Koceic-Bilan: “At the Faculty of Science, as well as at all similar institutions that take care of scientific research, and the name of our faculty in English is the Faculty of Science, the government has a relaxed and informal atmosphere. This is an important difference compared to other faculties. This is noticeable from the very entrance to the PMF building decorated with a lot of spirit. But the most important thing is to emphasize the accessibility and simplicity of teachers who are ready to transfer knowledge and are available to students with a lot of passion and benefits.

Many of our teachers are renowned and proven scientists in their fields on a world scale, but you will never feel any kind of arrogance and ostentation in them. Especially in higher years, when the teaching groups in some courses are significantly smaller, there is a friendly and cooperative atmosphere between professors and students, which is the most stimulating for any type of knowledge acquisition. Knowledge derived from fundamental sciences such as natural is always and almost everywhere applicable.

Despite the new knowledge and discoveries for which we can thank technological progress and the permanent progress of the natural sciences, the knowledge we acquired in the study does not depend on the political, social or even technological context. They are simply always relevant and always useful because they use universal scientific vocabulary to explain the world and nature around us. “

As our ancestors knew years ago, more and more research is proving the healing properties of helichrysum plant, as well as many other medicinal plants.
“People have to go back to nature”

New Day ltd – Novi Dan d.o.o.

Interview was taken and translated from:

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