Five authors who defended their theses at Vilnius University (VU) have been awarded in the competition for the best Master's thesis, organized by the Lithuanian Union of Young Scientists (LUYS) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). Their work has been recognized as the best in the fields of technology, medicine and health, agriculture, humanities and natural sciences.
A total of seven authors of the best Master's theses from Lithuanian universities were awarded at the MFA ceremony.
Master's theses are evaluated on the basis of relevance (novelty) of the thesis, originality of the topic, a comprehensive and focused review of the literature, appropriately chosen research methods, quality of the research results and validity of the conclusions, significance of the findings and/or applicability of the thesis' conclusions, design of the thesis, coherence of the text, accuracy of the language, and compliance with the ethics of scientific research.
Denis Baronas was awarded for the best paper in the field of technological sciences "Study of the mechanism of binding of sulfonamides containing an ester group to human carbonic anhydrases". His supervisor is Dr Asta Zubrienė.
D. Baronas showed that the particular affinity for carbonic anhydrases and the irreversible inhibition of a newly discovered type of compound (inhibitor) is due to the formation of a covalent bond between the amino acids of the compound and the protein. This newly discovered mechanism has great potential for the development of compounds selective for a particular carbonic anhydrase isoform, which could in the future become precursors to the next generation of cancer or epilepsy drugs.
Justina Žvirblytė was awarded for the best paper in the field of medicine and health sciences "Single cell transcriptomics study of healthy and cancerous human kidney tissues". Her supervisor is Professor Linas Mažutis.
J. Žvirblytė's Master's thesis studied clear cell renal cell carcinoma samples by single cell RNA sequencing. This technology makes it possible to analyze what cells make up the tissue and what each cell does. This can lead to new markers for disease prognosis or response to treatment, as well as potential therapeutic targets. This work identifies previously undescribed immune and vascular endothelial cell populations in kidney cancer that may contribute to disease progression. These cells are characterized by the expression of certain genes that could be used as therapeutic targets to treat disease in the future.
Rūta Miškinytė was awarded for the best thesis in the field of humanities "Beggars and begging in Vilnius in the 18th century". Her supervisor is Dr Martynas Jakulis.
R. Miškinytė's work researches how begging was regulated during the period under study and takes a deeper look at a beggars' organisation that had been active in the city since the first half of the 17th century and the reasons for its establishment. It also presents a cross-section of the social stratum of beggars, or rather several of them, from different angles: gender, age, marital status, mobility, etc. While the history of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Vilnius have long been considered rather romantic, the study of beggars, a group on the fringes of society, reveals a slightly different Vilnius.
Giedrė Skliutė's master's thesis "Ex vivo studies of stem cells of endometrial origin" has been recognised as the best in natural sciences. Her supervisor is Professor Rūta Navakauskienė.
Infertility is a disease of the reproductive system that affects 8 to 12% of couples of reproductive age worldwide. For many couples, the inability to have children leads to serious physical, social and psychological disorders. Studies show that endometrial dysfunction can lead to implantation failure and early pregnancy loss, making endometrial-derived stem cell changes an attractive target for infertility research of uncertain origin.
G. Skliutė's Master's thesis aims to evaluate the changes in gene expression in endometrial stem cells induced by in vitro cultivation and to study the properties of stem cells of menstrual origin as well as their potential to differentiate in epithelial direction. Endometrial cells from non-pregnant women have been found to have lower expression of genes responsible for cell renewal, which can lead to faster ageing and poorer reproductive potential. Menstrual stem cells, which are easier and safer to obtain than endometrial stem cells, have also been found to have properties that could make them useful for the diagnosis and treatment of reproductive disorders.
Gabrielė Bumbulytė's work "Search for compounds in essential oils of thyme (Thymus vulgaris L.), spearmint (Mentha spicata L.), and in metabolites of microscopic fungi that repel the mealworm beetle (Tenebrio molitor L.)" has been recognized as the best paper in agriculture. Her supervisor is Professor Vincas Būda.
Entomophagy is part of a sustainable human diet as insects are able to feed on a wide variety of forage, with low greenhouse gas emissions and lower water consumption than conventional livestock production. In the future, insects may become an integral part of the diet of humans and animals raised for food. Research into finding alternative sources to the existing food industry is currently gaining momentum worldwide, as is the popularity of organic insect farms, which allow insects or insect products to be included in people's daily diets.
According to the paper by G. Bumbulytė, the mealworm beetle (Tenebrio molitor L.) is easy to grow, has a relatively high biomass gain, is nutritious and a rich source of protein. An important step in insect rearing is the collection of their biomass increments – separating them from the feeding medium and from dead insects. This could be achieved by using repellents.
The individual volatile compounds in essential oils are well suited for insect control as natural repellents. In addition, all stages of mealworm beetle develop in cereal crops and are exposed to unfavourable conditions for their development, such as microscopic fungi in cereals. Potential repellent compounds can also be found in volatile metabolites secreted by cereal microscopic fungi. In this work, the effects of natural essential oil compounds and volatile metabolites released by cereal microscopic fungi are evaluated.
The project, organized by the LUYS and the MFA, aims to encourage postgraduate students to produce high level, relevant to society and industry Master's theses, which would be recognized not only in Lithuania but also worldwide and to encourage them to move on to their doctoral studies.