The Prozkoumat! Program (“Explore” in Czech), in its second year, is in full swing! Ten UA undergraduate researchers are involved in full-time research at the Czech Academy of Sciences Institute of Parasitology in Ceske Budejovice, Czech for ten weeks. In addition to learning how research is done, these students have unparalleled opportunities to learn about Czech history, culture, and social conditions. While their primary focus is on their scientific projects, they have visited Prague, Cesky Krumlov, Hlbuloka, and other sites in South Bohemia on weekends. They travelled to Ostrava, an industrial city in the eastern part of the country that has a large population of Roma, to learn more about this group. The Roma are the minority population in Czech and deal with many of the same issues faced by minority populations in the US.
Dr. Salim Murad, a social scientist at the University of South Bohemia who studies migration and immigration, accompanied the group to Ostrava. Through his connections we were able to visit a community center whose work is directed towards helping the Roma develop skills that will improve their situation. The Roma children danced for us and we did science demonstrations for them.
Dr. Murad also gave a “Taste of Communism” workshop where he talked about the “Ostalgia” Movement (i.e., nostalgia for life under Communism). He shared foods that were common in the Communist era, that disappeared after the 1989 Velvet Revolution, but are now making a comeback as some people yearn for “the old days.” This workshop gave Prozkoumaters a lot to think about in terms of pros and cons of living under different governmental systems.
One weekend the group was invited to visit a Czech family in a local village. There they met a 94 year old woman who survived World War II and gained a perspective on what life was like under the Nazis. History is much more real, much less abstract, when it is told by someone who lived through it. We spent a lovely afternoon visiting the local palace called Kratochvile (every village in South Bohemia seems to have a magnificent palace or castle), and picking cherries and raspberries at a farm in the area.
In the next few weeks students will be finishing their experiments, preparing their final presentations to be delivered at a research retreat (to be held near a local castle), completing their Czech lessons, and saying “na shaledanou” to our wonderful, gracious hosts who provided an amazing experience for us all.
Prozkoumat is funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health to the University of Arizona (MD 001427).