Thanks to Marius Jakulis Jason (MJJ) Foundation top-class researcher joins KTU

Research | 2022-02-22

The Marius Jakulis Jason (MJJ) Foundation has published a list of seven researchers who have been awarded almost EUR 200,000 in grants to continue their research in Lithuania. One of them is Dr Inga Popovaitė, a researcher, outer space sociologist, returning to Lithuania from the University of Iowa where she is currently studying. She will join a research team at Kaunas University of Technology (KTU) Faculty of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities.

Popovaite_KTU
Dr Inga Popovaitė, a researcher at KTU Faculty of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities

Dr Inga Popovaitė’s research interests include space analogue research, group processes, sociology of emotions, sociology of outer space, quantitative methods.

“I see great potential to develop my career as a scientist in Lithuania. In 2021, Lithuania became an associate member of the European Space Agency (ESA) and thus opened new opportunities for Lithuanians to international cooperation in the field of space research. I want to develop human (social) space studies, and I think that there are many opportunities for that in Lithuania now. I also want to contribute to the development of analytical and technological skills among social science graduates. There is still a lack of data analysis specialists in Lithuania, especially those with a background in social or behavioural sciences. I think that with my knowledge and abilities I will be able to do it,” says Popovaitė.

The Minister of Education, Science and Sports Jurgita Šiugždinienė says that our country needs ambitious and innovative scientists who would contribute not only to the economic development of Lithuania but also to the promotion of the State in the international scientific arena.

“We are proud of the selected researchers and are very grateful to the MJJ Foundation for a significant impact in attracting the country’s greatest talents, promoting the internationalisation of science and cooperation between science and business. From the government’s side, we are increasing funding for research and experimental development – this year by almost a third, EUR 44 million. Researchers’ salaries are also rising. However, we can do much more with the combined efforts of business, private and those of the State,” says Šiugždinienė.

Ainius Lašas, Dean of the KTU Faculty of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities, who has invited Dr Popovaitė to his team, says that by cooperating with the Foundation, universities can attract promising scientists with international experience and allow them to create future Lithuania.

“Grants from the MJJ Foundation are like a breath of fresh air in the Lithuanian higher education. After all, there is no more valuable investment than an investment in people, who not only create new knowledge but also teach students to create it. In this way, we ensure our long-term ability to compete in international markets and remain an attractive place for investment from other countries. I am very excited that, as Dean of the Faculty, I can use the opportunities offered by the MJJ Foundation and attract such interesting and exceptional people as Dr Inga Popovaitė,” says Lašas.

The philanthropic MJJ Foundation established three years ago, provides financial support to talented business developers, academics and students who can and are willing to contribute to the growth of the Lithuanian economy, informs the Foundation press release.

During the three years since its establishment, the MJJ Foundation has awarded 21 grants to the researchers who have defended their doctoral studies and are working abroad, who want to continue their innovative research in Lithuania and teach students here.

Dr Popvaitė, who has already joined a team of researchers at KTU, will seek to increase the internationalisation of Lithuanian science by working with data from the Mars Desert Research Station in the United States, building relationships with the LunAres research base in Poland and other European researchers working in the field. This will contribute to strengthening Lithuania’s competitiveness in the field of space research.

Get to know Dr Inga Popovaitė: http://popovaite.com/

Some of her recent publications in the media:

https://theconversation.com/coronavirus-quarantine-could-provide-lessons-for-future-space-travel-on-how-regular-people-weather-isolation-134762

https://spacenews.com/what-the-2010s-taught-us-about-women-in-space/