BELGRADE – Historic news for science in Serbia arrived in Brussels earlier this week. Our scientist Sofija Stefanović has won an ERC grant and entered the most prestigious club in European science, a success not achieved by any researcher from Serbia thus far.
In this way the Republic of Serbia has become one of the countries which have a scientist with an ERC grant.
Dr Sofija Stefanović and her team became the stars of domestic science after winning the first grant of the European Research Council to come to Serbia, the Center for Promoting Science has announced.
Exciting news arrived from Brussels on 8 December. For the first time in the history of Serbian science, the European Research Council has placed a scientific project from Belgrade among the best research undertakings in Europe.
In this way the Republic of Serbia joined the group of countries which have a scientist who received a grant of the ERC.
After no Serbian researcher has succeeded in seven years, Dr Sofija Stefanović and her team from the Laboratory for Bioarcheology of the Department of Archeology of Belgrade University’s Faculty of Philosophy, received funding for their project BIRTH which deals with births, mothers and babies in prehistoric times.
The ERC finances the best scientific projects which, in the most difficult competition in Europe, pass a rigorous two-stage control before committees of leading European scientists. Until this week Serbia had no representative in this club, similarly with most countries of the region – so far only Croatia has succeeded in winning and ERC grant.
By the grant Dr Stefanović and her assistants have been awarded significant funds for researching a new approach to understanding population growth in prehistoric times, in the Neolithic period, from 10000 until 5000 BC in the Balkans.
“It has been a question which has tormented me since my days as a student. It is well known that man has spent the entire evolution at a demographic minimum and achieved demographic growth only in the Neolithic era”, Dr Stefanović says, adding that it was perhaps the most important event in human evolution because “without a demographic expansion in the Neolithic era there would have been no civilization”.
However, only indirect evidence exists of a growth of fertility – everything we know is based on the fact that archeologists have detected an increase in the Neolithic era of settlements and ceramic fragments. The BIRTH project will offer the first biological proof of an evolution of fertility.
The new idea which Stefanović and her team have been developing for a long time and defended before an ЕRC committee for the past is to look into findings of human teeth from the prehistoric period and by studying so-called incremental lines in dental cement (each of which corresponds to a year of life) to find those which are dark, thicker and mineralized, which according to clinical studies indicate pregnancies.
By analyzing the lines, the team from the Laboratory will get statistical data about births in Neolithic women and establish why human population grew at a much faster rate in that period.
The first winner of an ERC grant in Serbia, Dr Sofija Stefanović, has already presented her ideas to the Belgrade public in the CPN Scientific Club. On 23 October, she was a guest of the centre for the Promotion of Science on the Horizon on Thursday, when she spoke about her work in a forum entitled Х2020 and the ЕRC.
The next venue at which she will speak will be in the Scientific Club on 18 December.
Source: House of Good News