On the eve of celebration of the Centenary of Lithuania’s Independence, on February 14, the building of research laboratories of a new, contemporary Marine Research Institute (MRI) of Klaipėda University (KU) was opened. It will house three modern laboratories: of Coastal Environment and Biogeochemistry, of Waterborne Transport and Air Polution, and of Mechanical and Marine Engineering. Currently, those are the only laboratories of such a level and potential in Lithuania.
The construction of the building of research laboratories in the KU campus started in June 2016 in the framework of implementation of Stage 2 of the Marine Valley Development and the Study Infrastructure Updating Project (JŪRA). For the construction of the building and the upgrading of the lab infrastructure, 10,5 mln euro were allocated from the EU Structural Funds and the budget of the Republic of Lithuania. Construction works were carried out by the construction company UAB Irdaiva.
The event of the opening of the MRI research labs building was attended by Klaipėda City Mayor Vytautas Grubliauskas, Director General of Klaipėda State Seaport Authority Arvydas Vaitkus, representative of the Ministry of Education and Science Egidija Kaspariūnienė, Director of Klaipėda Economic Development Agency Simas Simanauskas, Director General of UAB Irdaiva Vitas Lopinys, and others.
KU Rector prof. habil. dr. Eimutis Juzeliūnas welcomed the audience: “The emergence of advanced research laboratories is important for Klaipėda University, the city of Klaipėda, Lithuania, and the Baltic Sea Region. KU acquired an infrastructural flagship which will provide the University scientists with an opportunity to carry out high level international scientific research. Here, projects beneficial to society will be launched.”
Director General of Klaipėda State Seaport Authority Arvydas Vaitkus emphasised the importance of an independent university for the city of Klaipėda: “The opening of the building means a serious statement to entire Lithuania to the effect that Klaipėda needs an independent university of a specific character.”
A visit to research labs
After an official opening, the participants of the event were invited to visit the laboratories. Head of the Coastal Environment and Biogeochemistry Laboratory dr. Mindaugas Žilius introduced it to the visitors: “This lab can be called the best in Lithuania not just because of technological solutions, but also due to its equipment whose cost incidentally exceeds the price of a Ferrari three or four times. It will not yield to the best European labs meeting the highest standards.
Dr. Žilius added that the new equipment will be used in cancer-related and pharmaceutical research, as it will enable researchers to see cells and the elemental composition. “The devices are so sensitive that even from samples of Klaipėda water we’ll be able to tell if somebody in the city uses drugs. Moreover, we’ll be dealing with issues related to the quality of water in the Curonian Lagoon and the Baltic Sea coastal strip. Other equipment will help to determine whether the soil is stable and suitable for the construction of a future house”, said Žilius.
Paulius Rapalis, when introducing the Waterborne Transport and Air Polution Lab under his leadership, explained that the lab provided the services of research on liquid and solid fuels as well as biofuel and air polutant emissions: “This is the only laboratory of such a type in Lithuania that focuses on waterborne transport research. We have got two important supplements to the lab equipment: an engine test stand due to which we’ll be able to directly test the properties of the engine under varying load conditions. The second device is a flow channel first operating in Lithuania which will simulate sea conditions for various hydro objects on a reduced scale. It is filled with water, and then waves are created in it, and the process helps establish the impact of waves on the hull of the vessel.”
According to Žilius, the lab complex will be adapted for studies: “The infrastructure will be adapted to the needs of Erasmus and Lithuanian students conducting research for their bachelor’s and master’s theses or doctoral dissertations. Lectures will be given here, and trainings and conferences will be held”.