Current Biology_29: PR142-R144
Julius (aka Jula) Lukeš is currently Director of the Institute of Parasitology at the Biology Centre of the Czech Academy of Sciences and Professor of the Faculty of Natural Sciences at the University of South Bohemia in České Budějovice (Budweis), Czech Republic. He studied at Charles University in Prague between 1981 and 1986, and he conducted his postdoctoral research at the University of Amsterdam from 1993 to 1994 and at the University of California in Riverside and Los Angeles from 1997 to 1999. His lab has broad interests in functional and comparative genomics as well as in the morphology and evolution of single-celled eukaryotes (protists). He was a Senior Fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, is a member of the Learned Society of the Czech Republic, and has been elected as a Fellow of the European and American Societies for Microbiology and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Did you have an interest in biology from an early age? I come from a Czech–German family of butchers that used the name Lukeš for Czech customers and Lukesch for the German and Jewish ones. Before the takeover of Czechoslovakia by the communists in 1948, my forebears won several prizes for the best ham in the world. However, since my father knew animals only from this perspective, he was rather surprised by my intense childhood interest in biology and only after some hesitation decided to fully support me. From his perspective, it was an advantage that biology was apolitical (except in the case of Lysenko and a few others) and therefore could function as a meaningful hideaway in the gray and ever penetrating ‘real socialism’ of my youth. And indeed it was. Although I was not even supposed to be admitted into secondary school, due to my origin from a capitalist family, I was lucky that the regime was already melting by that time. I even made it to the coveted academic destination of the Charles University in Prague. Later on, after the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, my father wanted me to go back to the centuries-old family business, and this made a lot of sense in the years of close-to-zero funding and in view of a generally bleak future for Czech science in the 90s. Yet, by that time, science was already my dream job and I never once seriously considered giving it up.
Link to full article: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.01.038