On January 27, our long-time colleague and friend Pavel Bakala has left us

  • Tomáš Lanča
  • 04.02.2021
Pavel Bakala worked as a researcher at the Institute of Physics and the Research Center for Computational Physics and Data Processing at Silesian University in Opava since 2006. Between 2012 and 2017 he held the position of Vice Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy and Science. He focused mainly on theoretical and computational physics, numerical data modelling, and, last but not least, the popularization of science. He has left us at the age of only 52.

He worked closely with international institutions, authored more than 50 scientific articles in internationally renowned journals and conference proceedings, and was a frequent participant in major scientific conferences and workshops. He created a LSD programming code that portrayed the world as it would look near a black hole (the name corresponds to Paul’s strong sense of sharp, though often biting, humour).

Recently, he studied the possibility of the existence of life around black holes, the matter motion in the extreme gravitational field, and other current astrophysical issues. Some of the research results, in which Pavel participated, were acknowledged by icons of the field such as Kip Thorne, Lawrence Krauss, or Avi Loeb, and his work has also received acclaim in popular media (e.g., New Scientist, BBC Science Focus,Science Mag and also in Russian and Finnish online journals). He greatly valued personal cooperation on scientific projects with prof. Luigi Stella from the Astronomical Observatory of Rome and Dr. Maurizio Falanga of the Swiss International Space Science Institute.

He also served as a devoted mentor and, despite his (sometimes) specific teaching methods, he was always able to activate the potential for scientific work in his students and encouraged and motivated them to embark on an academic career. He supervised many bachelor and master theses, involved students in demanding research projects, and provided all the necessary support. The significance of his work is illustrated not only by his scientific achievements but also by the accomplishments of the students he brought to science.

"For me, Pavel was not only the supervisor of my bachelor's thesis but also the one who showed me the way to the world of science and opened the door to travel. He introduced me to the field of astrophysics and supported me in my first scientific steps. I am extremely grateful to him."
- Zuzana Turoňová, a 2nd-year student of a MA program. She plans to start her doctoral studies and was offered a parallel job at Los Alamos National Laboratory in the USA.

"I first met Pavel in the second year of my studies at the university. I knew him as a man who was willing to devote himself to his students. It was his habit not to hesitate to involve us in real scientific tasks from the early stages of our studies. Often these were the ones he was dealing with at the time. He involved us in his work despite the fact that he would finish it faster and better himself."
- Kateřina Klimovičová, a student of the last year of her doctoral studies. Although still a doctoral student, she is the author or co-author of more than 20 scientific publications and thus far exceeds the standard for this phase of her scientific career.

"Pavel started to supervise me in the first year of my master's degree, and although I did not study science, he convinced me that I could still succeed in it. Without him, I would never have applied for a doctoral program, I wouldn't have believed that I could make it. He was always kind and friendly to his students and
showed me that working in science also has a very pleasant human side. ”

- Debora Lančová, a doctoral student. Among other things, she is the main author of a study publishing supercomputer calculations in the prestigious journal The Astrophysical Journal Letters. In connection with this work, she was recently approached as a speaker for invited lectures at two major international conferences.

Pavel's strong personality integrated brisk response time, a significant drive, an impressive intellectual overview, and also a distinctly human side, which he systematically and skillfully tried to hide behind sarcasm, though he often failed. His complex disposition was reflected by his multiple, often opposing
positions and conflicting statements, which he frequently illustrated by fitting quotes from an infinite number of writers, such as Stanislaw Lem:

“No one reads; if someone does read, he doesn't understand; if he understands, he immediately forgets.“
“Good books tell the truth, even when they're about things that never existed and never will.“

This is how we knew Pavel and now we miss him (although he detested such proclamations and would be the first to forbid them).