University of Primorska Faculty of Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Information Technologies

Friday, 17 March 2023 20TH SOLEMN ACADEMY UP, UP 2.0


17 March marks the birthday of the University of Primorska, since it was entered in the court register on that day in 2003, and this year marks its 20th anniversary. The celebrations culminate in a gala academy, which this year took place on Thursday, 16 March 2023, and which, along with the awarding of the University's prizes, was a special occasion with the presence of distinguished guests.

The keynote speaker was the European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and YouthMariya Gabriel, she emphasised: »Strong links between your university and your innovation and a focus on interdisciplinary, challenge-based challenges in teaching and research have been and will continue to be continue to be the key to your success.«


The guests were welcomed by Dr. Klavdija Kutnar, Rector of UP, and Katja Kosem, President of the UP Student Council. 

»Therefore, we do not fear for the future of the University of Primorska. Because every minute, hour, day, month, year, we act according to the principle “don’t ever stop wondering”, as our anthem says. This gives us the strength to pick ourselves up even when things go wrong and to achieve even better results than we had planned. We draw this strength and resilience right from our name, UP. In the Slovenian language, “up” means “hope”, so there is always an all-pervasive hope and a desire to improve everything we do. And through the English word “up”, by being aware that we have to do it with confidence, looking up.« dr. Klavdija Kutnar, rector.


»(At UP) you have the opportunity to gain some added value, not just tick off a box and get your degree. A university is a home. Not just for us but also for international students who come to Slovenia for the first time and get an idea of the country based on what they experience at our university. Well, we also rather like to travel around. To gain new experiences, acquaintances, knowledge. But we always like to come back home – to the University of Primorska.« Katja Kosem, President of the UP Student Council


Dr. Jean-Pierre Bourguignon also addressed the audience on the occasion of receiving the title of Honorary Doctor of UP and will deliver his inaugural lecture on Friday, the University's birthday, as the 20th Honorary Doctor of UP.



On the proposal of the UP Famnit and the UP IAM, the title of Honorary Doctor of the University of Primorska is awarded to Academic Professor Jean-Pierre Bourguignon for his outstanding achievements in science and his significant contribution towards developing the University of Primorska and enhancing its reputation.

Professor Bourguignon is a distinguished academic – his research area is differential geometry and his work focuses on the Ricci curvature. He is also the co-author of the monographs A Spinorial Approach to Riemannian and Conformal Geometry (EMS, 2015) and Mathematics, A Beautiful Elsewhere (Thames and Hudson, 2012). For most of his career, he was associated with the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), which provided him great freedom to continue his research.

Until 2013, he was Director of the prestigious international research institute Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques (IHES). Under his leadership, no fewer than three IHES members were awarded the Fields Medal, which, together with the Abel Prize, is the most prestigious award in mathematics. His research and teaching received continuous support by the École polytechnique, where he taught from 1986 to 2013. As President of the Société mathématique de France (1990–92), Professor Bourguignon was instrumental in establishing the European Mathematical Society (EMS), founded in 1990, which he chaired from 1995 to 1998. The most notable achievements of his tenure include the launch of the Journal of the European Mathematical Society (JEMS), the increased visibility of the EMS and his massive support for young mathematicians.

Professor Bourguignon received the Prix Paul Langevin in 1987 and the Prix du Rayonnement Français in Mathematical Sciences and Physics from the French Académie des Sciences in 1997. He has received several honorary titles over the course of his career: he is an honorary member of the London Mathematical Society (LMS) and the German Mathematical Society (DMV). In 2008, he was made honorary doctor of Keio University, Japan, and, in 2011, honorary doctor of Nankai University, China.

Professor Bourguignon has been collaborating with the mathematicians from our University for many years. He first visited our University in December 2016, and after we succeeded in our bid to organise the 8th European Congress of Mathematics in June 2021, our ties were strengthened even further. In addition to his invaluable advice and assistance in providing content for the Congress, he contributed to its smooth organisation and thus to the promotion of the University within the global university network through his active role at the Congress. The presentation of the title Honorary Doctor of the University of Primorska is thus a special honour for both the recipient and the University.

The Rector, together with the Vice-Rectors and Deans, then presented the 2022 University of Primorska Awards:


On the proposal of the UP FM, the 2022 title of Professor Emeritus of the University of Primorska is awarded to Professor Milan Vodopivec for his excellent work in economics as the highest ranking Slovenian economist, his significant contribution to the education of young researchers and his work on unemployment reduction policies.

Professor Milan Vodopivec completed his doctoral studies at the University of Maryland (1988) and worked at the University of Primorska from 2011 to 2022. Today, he is the highest-ranked Slovenian economist in terms of citations according to the RePEc/IDEAS ranking, and the author and editor of an extensive body of scientific research. As a Lead Economist at the World Bank, where he advised many governments on their labour market policies (between 1988 and 2011), he developed the internationally prominent UISIM simulation model, a standard tool in the analysis of unemployment insurance systems in individual countries. His work is also important at national level, as he is one of the authors of the pension reform and a pioneer in the use of administrative data for economic analysis, contributing to the provision of data sources for research purposes at the Statistical Office of the Republic of Slovenia (SURS). He was project leader of three basic and six target research projects at the Slovenian Research Agency (ARRS) as well as the project leader of a European Commission project. He has also taught courses on the labour market, supervised three young researchers and PhD candidates, and contributed to the education of young researchers with a book for them, A Message-Driven Writing Technique.


On the proposal of UP Famnit and the UP IAM, the 2022 UP Formal Charter is awarded to Assistant Professor Nino Bašić for his significant contribution to the development of the University of Primorska in all of its activities and for his outstanding work both in the popularisation of mathematics and computer science among young people and in his integrating role among University of Primorska employees.

 Nino Bašić completed his doctoral studies at the University of Ljubljana and has worked at the University of Primorska since 2016. His research interests are in discrete mathematics and its applications in the natural sciences. He is the project leader of one Slovenian Research Agency project, two bilateral projects with the US and a member of the Management Committee of a COST Action. He has organised several scientific conferences and been a member of the Organising Committee of the 8th European Congress of Mathematics (8ECM). During the pandemic, he organised an international webinar on biomathematics and mathematical chemistry, which is still running today and attracts world-renowned scientists. He has been Layout Editor (and since this year Editor) of Ars Mathematica Contemporanea (AMC) and The Art of Discrete and Applied Mathematics (ADAM), and Managing Editor of the newly established journal Discrete Mathematical Chemistry (DMC). Among the courses he teaches at the Faculty of Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Information Technologies, Mathematical Chemistry, a completely new course he has devised himself, is a special feature. He is also actively engaged in the popularisation of maths and computer science among young people: he participates in competitions (as a committee member and as a mentor) and is among the editorial staff at Presek journal. He plays an exemplary integrating role among all employees, garnering better interpersonal relationships through his willingness to help and cooperate.


On the proposal of the UP PEF, the 2022 Gold Medal of the University of Primorska is awarded to Professor Amalija Žakelj for her significant contribution to the development of didactics of mathematics and her great encouragement in increasing her colleagues’ engagement in project work.

 Professor Amalija Žakelj completed her doctoral studies at the University of Ljubljana in 2004 and has been employed at the University of Primorska since 2016, although she has been teaching at the Faculty for over three decades. Her research interests include didactics of mathematics and curriculum development. She is also a lecturer of courses in didactics of mathematics and is involved in the development of new study programmes. She has been involved in a number of national and international projects as a team leader, and has been an exceptional driving force for colleagues in the field, encouraging them to participate more in project work. She has participated in the organisation of various meetings, chaired the Mathematics in Education mini-symposium and led the activities within the 8th European Congress of Mathematics. She has also made a significant contribution to the development of didactics of mathematics as co-editor and co-author of the scientific monograph Selected Topics in Didactics of Mathematics, which contains selected papers from 8ECM. She is professional and values open communication with other specialists, as she bridges the gap between research and practice in her role of national coordinator for statistical literacy and member of the National Baccalaureate Committee.


On the proposal of the UP Famnit and the UP IAM, the 2022 UP Scientific Excellence Award goes to Associate Professor Matjaž Kljun for his outstanding research breakthrough in 2022, brought about by vision, perseverance, leadership and scientific excellence.

 Matjaž Kljun began working at the University of Primorska in 2003, when he participated in developing and setting up his research field by providing a vision of its potential with a firm basis in close international cooperation. He then completed his doctoral studies in 2014 at Lancaster University, where he built a strong social network of young researchers, who form the core of his collaboration. He has also assimilated Anglo-Saxon research methods, marked by collaboration, the exchange of ideas, encouragement and a reward approach, which the research team has now adopted. All of this led to a remarkable research breakthrough in 2022, when he co-authored 12 original scientific articles (type 1.01), eight of which were SCI (Science Citation Index) journals, ten were Q1 (Quartile 1), and five were A’’ (exceptional achievements), increasing his A1 score by 1.36 in just one year. He is also the recipient of two international prizes from the research community, with two papers receiving honourable mentions – Solids on Soli: Millimetre-Wave Radar Sensing through Materials (14th Conference on Engineering Interactive Computing Systems) and A Survey of Augmented Piano Prototypes: Has Augmentation Improved Learning Experiences (16 th Conference on Interactive Surfaces and Spaces). He shares his research achievements and broad knowledge with his students at the UP Faculty of Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Information Technologies.


On the proposal of the UP FTŠ - Turistica, the 2022 UP Scientific Excellence Award goes to Associate Professor Metod Šuligoj for his outstanding degree of research excellence in tourism and his multifaceted research work.

Metod Šuligoj completed his first PhD at the University of Ljubljana in 2009 and the second one at the Catholic University of Croatia in 2021. He has been working at Faculty of Tourism Studies Turistica since 2010. He demonstrates his scientific excellence by publishing in top-ranked journals beyond the field of tourism and in languages besides English. His articles in Slovenian scientific journals contribute to the development of Slovenian terminology and the promotion of less common topics in Slovenian social sciences and humanities. In 2022, he published four scientific papers, all in indexed journals (SSCI or SCOPUS), and one interdisciplinary monograph. His (usually interdisciplinary) research is conducted both independently and in collaboration with national and international authors, and covers the territory of Slovenia and South-Eastern Europe. His remarkable concern to share his knowledge and experience with younger generations is one of the missions of great researchers. His joint publications in indexed journals prove that he pursues high standards in this area as well. Moreover, he is constantly in contact with practice and presents the solutions he develops within various projects in scientific publications. The integration of all these elements with his successful teaching career tops off his scientific excellence.


On the proposal of the UP FM, the 2022 UP Educational Excellence Award goes to Professor Štefan Bojnec for his outstanding pedagogic work and exceptional mentoring, especially that provided to doctoral students.

Professor Štefan Bojnec completed his doctoral studies in 1988 at the Faculty of Economics of the University of Zagreb, and has worked at the University of Primorska since 2003. He is Head of the Department of Economics and is the lecturer of seven first- and second-cycle courses. He also lectures at foreign universities as a guest lecturer or within international exchanges. The results of surveys carried out among students show exceptionally high ratings, indicating their satisfaction with his teaching. He has also made a significant contribution as a supervisor, not only of master’s and bachelor’s theses, but also of 54 scientific master’s theses and 16 doctoral dissertations (he was a co-supervisor for 5 of them). Five PhD candidates under his supervision have received university or faculty awards for their excellent dissertations. Furthermore, he has made a significant contribution to the education of young professionals as a supervisor to (eight) young researchers. In recent years, he has been shortlisted for the PhD Supervisor of the Year Award by the Slovenian Society of Young Researchers. All of these features of educational excellence are based on his outstanding scientific research, which has produced impressive results as well as garnered him a Zois Prize for achievements in economics.


On the proposal of the UP Famnit, the 2022 Srečko Kosovel Award for UP Students goes to Jakob Povšič for his thesis Zero-Knowledge Authentication under supervisor Professor Andrej Brodnik.

 Jakob Povšič completed the undergraduate study programme in Computer Science at the UP Faculty of Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Information Technologies. His thesis Zero-Knowledge Authentication deals comprehensively with the issue of authentication. It first highlights the issue from the perspective of the role of authentication, then focuses on authentication using a username and password, and analyses the vulnerability of traditional password management. The thesis goes well beyond the level of the expected learning outcomes, both because of its remarkable independent work and its exceptionally comprehensive approach. This extends from the formulation of the theoretical bases to a detailed engineering implementation plan. The latter uses the standard Extensible Authentication Protocol (EAP), making the implementation of the theoretical bases immediately applicable. Much of the knowledge used in the final thesis comes from outside the curriculum, demonstrating the candidate’s scientific and engineering approach. He successfully presented his thesis at the 7th Student Computer Science Research Conference (StuCoSReC) in 2021.


On the proposal of the UP FTŠ - Turistica, the 2022 Srečko Kosovel Award for UP Students goes to Nika Klepec for her master’s thesis The Heritage of the Volna Laško Textile Factory and its Museum Interpretation under supervisor Associate Professor Katja Hrobat Virloget and co-supervisor Assistant Professor Neža Čebron Lipovec.

 Nika Klepec completed her master’s degree in Heritage Tourism, an interdisciplinary study programme of the UP Faculty of Tourism Studies Turistica and the UP Faculty of Humanities. The thesis includes a scientific analysis and self-critical reflection on preliminary incisive social action activities that the author carried out herself: she interviewed former textile workers from the Volna Laško factory, organised a café soirée (2017) and set up an exhibition (2018), which goes beyond the research students usually conduct for the purposes of a master’s thesis. The thesis highlights the topical issue of local community participation in museum presentations and heritage interpretation, which fits with the contemporary participatory trend of an evolving method. Nika Klepec opted for a process that is very challenging and complex due to the activation of a local community and multiple memories and perceptions, especially for someone only at the beginning of their research journey. From a research point of view, the thesis is particularly topical, as it deals with contemporary issues, such as the post-socialist collapse of industry, the related social restructuring, and the current patrimonialisation process of artefacts dating back to the socialist period.


On the proposal of the UP FVZ, the 2022 Srečko Kosovel Award for UP Students goes to Jernej Pleša for his master’s thesis Association between selected biomechanical variables and approach jump, linear acceleration and change of direction in male volleyball players under supervisor Professor Nejc Šarabon and co-supervisor Assistant Professor Žiga Kozinc.

Jernej Pleša completed his master’s degree in Kinesiology at the UP Faculty of Health Sciences. In his thesis, he designed and conducted large-scale and organisationally demanding biomechanical studies on a large sample of volleyball players, addressing both fundamental and applied aspects of sports science. The quality and comprehensiveness of the thesis, which goes well beyond the requirements of the master’s programme, is evidenced by the resulting scientific publications. The candidate used the research questions from the thesis to draw up and publish (with the help of his supervisor and co-supervisor) a remarkable number of papers: in total, he is the co-author of 15 scientific papers, including a category A’’ paper and four category A’ ones. He has demonstrated to be highly independent, proactive and professional when preparing his scientific papers, which he continues to be in his doctoral study programme. His master’s thesis thus represents an important contribution to sport science and an excellent foundation for further research in the field. 


On the proposal of the UP FHŠ, the 2022 Srečko Kosovel Award for UP Students goes to Lara Sorgo, PhD for her doctoral thesis Literary perspectives on identity and belonging: a critical analysis of some case studies of Istrian Italian literature under supervisor Professor Nives Zudič Antonič.

Lara Sorgo has completed her doctoral studies in Language and Interculturality at the UP Faculty of Humanities under supervisor Professor Nives Zudič Antonič. Her top-quality thesis is original, topical, methodologically sound and a major achievement in international research circles. It focuses on identity and belonging in the works of four authors, who can be seen as harbingers of the current issues of complex societies, such as linguistic and cultural pluralism, hybridism, uncertain identities and intercultural dialogue. The originality of the research is based on the observation that the proposals of some intellectuals from the past are still relevant today. Bridging the ethnic and territorial belonging from the past raises the issue of the coexistence of many different cultures in the same territory. During her studies, the candidate was an excellent student: she was involved in two international projects, authored or co-authored four original scientific papers and one chapter in a monograph, collaborated with educational and research institutions, and participated in international conferences. Her thesis garnered her an award by the Centre for Research on Minorities (CERM) of the University of Insubria.


On the proposal of the UP Famnit, the 2022 UP Prize for UP Students is awarded to Milan Milivojčević for his wide-ranging volunteer work and major contribution to the reputation and national and international visibility of the University of Primorska and the Faculty of Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Information Technologies.

Milan Milivojčević completed the undergraduate study programme in Computer Science at the UP Faculty of Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Information Technologies, and is now enrolled in the master’s study programme. During his undergraduate studies, he participated in programming and mathematics competitions, where he achieved notable results. He is also a very active volunteer. He has been a successful student tutor at the Faculty for three years and a technical advisor for the Google Developer Student Club of the UP as well as an event organiser (FAMNIT Hackaton 2022). Moreover, he has participated in organising several conferences (8ECM, ICFP 2021 and CUI 2021), providing assistance and ICT support to the guests, as well as events dedicated to the promotion of maths and computer science. After an Erasmus+ exchange in the Czech Republic, he re-established the Primorska Student Exchange Network (PSEN), which organises events for Erasmus students, and set up the Student Buddy and Accommodation systems. In December 2022, after only 6 months of operation, ESN Primorska became a full member of the ESN network. In September 2022, he represented Slovenia and the University of Primorska at the Erasmus+ 35 years — 35 experiences event in Brussels, organised by the EU to mark the 35th anniversary of the programme. His involvement in a wide range of activities and his immense eagerness to help and work are undoubtedly an example to UP students and employees alike.


On the proposal of the UP Pef, the 2022 UP Prize for UP Students is awarded to Maja Humski for her active involvement in extracurricular activities at the Faculty of Education and her representation of the University of Primorska.

 Maja Humski is a student of the master’s programme Inclusive Pedagogy at the UP Faculty of Education. She is a member and current president of the UP PEF Student Council. In addition to her formal duties (as a representative in the Academic Assembly and various Faculty committees), she has been a key organiser of high-profile campaigns (a field day for the staff and students, Secret Santa, From PEF to an Oscar, Biodiversity Week at UP PEF, etc.) and events at the Faculty and University (presentations at orientation days, Santa Claus pantomimes for children of employees, etc.). As a student, she participated in re-accreditation procedures carried out by the Slovenian Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (NAKVIS). She was also a tutor to Slovenian students and special needs students. She is a member of the UP PEF ECO Council and founding member of the PEF Theatre, which has garnered her a Faculty acknowledgement. Always eager to broaden her knowledge in her extracurricular activities, she was the only student of the Faculty to participate in a Student Innovative Community Service Project (ŠIPK) and took part in workshops and conferences.


On the proposal of the UP College of Deans and Directors, the 2022 Acknowledgement of a Member of the UP Support Staff is awarded to Nataša Kogovšek for her diligent, professional and reliable work in the Rector’s Office and the custodianship of key UP bodies.

Nataša Kogovešek has worked as a member of the Rector’s Office at the University of Primorska since 2006. She has been involved in coordinating the duties and schedules of the University’s management, paying special attention to the protocol of the University’s ceremonies and other events. Given her diligence and conscientiousness, she was entrusted with the custodianship of the following UP bodies: the Senate, the Administrative Board and the Student Council, the College of Deans and Directors and the College of Secretaries General. She also manages the UP Awards and Prizes Committee. Her effective organisational skills ensure that meetings are convened in a timely manner, that materials and adopted decisions are properly prepared, and that the University’s and Faculties’ managements as well as our colleagues from the Rector’s Office and the faculties are kept consistently informed. She is characterised by her competence and humanity, having established a professional, friendly and respectful relationship with the management of all the faculties. Her skills, experience, kindness, general knowledge and demonstrated loyalty to the University contribute to the quality and reliability of her work.