New professors 2015
Thirty-nine new professors were inaugurated at Uppsala University on 13 November 2015. Here are their own presentations of their research. Read about research on everything from the legal system, cardiovascular diseases, macro-economy, history, leukaemia, Finno-Ugrian languages, malaria, educational sociology and diabetes to information systems, Roman poetry, Indology, war and peace, natural chemistry, marketing, pharmaceuticals, materials physics and much more …
Table of contents:
Gabriella Andersson, Materials physics
To me, materials physics is about trying to improve the natural properties of materials by constructing new combinations of the elements, thereby achieving custom-tailored new effects. I am particularly interested in magnetic materials at the micro- and nanometre levels and how their properties can be adapted to what is best for the innumerable applications that exist. It can involve the strength of the magnetic material, and how difficult it is to influence it with an external magnetic field. Materials are built up using a carefully considered mixture and structuring all the way down to the atomic level. I am focusing on understanding how and why the relevant properties change depending on which elements I combine, as this knowledge paves the way for further control possibilities. It is fascinating that properties are determined by what atoms remain in place and by what their close neighbours are, as well as by how well their placement is ordered.
Rogier Blokland, Finno-Ugrian languages
Finno-Ugrian languages are a small family of thirty-five languages, spoken by a total of twenty-five million people, primarily in northern Eurasia. The three most prominent languages in this family are Hungarian, Finnish and Estonian, which are spoken by a combined total of more than twenty million people. Many of the other Finno-Ugrian languages thus have a small number of speakers and will die out, as the languages are not being passed on to younger generation owing to assimilatory pressure from majority languages in their environment. In my current research I am focusing on two main areas relating to the current state of the minor Finno-Ugrian languages, specifically language documentation and language contact. By going out in the field and recording the speech of native speakers, I am creating a digital language archive. I can then make the material I have gathered available for use by speakers of these languages for purposes of revitalisation and by linguistic researchers who are studying these languages. My main interest is language contact. By studying how surrounding majority languages influence minority languages, I want to expand our knowledge of the languages’ general structure and patterns of language change.
Hannah Bradby, Sociology
Humans have always sought consolation when they face existential crises or when they suffer from diseases. Over time our societies have also developed supernatural systems – magic and religious – to ward off pain, suffering and chaos. Schooled medicine, on the other hand, promises to deal with diseases in a value-neutral manner and to fix our bodily failings. Evidence-based practices are said to leave aside faith, beliefs and personal preferences, but they often violate this value neutrality. The social and cultural variations in medical practice, and gaps in what scientific evidence can explain, therefore provide us with insights into the culture of medicine. It is a culture that denies its own existence, which makes it difficult to counter its logic.
Mikael Börjesson, Educational sociology
Educational sociology, which has just been granted its first professorial chair in Sweden, examines education, teaching, child raising, and learning in relation other parts of society and comprehensive societal processes, such as globalisation and changes in working life. In my research I have been especially interested in transnational educational strategies, both for Swedes studying abroad and for international students in Sweden. One main finding is that the doors to elite institutions abroad are open primarily to those who have been successful in the educational system in their domestic system of education. There is largely no such thing as a free-floating international elite. Further, I have analysed the social structure of Swedish upper-secondary schools and higher-education institutions. The basic pattern is strikingly stable. There are clear differences in patterns of recruitment. Higher-education institutions that have deep resources admit those with the best assets, both those brought from their homes and those acquired in school.
Mikael Carlsson, Economics
Macro-economic variables such as unemployment and inflation are central to the economic prosperity of a society. But a society consists of individual people and companies, and it is their aggregate behaviours that determine macro-economic developments. In the last few decades, models that aim to explain macro-economic relationships have therefore been based more and more on analysing the behaviour of individuals and companies. Alternative theoretical assumptions often lead to similar predictions about the connections between macro-economic variables, but they have proven to lead to widely differing recommendations regarding what economic policy should be pursued. My research aims to deepen our knowledge of the empirical relevance of these underlying assumptions. Using data from Swedish registries, I’m studying how individuals and companies act and interact with the aim of developing a better basis for economic policy decisions.
Michael Dunn, Linguistics
Human languages differ from each other in many ways, but not in just any way. My research focuses on why this is the case. Among other fields, I have worked with language description, collecting data that contributes to our understanding of language diversity. I have travelled to arctic Russia and to the Salomon Islands in the Pacific to study tiny, largely undocumented languages. This work is urgent: many minor languages are dying, and many of them represent language types that differ drastically from well-known major language families. In recent years my research has primarily had a broader perspective, focusing on understanding the processes that lead to the language diversity we see today. To create models of the evolutionary processes that make languages develop and change, I make use of methods of data analysis adapted from biology. I hope that this will lead to insights into the cognitive machinery that makes human language what it is.
Göran Frenning, Pharmaceutical physics
Pharmaceutical products – pills, capsules, et cetera – generally contain, besides the pharmacologically active substance, a number of auxiliary substances that are added in order to improve the properties of the drug or to facilitate its production. In developing and producing pharmaceuticals, these substances are often handled and processed in powder form. My research is mainly directed towards mathematical modelling of the behaviour of such pulverised substances under different conditions, such as when they are exposed to high pressure, as in the manufacture of pills by form pressing. Based on the mechanical properties of the individual particles, I develop models for the contact forces between them, which I then use to study various production processes with the help of computers. Enhanced knowledge of this field is of great importance in assuring effective and safe development and production of new pharmaceutical products.
Lena Friberg, Pharmacometry
The goal of drug therapy is to achieve the best possible effect while also only allowing tolerable side effects. By choosing the right dosage and administration interval we can find the optimal balance. However, we often see major differences across patients in the connections between dosage and concentration (pharmacokinetics) and in the connections between concentration and effect (pharmacodynamics). It is therefore important to quantify this variability in order to find the right dosage or a well-considered combination of drugs. Pharmacometry is the study of how pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics can be described using mathematical models and statistical methods. Our models characterise the course of disease, variation in the effects of pharmaceuticals over time and various sources of variability. Models are developed and evaluated on the basis of data from clinical and preclinical studies and summarise, in a simplified manner, information about the system we are trying to describe. In oncology my research focuses on describing the connections between drug exposure, measurable markers in the blood, size of tumours, side effects and survival, all in order to be able to determine the benefits of receiving treatment at an early stage and to identify an optimal dosage strategy. Another focus of my research is to understand how antibiotics dosages affect not only the efficacy of killing bacteria but also their development of resistance. We are attempting to create models that can predict effects based on a limited amount of data and that can translate results from preclinical into clinical applications. This provides us with a rational way to identify the most promising substances and to design informative studies that will lead to the best possible drug therapy.
Minna Gräns, Jurisprudence
My research has focused on the methods of law. In my dissertation I wrote about how the risk of materially erroneous judgements is dealt with in legal theory and practice. I discovered that there are major weaknesses in the theoretical and practical management of such risks, and I presented methods for dealing with them more rationally. In recent years I have delved further into the methods of legal decision-making in theory and practice. In a study of the obligation to give precedence to European law, I showed that there are relevant differences between how this obligation is explained in legal theory and how it is applied in national courts. In my latest book, Decisio Juris (2013), I showed that there are a number of practical cases in which the reasoning of the courts cannot be explained by any existing theory in the science law. This is due to the fact that legal decision-making is influenced by limited rationality, heuristics and various forms of bias.
Ulf Göransson, Pharmacognosy
What can we learn from the chemistry of nature and the molecular interplay that takes place in nature within, and among, various organisms? And can we find applications for such chemistry in discovering and developing new pharmaceutical compounds? These questions are central to the subject of pharmacognosy, and to my research. At a very early stage in my research I developed a special interest in the tiny proteins we call peptides. Peptides function as hormones and signal substances, as defence substances against pathogenic microorganisms, and as toxins in poisonous animals. I’m trying to find connections between the structure and function of peptides in order to understand whether and how they can be utilised in developing drugs. My research has led to methods for improving the properties of peptides for drug development and to new structures that are active against infections and rheumatism and that also affect the nervous system.
Christer Henriksén, Latin
Roman literature is one of our most important sources of knowledge about virtually all aspects of Greco-Roman Antiquity, the time period that laid the foundation for Western culture. In my research I have primarily focused on classical Roman poetry, in particular epigrammatic poetry and its foremost exponent, Martial. He refined the peculiarities that are regarded today as typical of the epigram: satirical subject matter that is expressed with pithiness and elegance, and preferably with a witty ending. Such short poems were arranged in books in accordance with principles that later research has shown to be able to convey meaning. It seems that quite disparate poems can be integrated with each other in the context of the book and assume a meaning that is discernable only when they are read together. In the same way the interaction between texts of different poets can also convey meaning; one poet can afford more complex meaning to his own text by alluding to a text by another poet, and this allusion itself also often lends deeper meaning to the target text. I have also come to work with poetry that has been preserved in inscriptions, often closely related to the literary epigram, as well as with inscriptions in general. All Roman poetry was written in various metres, which can be described as a kind of rhythmic template in which words are placed. By varying the metres themselves and the placement of word accents within them, these poets can achieve a large number of rhythmic patterns. Alongside my research with the actual texts, I am also working on a comprehensive description of the most common and most versatile metres used in Roman poetry, hexameter and the elegiac distich.
Isto Huvila, Library and information science
It is often difficult to say how we came to know what we know. In some cases we simply know something, whereas sometimes we can point to a certain piece of information, a source or an occasion when we were informed of or about something. In my research I have concentrated on studies of how we humans get and create information, how we inform others and are informed by others with or without various tools, as well as how we organise and manage information. For example, I have studied how archaeologists, corporate finance experts, librarians, archivists and employees at museums and in health care use information in their work and in their spare time. I have also studied why information is created, managed and searched in various ways and how our work with information is affected by various old and new digital and non-digital tools and environments. What characterises my research is that, instead of focusing on certain information system or individual processes, I am interested in all the information landscapes we live in. A point of departure for my research has been to understand the purposes and goals that various individuals and groups have when they seek out, manage and create information. A better understanding of how we get to know what we need to know as individuals and social beings, and how information is created, is worth developing as it helps us to help each other by creating better information systems and services as well as to use existing aids in a more suitable manner.
Kristine Höglund, Peace and conflict research
Armed conflicts have a strong negative impact on societal development. My research focuses on the causes of conflicts, their consequences and how lasting peace can be achieved after a civil war. Among other things, I have been interested in the connection between democratisation and conflict, and I have studied what election systems contribute to violent political elections in Africa. How violent incidents impact peace negotiations and how mediators build trust among armed actors are also part of my research. Several of my studies deal with peace making in a long-term perspective, where issues like conciliation and justice are especially important. I am also the co-author of two textbooks: an introduction to peace and conflict research and a methodology book for peace researchers. Through science-based studies I want to contribute to our knowledge of how conflicts can be managed with peaceful means, how violence can be prevented and how the destructive effects of conflicts can be mitigated.
Torbjörn Ingvarsson, Private law
There are many aspects to private law. My research has mainly involved the property law aspect of private law, that is, contracts and other commitments between private individuals where the performance obligation can be valued in money. My emphasis has been on general contract law, claims, issues involving securities and guarantees as well as insurance law, but also the question of what can actually be regulated by a contract and what can be better understood as moral obligations has been the object of my research. The regulations of property law impact many aspects of daily life. These rules have largely grown out of court decisions, and express legislation is often lacking. The purpose of property law research is to bring clarity, systematisation and predictability to these rules. This research can contribute to more secure administration of justice and can pave the way for improved legislation by clarifying current regulations and identifying inconsistencies in the prevailing legal system.
Stefan James, Cardiology, specialising in clinical cardiovascular research
Cardiovascular diseases are among the most common causes of death in the Western world. In Sweden some 25,000 people suffer acute myocardial infarction each year, and an equal number of patients undergo angioplasty of the coronary artery. Myocardial infarction is often caused by arteriosclerosis, which leads to stenosis (constriction) and the development of blood clots, which in turn leads to a stoppage of blood flow and the death of the heart muscle. Treatment consists of blood-clot-inhibiting and blood-fat-reducing medications, often in combination with expansion of constrictions in the coronary artery. Our research uses broad approaches in order to understand why cardiovascular disease occurs, to enhance methods for its early discovery and diagnosis, to improve its medical treatment through more effective pharmaceuticals and medical technological products and to describe the outcomes of cardiac care. I gain inspiration and ideas from my daily contact with patients. I am especially interested in trying to provide evidence that what is being done in medical care is efficient and for the direct benefit of patients. This work is based on the collection of information and tissue samples from patients with cardiovascular disease in international clinical research studies and national quality registries. Our research is patient-based and has had an international impact. According to ThomsonReutersin 2014 I was ranked among the world’s the “top one per cent” of the most frequently cited researchers in clinical medicine.
Anders Jansson, Human-computer interaction
Human-computer interaction is about the interplay between humans and computers, and in my research I have focused on the human role. The human factor is often mentioned in connection with accidents and human failings, but this is almost always a gross simplification. New technological solutions make it possible to make faster, better and safer decisions. But an important precondition for this to be the case is that the technological systems must be adapted to the situations that professional users face. This enables them to make reasonable judgements and responsible decisions. I have studied how domain experts such as traffic planners, lorry drivers, navigators, nurses and engine drivers interact with their work duties with the aid of advanced technological systems. It might seem obvious that information environments should be designed to provide adequate support in everyday work. But despite intensive technological advances, problems often arise, especially in unexpected and unusual situations. Such problems are often the result of insufficient analyses or erroneous assumptions regarding how technology is used in practice. In my research I have shown that better design solutions can be attained by carrying out more precise analyses. The knowledge of domain experts can be used as data, and I have developed methods to make use of this knowledge as a basis for designing support for decision-making. Human skills and experience are often necessary for technology to be useful.
Anna Jarstad, Political science
My research is about how democratisation and peace making affect each other. I have developed a framework for analysing four types of dilemmas that arise when democratisation has negative effects on peace making and vice versa. Previously I was interested in dilemmas in the nation-building process, with a focus on Cypress. In a project on the Balkans I developed a theoretical understanding of the difficult choices that can arise when assistance organisations attempt to promote both democratisation and reconciliation following a conflict within a state. I have successively expanded my expertise on peace making to include New Zealand, South Africa and Afghanistan. Moreover, I have led the collection of global data and statistical analyses of peace agreements. Several studies address coalition governments involving parties that have previously been in conflict with each other. I also pursue research into election processes in war-ravaged countries and how violence affects political participation. My research can be useful in planning international efforts aiming to promote peace and democracy.
Don Kulick, Cultural anthropology
Exposure/vulnerability has long been the subject of philosophical reflection, social-scientific analysis and political action. In the last half-century new theories about “power”, “resistance”, “identity” and “agency” have been developed to understand how vulnerability is instilled and experienced. These theories have been pioneering and inspiring. However, they all have a tendency to be based on – and confirm – an assumption that exposure/vulnerability is a pitiable condition that individuals must be rescued from. With the backing of a considerable research initiative from the Swedish Research Council, I have been recruited to Uppsala University to direct a major interdisciplinary research project addressing exposure/vulnerability not primarily as constraints and insufficiencies. Instead, the project views exposure/vulnerability as a resource – as conditions or positions that require something from others: involvement, caring, justice and responsibility. I am a cultural anthropologist and have done research in several widely disparate places around the world. I have written books about, for instance, a society in Papua New Guinea’s rain forests that is about to give up its ancient language, about transvestite sex workers in Brazil, about severely functionally impaired adults in Sweden and Denmark. By working with these different people I have learnt something about the complexity of vulnerability. It is this very complexity, its meaning and its consequences, that the researchers working in the project will be addressing over the next ten years through documentation and attempts at understanding.
Sören Lehmann, Haematology
Of all adults diagnosed with acute leukaemia, only a small number can be cured, and today this requires very powerful treatments that often cause the patient much suffering. A critical driving force for me as a leukaemia researcher and blood physician is the wish to find more effective and tolerable leukaemia treatments. A first step is to understand what goes wrong when a blood cell is transformed into a leukaemia cell. My research focuses on discovering and characterising changes in leukaemia cells that can also be used as target structures for better leukaemia treatments. The technological revolution in sequencing technology over the last few years enables us today to map out the whole DNA sequence in healthy and diseased cells. However, what determines what genes in the DNA code are expressed and thereby regulates the function of cells is governed by so-called epigenetic factors. These complex systems have only been partially elucidated, and they have been shown to have been altered in cancers. A major goal for my research is to chart epigenetic changes in acute leukaemia and to use them in new strategies to improve the chances of achieving cures and to enhance the quality of life for acute leukaemia patients.
Niklas Marklund, Neurosurgery
Violence to the head can lead to traumatic brain injury. The brain injury that occurs in the moment of impact can worsen over a long period of time, and there is no effective drug treatment today, as our knowledge of the mechanisms of injury is limited. Traumatic brain injury has therefore been called the most complicated sickness in the human being’s most complex organ. In my clinical and experimental research I have focused both on what factors aggravate the acute brain injury early in the course of the injury and on the far-reaching, chronic consequences of the injury. I have studied what factors contribute to the brain’s limited healing capacity, focusing on the nerve-cell processes, axons, in the white substance of the brain. The tissue reaction, inflammation, that occurs in connection with a brain injury has been analysed with an eye to developing new drugs. Both patients who have suffered a severe brain trauma and those with the repeated mild brain injuries that are incurred in certain sports, run an increased risk of developing dementia later in life. Factors that are typical of Alzheimer’s disease have also been shown in connection with traumatic brain injuries in my studies. The purpose of my research is to reduce the extent of the injury, to counteract the far-reaching effects and to improve the brain’s own recovery following a traumatic brain injury, with the goal of developing new therapies for the patients involved.
Susanne Mirbt, Theory of condensed matter
My research is focused on modelling the properties of materials in relation to the localised electrons in semiconductors. Most electrons in a material are rather widely distributed. On the other hand, defects and polaroni bring about localised electrons. Today’s technological developments could not have been possible without the existence of localised electrons. Defects are individual alien atoms in the material or a deviation in the otherwise regular structure of a crystal. The localisation of electrons is usually critical to the properties of the material, such as its capacity to conduct electricity or its colour. Localisation can also occur without any effects. The electron then causes a deviation in the crystal structure that is called a “polarone”. This is an active research field that promises many exciting insights in the future. My goal is use density function theory (DFT) to contribute to our understanding of and our ability to predict primarily polarone-related material properties.
Andreas Mårtensson, International child health
Plasmodium falciparum malaria is one of our most important diseases today, seen in a global perspective, presenting a grave threat to life and well being above all for children under the age of five in Africa south of the Sahara. In my research I have studied, among other things, the effect of a modern drug treatment for children suffering from malaria, based on wormwood, Artemisia annua, so-called artemisinin-based combination treatment, but also the capacity and mechanisms of the malaria parasite to develop resistance to these medicines over time in East Africa. Further, I have evaluated the reliability of new diagnostic methods, including antigen-based instant tests, to detect malaria parasites in the blood of both fevered and non-symptomatic individuals in East Africa. Finally, I have studied various public health aspects of combined interventions against malaria in the form of preventive measures with, for example, mosquito nets impregnated with chemicals together with improved treatment of malaria victims in a project in Zanzibar. As sickness and death from malaria mainly affects children in Africa, a better understanding of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum together with improved use of both preventive measures against malaria infection and available malaria drugs present urgent challenges in the field of international child health.
Elisabet Nihlfors, Education, specialising in educational leadership
Actors at state, municipal and school levels share the responsibility for instruction of high quality in preschools/schools. The preconditions vary, affected by, for instance, global influences, and demographic, ideological, legal and economic factors. My research is based on total studies carried out in the Nordic countries of the views of school politicians, administrative directors and school leaders regarding their position and function (Moos, Nihlfors & Paulsen 2015). There is a lack of clarity about who bears the ultimate responsibility in practice, which leads to a lack of trust and confidence among the various actors. What is needed is for responsibility and prerogatives to follow from one another, for regular feedback to be provided and for the educational missions to be evaluated also by the immediately surrounding community. Preschools and schools require various measures to enable governance to shift gears into leadership, paving the way for educational leaders who can ensure high-quality education.
Claes Nilholm, Education, specialising in special education
Special education focuses primarily on difficulties in schoolwork. Such difficulties might be that pupils are not reaching their goals, do not enjoy going to school or have a functional impairment that requires extra adaptations. Some people maintain that problems in schools arise because pupils have inherent shortcomings, while others claim that school problems can be the result of the school situation as a whole, including how the teaching is set up. The former perspective is sometimes called a deficiency perspective and the latter a relational perspective. My own research in this exciting and urgent field has had three areas of focus. First, I have analysed fundamental concepts and attitudes in the field. Second, together with my associates, I have carried out a large number of survey studies in which we examined what attitudes towards pupil difficulties are predominant in Swedish compulsory schools. Third, I have performed several large-scale reviews of research.
Oskar Nordström Skans, Economics
Modern economics is to a great extent an empirical science. By investigating how individuals and companies behave in various situations we achieve a deeper understanding of how society works and a more systematic knowledge of the effects of various forms of economic policy. However, the issues that economics in general, and my own research, analyses span a very broad range. By comparing the school outcomes of children born just before the introduction of a major reform in parental insurance with those of children born just after the reform, I have shown that it makes very little difference in terms of school outcomes whether the children have been home for a shorter or longer period with their parents when they are small. In another study I show that workplaces that appoint immigrants to management positions begin to employ more people from immigrant backgrounds. Several of my studies analyse why such a large proportion of jobs are filled through social contacts. An important finding is that companies make use of such contacts in order employ people with little education but with strong undocumented capabilities. I have also demonstrated that companies create more job opportunities for young people in years when their employees’ children enter the labour market – social contacts with job-seekers thus lead to new jobs being created.
Anna Orlova, Preclinical development of polypeptide-based radiopharmaceuticals
My research involves the development of substances for improved cancer diagnostics. Currently we have medicines that can slow the development of cancer. These medicines are specific to some types of tumours but ineffective against others. With the aid of molecules that bind to specific receptors on the surface of the cell (target-seekers) we can characterise the type of tumour. By firmly chemically binding a radionuclide to the target-seeking molecule, we can visualise areas with high receptor expression, as a result of a high uptake of radioactivity. I am studying how various characteristics affect the target-seeking capacity of radio-marked molecules. How strong does the binding between the target-seeker and the receptor need to be in order attain a high-quality image? How does the size of the target-seeker affect its distribution in the body? How can the imaging be improved through the chemical modification of the same molecule? What amount of radio-marked molecules needs to be injected? Are the same properties for radio-marked molecules necessary for target receptors that evince high and low overexpression in a tumour? I took part in the preclinical development of the first polypeptide-based target-seeker, the Affibody molecule, which is used to image breast-cancer tumours with an overexpression of HER2 receptors. About one third of all breast-cancer patients have an overexpression of that receptor and should be treated with Herceptin. HER2 expression may be elevated during the development of cancer or may be reduced following therapy. Uppsala University Hospital demonstrated the ability of the Affibody molecule to specify a cancer diagnosis that was previously impossible to determine using traditional tissue biopsy.
Cecilia Pahlberg, Business studies
The Department of Business Studies conducts well-established and internationally recognised research on the internationalisation process of companies as well as the importance of studying network relations as explanations for companies’ problems and opportunities. My research develops this tradition further by focusing on how various aspects such as governance, knowledge transfer and cooperation/competition are affected by relations to actors within, but primarily outside, the company. While earlier research mainly studied relations to other companies in their role as clients or suppliers, I am particularly interest in relations to so-called socio-political actors, such as politicians and various interest groups. Relations to such actors are often of great importance to companies’ ability to become established and develop not least when they expand to new growth markets outside Europe. Ways of doing business can differ considerably, which impacts the development of concepts and theories.
Fredrik Palm, Physiology
Even though diabetes is the most common cause of chronic renal failure, requiring dialysis and kidney transplants, very little is known about how and why kidney damage occurs. My research is based on the hypothesis that diabetes affects the metabolism of the kidneys and that this leads to a lack of oxygen in the kidneys, which makes it function more and more poorly. The most important components behind this lack of oxygen can be summed up as less efficient processing of salts in the kidney, increased production of free radicals, improper regulation of the kidneys’ energy-producing mitochondria and increased degeneration of the liver by certain compounds that indirectly regulate the kidneys’ use of oxygen. If early changes in the kidneys’ metabolism explain why diabetes increases the risk of kidney damage, at the same time this provides us with clues as to how such damage can be prevented or detected earlier. The very first changes in metabolism can be used to identify at-risk patients, and by addressing the altered metabolism, we can develop medicines that prevent and treat diabetes-related kidney disease.
Gunnar Pejler, Medical biochemistry
The immune system is absolutely necessary for us to defend ourselves against all kinds of infections, but the immune system can also cause damage, for example in connection with inflammatory diseases such as rheumatism and psoriasis. In my research I mainly focus on the study of one of the components of the immune system, namely the mast cell. The mast cell is well known, or rather infamous, for being mainly responsible for the typical diseases we associate with allergic reactions. In allergic reactions the mast cell secretes a number of potent inflammatory compounds, such as histamine and various enzymes. But new research also indicates that the mast cell can cause damage in connection with a number of other diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, rheumatism, cancer and chronic pain. With my research I want to find out precisely what role is played by the mast cell in these diseases, and I also want to devise new ways to counteract the damaging effects of the mast cell. I belief this can lead to new or improved methods for treating a number of inflammatory diseases where the mast cell plays a role.
Pauliina Remes, Theoretical philosophy, specialising in the history of philosophy
The concepts we use have all been shaped by history. Historians of philosophy investigate philosophical schools and arguments, as well as how philosophical concepts have been used in various contexts and altered over time. The main purpose is philosophical analysis of argumentation and its justification. We focus on the study of classical texts and their importance to philosophical knowledge. My research field is the philosophy of early antiquity, especially Platonism. Plato and the Neo-Platonists (from 200–500 C.E.) developed, among other things, several concepts that are central to human beings’ self-awareness and self-knowledge. I have written in particular about Plotinus, a thinker from late antiquity who is little known today but has been historically influential, and his understanding the human being, the soul and various cognitive abilities. Another area that interests me is Plato’s style in writing philosophy. In Plato arguments appear in a dialogic context that always raises questions about philosophising itself. What requirements do we place on a good philosophical discussion? What is it to have a belief, to argue or maintain a philosophical point of view? This research also contributes to our understanding the subject of philosophy: what does it mean to philosophise?
James Sallis, Business studies
Marketing, a branch of the subject of business studies, is my field of research, regarded as a cross-disciplinary activity that includes external actors. My research focuses mainly on the relation between seller and buyer, both in terms of mutual relations between companies or between companies and consumers. Some of the central variables in marketing relations include trust, uncertainty, learning and risk. My particular interest lies in understanding the interplay of these variables. In uncertain situations, such as buying and selling, trust and learning, as separate factors, have, each in its own way, a positive effect on the relationship. But with advanced statistical methods I can show that these factors in combination can actually hurt a relationship. Understanding this dark side of trust and learning in interplay between business partners is important for how organisations can optimally manage their relations. In concrete terms, my research contributes to better performance in companies, but also to better protection for the individual consumer.
Maria Selmer, Structural biology
Proteins and nucleic acids are vital to all forms of life. Proteins are constructed like strings of pearls made of amino acids, but they fold into thousands of different architectures. The three-dimensional form of a protein can explain many aspects of how proteins recognise other many other molecules, affect chemical reactions and adapt their shape. In my research I investigate the architecture of proteins and nucleic acids at the atomic level and combine this with various types of experiments that help me to understand and interpret what I see. I want to answer questions such as how protein synthesis occurs, how antibiotic resistance functions and how the forms of proteins change when they develop new functions. The goal is to understand fundamental parts of the mechanisms of life and to contribute knowledge that can be used to develop new and better antibiotics, for example.
Johan Sundström, Epidemiology
Today every other person in the Western world dies of cardiovascular disease. Acute myocardial infarction is the most common cause of death in the world, and it is on the rise globally. High blood pressure is the most important underlying cause. Every other Swede develops high blood pressure before pension age, the rest get it later. Unfortunately only one in eight people with high blood pressure receives adequate treatment to lower their blood pressure. My research is about developing new ways to find high-risk individuals so that preventive treatment can be offered to the right people. One of my findings is that we need to calculate the risk of cardiovascular disease more carefully, instead of focusing on one risk factor at a time, as we do now. Not only must doctors be provided with help in finding the right individuals to treat, but patients also need to be supported in their motivation to take their preventive medicines. In my research I am therefore investigating new ways to predict who experiences what side effects of antihypertensive medicines. The goal for the future is to be able use a simple finger prick to determine what medicine is most suitable for an individual, to maximise patients’ motivation and thereby be able to prevent as much cardiovascular disease as possible.
Fredrik Tell, Business studies
New technological knowledge brings economic prosperity and growth but also critical challenges regarding the capacity of organisations and societies to adapt and to renew and sustain themselves. The ability to develop new knowledge is enhanced by specialisation and concentration concerning, for example, knowledge domains, social bonds, geographical localisation and temporal placement. At the same time borders are created that need to be bridged for both problem solving and revolutionary innovation. The relation between specialisation and integration is a classic problem complex in studies of social organisation. With my associates I have addressed this problem complex from a knowledge perspective regarding organisations. Both historical and real-time studies of companies that develop complex systems have contributed to concepts and theories of organisational knowledge and capacity to explain the strategies and competitiveness of companies. Comparative case studies of complex developmental projects have uncovered various mechanisms for integrating the specialised knowledge of individuals in cross-disciplinary and temporary groupings. Distributed knowledge production also leads to new organisational solutions, such as project-based organisations and open innovation processes. The results of studies of individual companies and broad questionnaire surveys show both specific properties for project-based forms of companies and how companies seek out new knowledge beyond their organisational boundaries by collaborating with suppliers and through crowdsourcing.
Björn Victor, Computer science
All too often computer programs behave in undesired ways. They crash or freeze up, compute incorrectly or overload the computer so that everything runs like molasses. There can be many reasons for this, but the basic problem is that it is hard to know in advance exactly how the program will perform. In order to be able to investigate in advance whether a program will work, we are developing ways to make “blueprints” (mathematically precise descriptions) and formal analytical methods. With their assistance many problems can be uncovered and avoided long before the program system is implemented in real computers – the way a bridge engineer can calculate in advance whether a bridge will be able to support an intended load. This analysis is especially complicated in systems consisting of multiple communicating parts that work together and simultaneously. Moreover, such systems can often be further developed dynamically, with new components and communicative channels added on later. The goal of my research is to make it possible for systems of this type to work correctly from the beginning.
Heinz Werner Wessler, Indology, specialising in modern South Asian languages and cultures
The discovery of Sanskrit and its literature as well as its relation to other classical languages in the Indo-European language family led to the creation of academic Indology in the early 20th century. Classical Indology was focused on the pre-Islamic history of Southern Asia, while the contemporary Indian subcontinent was often regarded as a decline from the Golden Age of Antiquity. Postcolonial theory has shown that this perspective was related to colonial knowledge production. Only in a postcolonial phase, that is after 1947, did the contemporary literature and culture of India come into focus for Indology in the Western world. I started out as a classical indologist with a great interest in religious history in connection with epic literature and narrative accounts in Sanskrit. After my dissertation my focus shifted to early modern and contemporary literature, primarily in Hindi, and the social and cultural developments depicted in this literature. Two of my primary research areas were classical literature within Sikhism and Dalit literature in Hindi, that is, literature written by the socially marginalised population. I have translated and published several contemporary Hindi authors into German. Another research project involves epic psalms in Garhwali, a so-called Hindi dialect spoken in the state of Uttarakhand. Beyond this I have written publications on language policy, and I am involved in a research team that is working with a historical grammar and a dictionary of Hindi from 1703.
Charlotta Zetterberg, Environmental law
The driving force behind my research is the need to identify reasons in legal systems and practice for why various goals of environmental policy (such as an environment free from toxins or a rich flora and fauna) are not attained and to propose legal solutions to achieve better fulfilment of goals. The reasons why goals of environmental policy are not being reached might have to do for instance with the circumstance that competing legislation or other legal principles are afforded greater weight, that risk assessments are too restrictive or that evidence requirements are set too high. My interest involves issues relating to the implementation of environmental requirements, risk assessments, the impact of principles of environmental law (such as the principle of precaution), individual countries’ scope for action and the integration of environmental law and other legal areas. A particular question involves how to deal with the lack of certainty in our knowledge of environmental risks presented by GMO products. I am currently studying various legislative techniques for genetically modified plants and analysing EU and US law about this. Another study on my desk has to do with the legal preconditions for coexistence between different forms of agriculture.
Henrik Ågren, History
My research poses general questions with a focus on 17th- and 18th-century Sweden. The subjects have been varied, but they are mainly close to the field called “the new social history” and sometimes referred to as “the cultural turn”. This involves historical research that is interested in everyday history and the fundamental structures of society rather than grand political events and transformations. At the same time, in comparison with older social history, the focus is more on people’s thoughts, notions and ideas, as well as how they came to be expressed. This encompasses both material culture, such as art, clothing and furnishings, and immaterial culture, such as literature, the culture of social intercourse and the like. Within this field I have investigated how time was measured on a daily basis in the 17th and 18th centuries; how social differences between people were maintained and violated within the class society through marriage and career choices, for example; as well as the importance of cultural heritage, memorial symbols and exemplary models in disparate fields such as the naming of streets and the writing of history.
Pernilla Åsenlöf, Physiotherapy
Research in the subject of physiotherapy aims primarily to enhance our knowledge of how physical activity, training and movement contribute to health and disease prevention. A particular challenge involves guiding individuals with chronic diseases so that they can improve or maintain their capacity to be active. My research attempts to answer whether it is possible to increase the effect of physiotherapy by integrating theories on behavioural learning and health-related behavioural change. Early on I studied the connections between pain, problems with movement and the capacity to be active and found that psychological factors such as faith in your own ability to move around as well as fear of movement were more important than the pain and movement problem as such. As a direct result I developed a physiotherapeutic treatment for individuals with chronic pain where the ability to carry out activities of daily life was analysed from both movement-related and behavioural perspectives. Thereafter the treatment was tested in a series of randomised clinical studies focusing on chronic pain, acute whiplash-related complaints as well as sleep-related respiratory trouble and overweight. In an on-going project, individuals with rheumatic disease are involved in the actual development of a needs-determined and evidence-based Internet service for promoting physical activity. My studies on integrating behavioural learning into physiotherapy have clearly impacted an on-going conversation about a shift in the professional content of physiotherapy both nationally and internationally. This integration is implemented today as a basis for the subject of physiotherapy in the Physiotherapy Programme at Uppsala University and Mälardalen University College.