New professors 2012

Forty-two new professors were appointed at Uppsala University on 16 November 2012 in the grand inauguration ceremony. Here they present their research.

Patrik Aspers, professor of sociology

Sociology is the study of what is social. As a sociologist, I am working on a project, Being and Order, which was launched in 2007 and is planned to end in 2037. Being refers to our existence, and the question of order is about the social surroundings of that existence. These two fundamental questions of social science are intimately intertwined with each other.

Within the framework of this comprehensive project, I pursue empirical research on, among other things, identity in markets. The focus has been on aesthetic markets, that is, markets in which aesthetics and status create order. Examples I’ve studied include fashion photography, advertising, and fashion.

Empirically I’m currently working on the Swedish forestry industry, which has been and remains of major importance to Sweden. I’m focusing my attention on the first step, when forest owners sell timber to sawmills and pulp factories.

Fundamental issues are made concrete through empirical work. To reinforce the foundations of the social sciences, I’m studying classic social-scientific thinkers, such as Pareto and Marshall, but primarily philosophers like Nietzsche, Husserl, and not least Heidegger. Current basic research work is directed towards what I call socioontology. The social sciences have long been predicated upon the existence of individuals, which, like atoms, try to gain knowledge about each other and the outside world. The socioontological point of departure is instead that the human being is necessarily social, and with this approach a number of problems that have been central to social science, such as the micro-macro link, are resolved.

Today I’m directing several major research projects, including an ERC Starting Grant on convaluations, which are forms for coordinating resources, based on choices and values. For several years I’ve been employed by the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne, and I’ve been a visiting scholar at Harvard University, Sciences Po, Columbia University, and the London School of Economics. I’m currently the head of our department.

Watch Patrik Asper’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Ulla Börestam, professor of Scandinavian languages

Knowing multiple foreign languages is an asset, but it is equally important to be able to use your own native language. Here in Scandinavia we have been spoiled regarding the latter, as Danes, Norwegians, and Swedes can usually count on being able to use their own language with each other. This also holds true in encounters with people from other parts of the Nordic countries, since people learn either Danish (Western Nordic countries) or Swedish (in Finland). Sometimes this special form of receptive bilingualness between related languages is put forward as a model for the rest of Europe. In several research projects today, scholars are actively working to promote the idea as such, which may thus lead to a Portuguese and a Spaniard being able to speak to each other using their own respective languages.

My research has been devoted to studying how Nordic language and cultural contacts function in practice. To cope with possible gaps in understanding of neighbouring languages, it is often said that we turn to mixed languages – “Scandinavian”, and people in the Nordic countries are tending more and more to switch to English when they speak to each other. Still others enthusiastically praise how well the languages are understood. Who is right? The answer is everyone – and nobody. The encounter is between individuals, not languages, and the conditions vary. What’s more, different language acts also require different amounts of language. When I lived in Denmark, I spoke Danish on the bus, Swedish at the university, and some form of Scandinavian among Danish acquaintances. In other words, different situations require different strategies. This is therefore a form of language contact that is seldom predictable, and, as a field of research, it’s always exciting.

Watch Ulla Börestam’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Gunnel Cederlöf, professor of history, specialising in modern non-European history and global relations

My research brings together the three research fields of environmental, legal, and imperial history in South Asia from the late 18th century to the present. Over the centuries, the wealth of natural resources and strong economic markets of South Asia have attracted trading corporations from Asia and Europe and were a precondition for the industrialisation of Northwestern Europe. In the second half of the 18th century these corporations competed not only for commodity monopolies but also for territory.

In my research my interest is especially focused on how the right to land and natural resources within the British empire was shaped by conflicts, negotiations, customs, and practices when the colonial power established its power over the Indian subcontinent. Central issues involve how civil, military, and commercial interests collided and how domestic regional, social, and economic hierarchies were affected by the constantly changing situation.

Currently I’m studying how climate history deepens our understanding of the modern political history of South Asia. This research is an attempt to see how monsoons and natural disasters have impacted people’s survival strategies and the strategic political considerations of states.

Watch Gunnel Cederlöf’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Francesco Ciabuschi, professor of business studies, specialising in international business

My research is about multinational companies and their endeavour to be innovative and competitive in the global market. This research field has long been central to the study of international business, strategy, and management. More specifically, my research has addressed three main points. First, I have studied subsidiaries in multinational corporations, in particular how their innovative capacity is affected by their connections with other subsidiaries, as well as the influence of external organisations on the innovation processes of subsidiaries. Second, I have investigated what factors may affect the transfer of innovation from one subsidiary to another. To understand what inhibits and what promotes the transfer of innovations among subsidiaries is of central interest to managers, as this is the key to enhanced productivity and to the competitiveness of multinational companies. The third area I have been interested in is the role played by the headquarters in multinational companies, in particular in regard to their actual contributions to creating value at the subsidiary level.

In my research I have elucidated the adaptations and compromises surrounding performance and execution that multinational companies have to deal with to succeed in their development and transfer of innovation. The findings regarding headquarters are especially interesting because they – contrary to what is often claimed – show that the direct involvement of management in innovation processes at the subsidiary level can lead to impaired capacity and performance. I have uncovered cases where the intervention of headquarters in matters where the requisite knowledge is lacking has done more harm than good for value creation in subsidiaries. This type of research is important, as it provides a better understanding of the character of multinational corporations and the foundation of their competitiveness.

Watch Francesco Ciabuschi’s inaugural lecture (in English)

Ninna Edgardh, professor of ecclesiology, specialising in church and mission studies

What’s so special about a Christian church? How does it understand its mission and how is this self-understanding apparent in practical church life? These are issues that are addressed in my research subject. Ecclesiology studies the ways in which Christian churches and communions understand their mission. My own more specific research interest involves the encounter between the two-thousand-year-old Christian church and our contemporary society.

In order to understand what happens in that encounter, I have had to use both traditional theological theories and methods and newer social scientific tools, from gender research, for example. My doctoral dissertation (2001) deals with women’s attempts to renew the celebration of the Christian divine service in our day. My latest book is about how the ways church services are performed have changed in the last forty years.

My orientation towards mission studies is explained by my having been director of the Institute for Mission Studies (later Centre for Studies of Religion and Society) from 2002 to 2009, where I developed research and education about the social involvement of churches. Researchers from different parts of Europe and elsewhere in the world compared the role of churches and other religious actors in welfare systems. This research is now being followed up in the major research programme titled The Impact of Religion, which I also helped develop.

Watch Ninna Edgardh’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Marika Edoff, professor of solid-state electronics, specialising in solar cells

Supplying energy for the growing population of the earth present new challenges to humankind. The energy source with by far the greatest potential for providing sufficient amounts of clean energy is solar energy. My research is mainly about developing high-efficiency solar cells that convert solar energy to electricity. For the cost of electricity generated by solar cells to be competitive, solar cells have to be efficient and need to be manufactured at low cost. Thin-film technology makes it possible to manufacture solar cells with a total thickness of less than 3 µm that absorb all available sunlight. These cells are applied to a supporting material, such as plain window glass, which is smooth, temperature-proof, and cheap. The highest levels of efficiency today are above 20 per cent, which means that one fifth of the energy of sunlight is converted to electrical energy. This is comparable to more conventional silicon solar cells, and these thin-film solar cells are already in large-scale production. However, the theoretical limit is 30 per cent, which means there is room for further improvement. Producing individual experimental solar cells with high efficiency levels won’t solve any global problems. For this technology to have a major impact, research needs to think in terms of commercial feasibility even in early stages of research. In our laboratory we produce both solar cells and module prototypes on a small scale for measuring and testing.

Watch Marika Edoff’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Gunnel Ekroth, professor of ancient culture and social life

My research is mainly focused on the cultural sphere of ancient Greece and especially various aspects of Greek religion. I’m interested in charting the concrete and practical reality of rituals, above all animal sacrifices, and analysing the interplay between practice and theory, and between practice and beliefs. My point of departure is that we first need to understand what the ancient Greeks did in order to be able to ask why. I’m busy integrating all sorts of source materials from the period 1000 B.C. – A.D. 200 (texts, inscriptions, images, archaeological remains, animal bones, practical experiments), as different source materials testify to different “realities”. It’s especially interesting, when the sources contradict each other, to try to understand why this might be so.

The ways in which the flesh, blood, and bones from sacrificed animals were dealt with defined and established the relation between gods and humans, but also between individuals and groups in ancient society. Detailed studies of the role of meat in Greek cults show how the butchering, distribution, tenderness, cooking methods, and where people ate were all used to express not only differences in status, but also community and alienation. Getting close to the gods, but not too close (this could be fatal), was at the core of sacrifices, and variations in the ritual provided opportunities for an intricate interaction between immortals and mortals.

Watch Gunnel Ekroth’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Göran Eidevall, professor of bible studies, specialising in Old Testament exegesis

The texts in the part of the bible that Christians call the Old Testament and Jews call Tanakh comprise a library that provides us with interesting insights into a lost culture that existed 2 500–3 000 years ago. This collection of texts contains considerable amounts of poetry. In my dissertation I studied Hebrew poets’ use of imagery with the help of modern theories of metaphor. Some of the writings in this library are also clearly influenced by the foreign policy of the time. The small states of Israel and Juda were dominated by great powers for long periods. In another study I investigated how these experiences were reflected in bible texts, in the form of depictions of the enemy – depictions that were often coloured by the propaganda of the dominant power (for example, Assyria). But as we know the texts in this library are also largely about religion. In a current project I’m analysing the argumentation in the debate about sacrificial cults that is pursued in the prophetic books. Many people today, unlike the ancient Israelites, do not consider bloody animal sacrifices a central feature of exercising religion. But despite such differences in outlooks and customs these bible texts have exerted tremendous cultural influence over the centuries. In coming projects I hope to have the opportunity to devote time to reception history, where you study how literary motifs and gestalts from the  biblical library have lived on, for instance in fiction, figurative art, and film.

Watch Göran Eidevall’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Fredric Ericson, professor of materials science

Materials science research plays a key role in many technological applications. In my case, this research addresses applications in microsystem technology, that is, small systems for reading and controlling surrounding reality. It’s not possible to produce a good microsystem without knowledge of the construction materials involved and whether their properties are suitable for the prospective application. A material’s properties depend on many factors, including the material’s production and its structuring as a microcomponent. In a system various materials need to work together, which means that interfaces between materials and how they behave also affect the properties of the system. As my research involves materials on a microscale and smaller, I use advanced electron microscopy to look at the materials under high magnification, down to the level of the atom, with integrated methods of analysis to determine the composition of the material. Currently my research is oriented towards microsystem applications at high temperatures and in harsh environment, which places high demands on the materials used.

Watch Fredric Ericsson’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Göran Ericsson, professor of applied nuclear physics

My research in applied nuclear physics addresses the development of fusion energy. Fusion is the process that releases energy in stars, and if we can create power plants based on this process on earth, it would be a major addition to our energy supply. Today fusion energy is still in the experimental stage, but a worldwide collaborative effort surrounding the so-called ITER experiment has the goal of showing that fusion can be a real complement to the energy supply in the near future. Fusion energy is a form of nuclear power, so measurement methods in nuclear physics are especially useful. In my research I’m especially studying the neutrons that are released in fusion reactors. These neutrons provide information about the conditions in the fusion reactor, making it possible to determine its generation of output, the (very high) temperature and other properties of the fusion fuel that are important for controlling the process. To get the information the neutrons contain, we need to measure their number and their energy. Some of my research is therefore focused on constructing measuring equipment that is especially adapted for fusion neutrons. My group is also exploring new ways to use the data provided by neutron measurements. Here the aim is to help understand the physical processes that occur in today’s fusion experiments, and to devise tools to regulate future fusion reactors.

Watch Göran Ericsson’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Kjell Eriksson, professor of theoretical astrophysics

In recent years I’ve devoted more and more of my research time to carbon stars. They are stars that have progressed to late stages in their development. They began their lives billions of years ago and radiated with a constant light intensity most of the time, just as the sun is still doing. When they finally ‘ran out of fuel’, the inner structure of stars changed, becoming denser and hotter at the core while the peripheral parts swelled up and became thinner and cooler – they became bright giant stars, and some of them passed through a carbon star stage for a time.

A carbon star has an incredibly compact core about the size of the earth surrounded by an energy-producing shell that alternately makes helium out of hydrogen or carbon out of helium. The surface of the such stars are as far away from their cores as the earth is from the sun. Between the core and the surface, convection streams transport newly formed elements, including carbon, up to the surface layer of the star, its atmosphere, and from there most carbon stars lose a great deal of their mass to the space between the stars via a stellar wind. The details of this scenario remain unclear, such as what elements are created and in what amounts, how they come up to the surface, the mechanisms behind stellar wind, and the pulsations that stars undergo for about one year. We’re trying to elucidate these details by comparing observations of the spectrums of carbon stars and variations in light with synthetic calculations from models of the stars’ surface layer, using numerical methods based on the laws of physics and computed on ever-faster computers.

Watch Kjell Eriksson’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Mats Eskhult, professor of Semitic languages

My dissertation, which focuses on the intersection of sentence structure and narrative presentation in Old Testament prose, made me one of the world’s leading researchers in biblical Hebrew textual linguistics for a while. My later articles in the field deal with, for example, phrases and clauses as expressions of circumstance in Syrian Arameic and Hebrew. The development of verb syntax in biblical Hebrew – and the possibility of using this knowledge to date biblical texts – has prompted me to write a number of minor works of exegetical interest. Another area that I have devoted many articles to is the study of oriental languages in Scandinavia in past times.

Currently I’m working in a broad field ranging from fundamental issues of Hebrew syntax to the use of Syrian form words, as well as examples of translations into Arabic of supporting biblical quotations in early Christian tracts.

Watch Mats Eskhult’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Otto Fischer, professor of rhetoric

My research, both in literary studies and rhetoric, has primarily addressed the history and media forms and conditions of communication. I’ve been especially interested in how altered modes of relating to the written medium in the 18th century made it possible to communicate and formulate new emotional and social experiences and thereby also enabled the expression of new forms of subjectivity, something that finds expression in the sentimental literature of the end of that century. In parallel with this I have also studied how the status of classical rhetoric came to change in various ways in 18th-century Swedish society. From having been a self-evident component in the educational system, and a dominant theory also for how literary texts should be written, in the course of the century its role gradually changed and became invisible. I write about this in my latest book, Mynt i Ciceros sopor. Retorikens och vältalighetens status i 1700-talets svenska diskussion [Coins in Cicero’s Dustbin: The Status of Rhetoric and Eloquence in 18th-century Swedish Discourse], appearing in the autumn of 2012.

Watch Otto Fischer’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Torsten Gordh, professor of clinical pain research

My research seeks to provide a deeper understanding of the mechanisms that cause acute and chronic pain, in order to develop enhanced diagnostics and more effective treatment methods. About twenty per cent of the population suffers from some form of pain. In severe cases this causes suffering and poor quality of life, often with sleep disturbances and depression. Chronic pain is thus a public health problem, and it leads to major societal costs. The reasons why some individuals develop chronic pain following injuries, or spontaneously, are often unknown, but they probably have a genetic background. Drugs that provide good relief from acute pain are often completely inadequate for chronic pain. New treatment principles need to be devised.

Chronic disease is ‘invisible’, which entails that sufferers find it difficult to be understood. There is thus a crying need for new breakthroughs that can improve the situation for pain patients. In my current research project, we’re trying to understand the specific neurochemical patterns that characterise different types of pain conditions. We have also managed to image pain processes in the body in PET examinations. The project is run in close collaboration with the Uppsala Berzelii Centre for Neurodiagnostics, where clinicians and basic researchers work together. The issues addressed are based on the needs we perceive in our patients. The Pain Centre at Uppsala University Hospital serves as the clinical base for my research.

Watch Torsten Gordh’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Wilhelm Graf, professor of gastrointestinal surgery

The anatomy, physiology, and disease spectrum of the digestive apparatus offer fascinating environments and challenges. While the system is well designed and adapted to its functions when everything is normal, it is equally unmercifully destructive and dysfunctional in a pathological condition. Modern medicine involves an interplay and collaboration between surgical and non-surgical methods of treatment, with different specialities complementing and reinforcing each other. At the same time, technological developments have opened up new possibilities for minimally invasive surgery that we could only dream about thirty years ago, when I embarked on my medical career. My research has focused on the treatment of different types of intestinal cancer and disturbances in intestinal function. As a professor I will continue to work both in research and in the clinic to attain better outcomes for patients with these problems. I also want to work for stimulating and effective teaching in my subject areas.

Watch Wilhelm Graf’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Ólafur Guðmundsson, professor of seismology

Processes inside the solid earth affect our environment in many different ways. They create and concentrate the resources we use (fertile soil, raw materials, and energy) and cause disasters in the form of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, for example. The most effective way to explore these processes is to use detailed studies of the waves that are brought about by earthquakes (or blasts) and can penetrate the entire globe, that is, using seismology. The velocity and dampening of waves are influenced by the consistency, temperature, pressur, and porosity of the bedrock. They can also tell us about the condition of the bedrock. However, it’s not an easy matter to interpret the information that seismic waves contain about the inside of the earth. On the one hand, this is because where the waves are observed, on the surface, the information about all the different depths is compacted and, on the other hand, because the dissemination of the waves is complicated by the complex structure of the earth. In order to interpret seismological information you also need information about geology, geochemistry, and other geophysics, such as laboratory experiments at high pressure and temperature that simulate the conditions of the inside of the earth. To make use of seismology in research about the internal processes of the earth, it’s also necessary to have a knowledge of physics (wave distribution), mathematics (inversion methods, tomography), and geology. My research integrates and develops this knowledge to better describe the inner structure of the earth, both locally (10-kilometre scale) and regionally (1,000-kilometre scale). The focus is on the volcanic and tectonic processes, both current and in the past, that create resources but also risks in connection with volcanic and tectonic activity.

Watch Ólafur Guðmundsson’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Lena Gunningberg, professor of caring science

Studies in Sweden and other European countries show that more than every fifth patient who is hospitalized develops pressure sores. These sores cause great suffering for patients and increased costs for society. Pressure sores usually develop when a patient lies or sits too long in the same position. These sores can occur at home, in an ambulance, at an emergency ward, in hospital wards, or during rehabilitation. It’s therefore important to identify which patients run the risk of developing pressure sores in order to take the proper measures and provide adequate information for continued care at other units.

For fifteen years I have conducted research with the overarching purpose of preventing the development of pressure sores during care periods. Expanded care for at-risk patients (including risk assessment, pressure-relieving mattresses, and dietary supplements) has been evaluated scientifically. My research shows that these caring measures have led to considerably fewer patients developing pressure sores. Continued studies of caring documentation indicate that patient records were not a reliable source of information about pressure sores. Therefore, research-based decision-making support with pre-determined choices has been developed and integrated in electronic patient records. This has increased both the reliability and the quality of patient records.

The method for measuring the occurrence of pressure sores that I introduced in 2001 is now used in national patient security work, and pressure-sore prevalence is an established quality indicator in Swedish medical and health care. Current research is examining various factors that affect whether the introduction of evidence-based pressure-sore prevention succeeds or not, factors such as the knowledge and attitudes of care personnel, context of care, support functions, and leadership at various levels.

Watch Lena Gunningberg’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Eva Hellman, professor of religious studies, specialising in history of religion

In my research on political religion, I have worked with the Hindutva movement, which recycles Hindu concepts and symbols on an ideological and political level for the purpose of transforming secular and democratic India into a Hinduist state where the political power lies with those who are regarded as competent to interpret dharma, the transcendent principle at the core of Hindutva discourse.

In the field of religion and gender, I have studied Hindu constructions of female gender. Among feminists there is considerable interest in goddesses in different religions. An unexpressed condition for this interest has been the notion that goddess worship is a source of power for women. In Hinduism, however, goddesses have a strong position at the same time as the subordination of women is obvious. One conclusion is that notions of goddesses can be a liberating force for women only when patriarchal readings have been done away with.

I have also developed critical theory and argued for a heuristic delimitation of the category of religion, in which no sharp boundaries are drawn between religion and worldly utopias, that is, the sort of phenomena I have focused on in the two research fields mentioned above.

Watch Eva Hellman’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Kaj Hobér, professor of international investment and commercial law

The subject of investment and commercial law is part of traditional international law. The subject area also comprises national civil and procedural law, arbitration law, and international civil law.

My research focuses on three fields. The first involves the resolution of international disputes in commerce and economics. I have primarily pursued research on so-called investment disputes. These are disagreements between an investor and a state, based on international law tracts on investment protection. Moreover, I have studied and analysed dispute resolution through arbitration regarding commercial disputes. Another important aspect of this first field of focus is the study and analysis of disputes within the framework of the WTO (World Trade Organization). Another key research field is border and territorial disputes, especially those involving claims on various types of natural resources. Examples of such potential conflicts are competing claims on the Arctic, the South Atlantic (Falkland Islands), and the South China Sea.

These types of disputes partially coincide with the second field of focus: legal aspects of energy issues. Energy is one the most critical issues of our time. I concentrate especially on aspects of international law. From a European perspective a key question is how to secure access to energy through deliveries of oil and gas from the North Sea, Middle East, and the former Soviet Union. Russia and other countries that belonged to the former Soviet Union are the third field of focus for my research. This research involves, among other things, an analysis and understanding of energy policies that guide the actions of these countries in energy matters. My research will also address the issue of the extent to which Russian civil law, corporate law, and procedural law are properly designed and adapted to a market economy.

Watch Kaj Hobér’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Susanne Höfner, professor of dynamic astrophysics

Towards the end of their lives, most stars develop into cool giant stars with a brightness corresponding to from thousands to tens of thousands of suns. This developmental phase is characterised by massive discharges of gas, so-called stellar winds, which transport newly formed elements such as carbon away from the star at an accelerating rate. Specks of dust – tiny solid particles – that are formed in the outer layers of giant stars are the probable driving force behind stellar winds. By capturing some of the star’s radiation, the specks of dust are accelerated away from the star, taking with them the surrounding gas. The goal of my current research project is to understand the processes that transport the new elements formed by nuclear fusion in the core of the stars up to the surface and out into space, where they can become part of new generations of stars and planets. Our research team is developing new numerical models for stellar winds that can be directly compared with observations and yield key data for models of stars and the development of galaxies. Solving the riddles of stellar winds will help us to understand how atoms that now exist in our surroundings and in our own bodies at some time in the past managed to get away from the stars where they were formed.

Watch Susanne Höfner’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Jan Isberg, professor of electricity

Today silicon (Si) is the material used in most electronic applications. For many applications, such as power electronics and high-frequency applications, however, there are other materials that have much better electrical properties than silicon, so-called semiconductors with broad bandgap. I’m primarily interested in semiconducting materials that potentially have the very best properties, namely carbon (C) in the form of thin diamond films. Diamond is one of the most extreme materials in existence in terms of mechanical, thermic, optical, and electrical properties. Thus diamond has the highest heat conductivity of all materials – 5 times higher than copper. Its extreme material properties make diamond both an attractive and an elusive material in many technical applications. Thus far the development of components using diamond has been hampered by the fact that both natural and synthetic diamonds contain far too many defects and impurities. However, there has been a breakthrough in this field, and it’s now possible to make thin slices of extremely pure diamond, suitable for electronics applications, using so-called chemical vapour deposition. My research is mainly focused on studying charge transport in diamond and comparing it with computer calculations based on methods from quantum mechanics and statistical mechanics and developing process technology for diamond with an eye to demonstrating functioning components made with this material.

Watch Jan Isberg’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Britt-Inger Johansson, professor of art history

I have participated in many research projects and primarily focused on research on churches and palaces in the 18th century. In Bildskrud i svenska kyrkor [Picture vestments in Swedish churches] (1996–99) I studied murals in 19th-century Swedish churches. I have also participated in the interdisciplinary project ‘Parish Churches: Cultural Heritage and Building History’ (1998–2000), which was carried out at the Swedish National Heritage Board. In this project I took inventory of churches in the province of Östergötland, and I composed essays about church construction in the 19th century and church restorations in that province. Further, I took part in the project Power, Myths, and Media Surrounding King Carl XIV Johan (2005–08) where – working at the National Museum – I studied the royal palaces as arenas for the exercise of power and how they were used by Carl XIV Johan to legitimate the new dynasty he founded. I have also participated in a project on royal palaces, where I wrote an essay on Drottningholm Palace in the 19th century. I am currently working on a study of the city as a literary construction, that is, how urban environments and buildings are used in fictional contexts, with Istanbul as an example. I have served as editor of several academic anthologies, most recently – together with Uppsala historian Mikael Alm – Scripts of Kingship. Essays on Bernadotte and Dynastic Formation in an Age of Revolutions, Opuscula Historica Upsaliensis 37 (2008).

Watch Britt-Inger Johansson’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Stefan Jonsson, professor of business studies, specialising in organisation

Norms are soft rules about what is the right thing to do in certain social contexts. Research on norms is important as it is often assumed that people and organisations are governed by and act on the basis of instrumental – in contrast to norm-based – rationality. In earlier research I have shown the effects of professional norms on how organisations compete; in the world of finance, for example, product launchings are influenced by whether the product is compatible with the prevailing professional norm within the organisation. Moreover, I have shown how the media are key co-constructors of consumer norms for judging financial products; the way in which we assess funds against each other is partly governed by what newspapers and magazines think we should do. One interesting aspect of norms is that they do not necessarily exert precise regulatory effects. As organisations and their boundaries are blurry to most of us, we tend to react to organisational transgressions of norms, such as corporate scandals, by punishing several organisations similar to the one that crossed the line.

Issues I will be addressing in the future are how a specific, but widely dispersed, norm regarding exposure to competition broadly influences how organising is done in society. For example, in an earlier Sweden there were strong norms that schools, education, care and caring should not be exposed to competition. This is different today, and exposure to competition is regarded as a prerequisite for efficiency, innovation, and progress. However, one reason for creating societal organisations is precisely to protect certain functions from competition, and it is unclear what long-term effects this shift in norms will have on organising these central functions in society. Exposing organisations to competition entails a number of organisational consequences – such as the introduction of measurement and evaluation instruments. How do these impact organisations, organising, and people in organisations?

Watch Stefan Jonsson’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Olof Karis, professor of physics

In my research I’m interested in interfaces in layered structures of magnetic materials for the digital information age. Trends towards ever higher information density in computer memories present new challenges, as the layer that makes up a magnetic sensor, for instance, has been shrunk to a thickness of just a few dozen atoms. With such thin layers, functionality will be dominated by the interfaces between the layers. This means it will be crucial to understand the properties of the interfaces at the level of the atom. In my research we have devised methods to characterize properties of such interfaces, among other things. This information is obtained by spectroscopically studying how the electron structure of the sample changes when the interfaces involved are altered.

Spectroscopic studies of buried interfaces require special light sources and instruments. Using modern synchrotron light sources, which provide us with extremely intensive x-ray radiation, today we can perform studies of the electron structure at high radiation energies. This enables studies of buried interfaces and properties deriving from the inner parts of the material, rather than its surface, where effects can be identified corresponding to atoms on each side of the interface change places with each other. Such precision is difficult to achieve with other methods. We’re now working with a study of the properties of new material combinations that may come to be used in future magnetic sensors on computer hard drives. These materials have properties that allow the thickness of the magnetic sensor to be shrunk to 50 atom layers with sufficient sensitivity to read the magnetic information. Such small dimensions will be a reality when it is time to increase the density of stored information even further.

Watch Olof Karis’ inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Anna-Malin Karlsson, professor of Swedish, specialising in sociolinguistics

Through language, we deal with the surrounding world and take part in social life. Sociolinguistics has traditionally studied how people’s use of language reflects social contexts, but I have become more and more interested in how we use language to create and change the situations and activities we are involved in. Interaction analysis has taught us how participants in a conversation construct both their roles and what is said in the conversation. Discourse analysis has shown how social categories and norms are created by linguistic naming and descriptions.

Written language is just as social as spoken language. On the Internet, participants shape their identities and relations in profiles and comments. This may seem oral and informal, but writing often brings with it special social conditions and roles. In my studies of communication in working life, I have seen how writing entails responsibility, in good and bad senses. For example, documentation in health care and caring is fraught with problems for employees. Studying how people solve communicative dilemmas in speech and writing yields knowledge about much more than language itself.

Watch Anna-Malin Karlsson’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Göran Laurell, professor of otorhinolaryngology

The subject area of ear, nose, and throat disorders comprises conditions in a broad medical spectrum, from diseases in sense organs to cancer of the oral cavity, pharynx and throat (head and throat cancer). My research is based on my interest in patients with head and throat cancer, especially the side effects and after effects of treatment that can affect patients. My research has focused on primarily two areas – drug-induced hearing impairment and nutritional problems stemming from trouble swallowing.

The chemotherapeutic agent cisplatin is used to treat a number of cancer forms and can lead to permanent side effects in the form of impaired hearing and tinnitus. This type of damage affects the cochlea of the inner ear and primarily its hair cells. In my research I have focused on understanding how this damage occurs and how it can be prevented experimentally. A key finding is that this cell damage is dependent on the transport of cisplatin from the circulating blood to the cochlea. Under experimental conditions, my research team has managed to prevent such damage by locally treating the inner ear. Such knowledge is necessary for us to be able to avoid hearing impairment in patients being treated with cisplatin.

Treatment of patients with head and throat cancer is usually done with radiation and/or surgery. A major proportion of patients develop temporary difficulty in swallowing during treatment, but for many of them this trouble swallowing becomes permanent. Patients generally continue to lose weight for a long time after treatment. My research in this field aims to better understand what groups of patients run the risk of suffering from difficulty in swallowing and secondary nutritional problems.

Watch Göran Laurell’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Olle Lundin, professor of administrative law

Issues of administrative responsibility, control and revision of public authorities, including state and municipal, are central to administrative law and are important in establishing and maintaining the public trust in public administration and ultimately its legitimacy. In Sweden we have been relatively immune to major scandals in state and municipal administration. However, the trend is towards a greater awareness that we in Sweden also need instruments to protect ourselves from corruption and general misfeasance among authorities. The relationship between public authorities and citizens and municipal residents is regulated in a number of ways. Administrative law comprises regulations for the rights and obligations of individuals when they come into contact with authorities. Moreover, there are rules about how public administration is to be monitored and, if necessary, how liability can be exacted from culpable authorities and civil servants.

My research has primarily addressed issues of monitoring and liability in public administration. The emphasis has been on the municipal sector. I have treated issues of monitoring and liability in a context of municipal law. Various so-called municipal affairs, the Motala scandal, the Gothenburg imbroglio, etc., have made the subject perennially topical. Currently I am working with a project titled ‘Independent Public Administration’. The intention is to produce several papers addressing different aspects of how independence is regulated and maintained in public administration. The first part is a monograph about improper bias and partiality. This research is socially oriented, with a focus on contacts with actors in public administration. State authorities and municipalities are often the addressees of many of my publications. Most of my production is directly put to use in state and municipal administration. My research work also has an empirical and action-oriented side whereby I try to elucidate or alter the legal situation through the study of legal processes.

Watch Olle Lundin’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Mia Lövheim, professor of sociology of religion

Research in the sociology of religion is about the reciprocal interaction between religion and above all postwar societal and cultural developments. From previously being focused on research in church sociology and theories of secularisation, the ascendency of religion in the public debate in recent years has led to a broader orientation towards new and manifold relations between religion and modernity. How is religion expressed in the media and in popular culture? How do religious organisations act in civil society? When and how does religion become a political issue? How can religious values and actions be reconciled with secular, democratic ideals? These are issues being studied in ongoing research projects.

My research has focused on new digital media as arenas for religious identity, values, and gender, primarily among young people, and on young people’s attitudes to religion today. A driving force has been the problematising of assumptions about how the media impact religion and values by showing their complexities and variations, primarily based on the situation of young women. My current research is conducted within The Impact of Religion, an ongoing Centre of Excellence commitment at Uppsala University, dealing with religion and values in editorials and debates in Swedish daily newspapers during the years 1975–2010.

Watch Mia Lövheim’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Irene Molina, professor of social and economic geography, specialising in housing and settlement

Research presentation: My research has long involved the challenges presented by the goal of achieving the equitable city. Spatial segregation is one the oldest and most universal phenomena of the city. Even preindustrial cities were marked by socioeconomic and religious separation, which meant that there were few dealings between different social groups. In today’s postcolonial world, urban segregation is about class, gender, religion, and ethnicity or race. Behind the divisions that the research identifies, structures of power and ideology are concealed, along with the underlying discourses that reproduce these structures. At the same time individuals and groups act behind these structural frameworks and – if local housing markets allow – can reinforce this separation in the city through self-segregation. Research warns about the emergence of fragmented and dysfunctional cities where various forms of violence may ultimately be grave consequences. Cities in Europe and also in Sweden have become the home of sexualised and racialised violence. Hate crimes, violence against women and vulnerable undocumented migrants are a few examples of these expressions of violence. People avoid going to certain places and at certain times when they perceive that as a result of gender, religion, or skin colour they may be especially vulnerable. The right to the city in a segregated reality is becoming more and more limited for these groups. Segregation is now regarded also as a threat to environmental goals of sustainable social development. The challenge for research is to be able to generate and communicate knowledge about the problems that urban segregation entails, the mechanisms for its production and reproduction, and the avenues that might lead to a city for everybody. 

Watch Irene Molina’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

William Morris, professor of biology, specialising in conservation biology in plants

In my research as a population ecologist I have studied how ecological factors such as climate and the interplay between species create dynamics in different populations (groups of individuals of the same species in a particular area). Using a population perspective, I have especially studied the impact of human beings on the reproduction of other species, the field that is called conservation biology. I have used mathematical formulas to calculate the risk of various populations’ dying out and to develop strategies to reduce that risk. Current climate change – largely caused by human activities – has presented ecologists with the huge challenge of predicting how the geographical distribution of various species will change when the climate becomes different. From a population perspective, rising numbers of a population at the beginning of period of change, and declining number at the end of the period, are usually interpreted as a signal of a coming upheaval. My colleagues and I are examining at the population level the reactions of different plant species to climate change in their area of distribution, and in this way we can contribute to an understanding of why the distribution ranges of species end where they do under today’s conditions – and to better predictions of their coming ranges in the climate of the future. Much of this work has involved plants from the tundra areas of the northern hemisphere, many of which are typical of Swedish mountainous regions. A key part of my research (as professor of conservation biology in plants) consists of determining whether these plants will be able to continue to exist in Sweden in the future, with a warmer climate.

Watch William Morris’ inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Veturliði Gunnar Óskarsson, professor of Scandinavian languages, specialising in Icelandic

Since the 1990s I have been involved in research about foreign influences on Icelandic. My dissertation, defended in 2001, was about the influence of Middle Low German on older Icelandic, and I have continued to investigate how loanwords have been taken up by the language throughout the ages: which have been borrowed and which have had to give way to the strong aversion to loanwords that has long been prevalent in Iceland. Among other things, I have written about the loanwords ske [‘happen’] and blífa [‘become’] (Swedish bli) in Icelandic, words with the prefix an  (Swedish anta [‘assume’]), the suffixes  ansk and –isk, which are used to form adjectives denoting nationality (Swedish kubansk, samisk [‘Cuban’, ‘Sami’]). My interest in words has also entailed that I have been part of the editorial board of two lexicographical journals for the last ten years. I have also been active in the discussion about Icelandic language policy and about the Icelandic language in general during the late Middle Ages and in more modern times. For the last couple of years I have been taking part in an international project on the emergence of a national standard language in Iceland in the 19th century, and in another project I will studying be how Icelanders refer to their language in their quest for self-esteem and identity. Otherwise, I like to shift back and forth between language research and philology, that is, the examination and editing of ancient texts, where the principal goal is to understand the historical and cultural contexts of the text.

Watch Veturliði Gunnar Óskarsson’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Mats Persson, professor of history of science and ideas

My research can be divided into four groups, in terms of subject matter. The first subject area is Swedish philosophy and the cultural debate from the late 19th century to the First World War. Here the focus is on the crisis of philosophical idealism centring on the Swedish philosopher Vitalis Norström. The second field involves the history of historical thinking during the 1750–1920 period. Here, on the one hand, I have studied the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s critique of history, and, on the other hand, I have presented and analysed modern research camps involving so-called historicism. The third area is about ancient Greece: I have discussed Plato and modern interpretations of his philosophy. The fourth subject area addresses the theory of history, and here I have dealt with the history of mentalities, the history of concepts, and the history of philosophy, etc. Further, I have been interested in general and interdisciplinary approaches, especially in relation to philosophy, history, and Antiquity studies and in issues involving the relationship between research and teaching.

I am currently involved in two research projects: on the one hand, a study of ancient historiography with a focus on the question of its overall character compared with what is considered history today and, on the other hand, a collaborative project with philosophers involving criticism and judgement in relation to historical perspectives and relativisations.

Watch Mats Persson’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Stephan Pomp, professor of applied nuclear physics, specialising in nuclear data at high neutron energies

What fascinates me about the subject of applied nuclear physics is the interplay between large-scale technological and medical questions and the appurtenant need for basic research in nuclear physics.

A key question of global relevance that my research addresses is tomorrow’s supply of nuclear energy and the need to minimise the problem of nuclear waste. Advanced new reactor systems, the so-called fourth generation, can lead to both better use of resources and a drastic reduction in the necessary final storage period. Also in medical fields, like dosimetry and radiation of cancer patients, we contribute detailed knowledge about nuclear reactions.

Common to all of the above applications is the important and often crucial role of neutrons. Therefore my research in experimental nuclear physics with primarily high-energy neutrons is primarily about careful measurements of nuclear reactions, for example in nuclear fission. The results of the measurements lead to improved theoretical nuclear models and thereby better databases that we can then use in computer simulations to study and optimise large-scale technological systems.

I also appreciate the fact that our type of research is being done in an environment that is strongly characterised by international collaboration, with partners from Finland, France, Japan, and the Netherlands, among others.

Watch Stephan Pomp’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Anna Qvarnström, professor of biology, specialising in zooecology

I study one of the most central questions in evolutionary biology. How do new species arise? To find out, I am studying two young bird species, the collared flycatcher and the pied flycatcher, that can still crossbreed and exchange genetic material with each other. They began to differ from each other about a million years ago when they existed in different places during repeated ice ages. My group is examining what happens now when the two species live side by side on the Baltic island of Öland. Are their niches so different that they do not compete with each other? What factors enable them still to crossbreed, and what evolutionary changes are required for the flow of genes between them to cease? A unique feature of my research is that I can follow individuals from cradle to grave. This means that I can find out what consequences the flow of genes between the species has after multiple generations. We also use family trees for analyses of hereditary patterns of characteristics that may be important in the process of species formation and for identifying any “species-forming genes”. In another study system, we are investigating an earlier stage in the species formation process, that is, when populations begin to separate from each other. In the Bocas del Toro region in Panama, various populations of dart-poison frogs (genus Pumilio) have become geographically separated on different islands when the sea level rose in the last ten thousand years. On the mainland all of the frogs are red, but on the islands they vary in colour and can also be green, yellow, or blue. The warning-coloured frogs are more aggressive, move around more, and call for females from more exposed places, as they do not need to hide as a result of the red or yellow colour, which signals toxicity to predators. An interesting question is whether it is more probable that the populations will become reproductively isolated when so many characteristic features, such as colour and behaviour, change together in this way.

Watch Anna Qvarnström’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Sharon Rider, professor of theoretical philosophy

My research has focused on three main themes: issues concerning the history of philosophical thinking and the history of philosophy; issues of the philosophy of language and of science; and higher education and educational policy matters. These three main interests are linked together by a problematising of what it means to belong to a tradition, to have a history, and how this affects people’s capacity to think and act. The answers to these questions, I feel, are not merely ‘philosophical’ in an academic sense but rather are relevant to daily life, both in science and in society at large.

My many years of involvement in various positions of trust in academia have moved my research more and more in the direction of issues involving the value and potentials of knowledge and liberal education, and to address critical questions about what education really is and what purposes it serves, as well as how academic research and higher education can and should best be organised to fulfil these purposes.

Watch Sharon Rider’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Lena Rydholm, professor of Chinese

When I was studying at Peking University, I developed an interest in classical Chinese literature. My doctoral dissertation was about a form of lyrical poetry that was sung to music and was very popular in the Song dynasty (960–1279). After that I took part in the interdisciplinary project ‘Literature in a Global Perspective’, contributing a study on genre theory and literary genres in China in ancient times that wa published in Literary History: Towards a Global Perspective (2006). After that I have done research on Chinese literary theory, genre theory, and style theory in early and modern times. Several of my articles have been published in Chinese by Peking University Press. My current research project is about views on the Chinese novel in early and modern times.

I have also co-directed an interdisciplinary research project on contemporary Chinese media, edited several anthologies, and published articles about media in China and on the Chinese New Year programme on China Central Television. I work in close collaboration with the Communication University of China in Beijing concerning both research and education.

Watch Lena Rydholm’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Daniel Stattin, professor of civil law, specialising in corporate law

My research mainly falls under two sections of corporate law: corporation law and stock market law.

In corporation law, I have been especially interested in matters of governance, liability, and decision-making, what is often referred to as corporate governance, as well as matters involving legal documents and proxies for corporations. My most important work in the area is my study: Företagsstyrning. En studie av aktiebolagsrättens regler om ägar- och koncernstyrning [Corporate Governance: A Study of the Regulations of Corporation Law about Owner and Group Governance] (2nd ed., 2008).

In stock market law I have primarily done research on legal regulations for public corporate takeovers, where my most important research findings in the field are the studies Takeover: Offentliga uppköpserbjudanden på aktiemarknaden enligt svensk rätt [Public Acquisition Bids on the Stock Market under Swedish Law] (2nd ed., 2009) and Gränsöverskridande takeover-erbjudanden. Om jurisdiktionella begränsningar i erbjudandens räckvidd [Boundary-crossing Takeover Bids: On Jurisdictional Limitations on the Reach of Bids] (2012). Currently my main project is about legal issues involving incentive programmes for board members and management in publicly traded corporations.

Watch Daniel Stattin’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Andreas Strömbergsson, professor of mathematics

The principal theme of my research is integer theory, the branch of mathematics that deals with the properties of whole integers. Problems of integer theory are often easy to explain, even to non-mathematicians, but they often prove to be notoriously difficult to solve; several problems have been studied intensively for well over a hundred years but remain unsolved. Although problems in integer theory are largely studied for the sake of their inherent beauty, findings in integer theory have often proven to have unforeseen and important applications in other fields, within and outside of pure mathematics.

Advances in integer theory have often been made with the help of methods from other branches of modern mathematics. My own research occupies the border regions between integer theory and several other mathematical areas. Some of my works involve so-called periodic Lorentz gas, which is a classical idealised model introduced by Hendrik Lorentz in 1905 to describe the movement of electrons in a metal: we observe a large number of point particles that move around in a ‘billiard game’ consisting of regularly placed, globe-shaped obstacles. In collaboration with Jens Marklof, I have provided a stringent mathematical proof of this model for a macroscopic transport equation based exclusively on given microscopic laws. 

Watch Andreas Strömbergsson’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Stefan Swartling Peterson, professor of global health

In my research and teaching, I am interested in everything we know but can’t do, the so-called “know-do gap”. Eight million children will die before the age of five this year. We have sufficient medical knowledge to prevent and cure two thirds of these cases, if we reach out with it. My area is implementation research, which deals with how we can take techniques that work in a laboratory and for individual patients and make them work on a large scale, for entire populations. For the past ten years, I have been collaborating with colleagues at Makerere University in Uganda with a focus on acute fever diseases in children, especially pneumonia, malaria, and diarrhoea, as well as the health of newborns. In a poorly resourced health system with about SEK 100 (~$15) available per person and year, and shortages in hospital staffing, how can we see to it that the right child receives the right medicine at the right time and right dose for his/her disease? We use so-called Community Health Workers, and in our latest studies also small private pharmacies, and have turned several findings into altered guidelines from WHO and UNICEF. A related research interest is how we can strengthen the capacity of health systems at the district level in order to implement evidence-based interventions, with ongoing studies in Uganda och Tanzania, funded by the EU and the Gates Foundation.

Common to all of my studies is that I conduct them in partnership with colleagues in low-income countries at ministries of health and research institutes. I am deeply interested in developing university collaborations with most of the world and am convinced that great scientific advances and answers to the great challenges to humankind require partnerships between universities, teachers, and researchers throughout the world – in high-, middle-, and low-income countries.

Watch Stefan Swartling Peterson’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Gesa Weyhenmeyer, professor of biology, specialising in aquatic biogeochemistry

Water is necessary for all life. It lies in the best interest of everyone to preserve sufficient water quality. The quality aspect is governed by many, usually highly complex, biogeochemical processes in and outside of water systems. In my research I analyse changes in water quality in space and time and relate them to local, regional, and global natural and human driving factors. Of special interest are changes in the amount of organic carbon in water. Organic carbon is a central element in a number of biochemical processes. Moreover, it affects the quality of drinking water, and it can be converted into carbon dioxide, which is released into the atmosphere, where it contributes to the greenhouse effect. Because I use data from thousands of lakes and waters, my research is an important building block in a number of strong national and international research environments. Some of my research is also used by the UN Climate Panel and other international organisations. The latest studies showed, for example, that carbon-dioxide emissions from the world’s inland lakes correspond nearly one quarter of emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels. I like to use such examples in my teaching, which is an important part of my work. In the next few years my research will continue to focus on organic carbon, but the emphasis will be on interactions with other elements and compounds and on qualitative changes in the countryside.

Watch Gesa Weyhenmeyer’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Laila Zackariasson, professor of civil law

The subject of civil law covers the legal regulations involving reciprocal relations between individuals and associations. Certain regulations are found in laws or their legislative history or can be gleaned from common law. Others are unwritten and are glimpsed only as underlying principles behind other regulations. Analysing these general principles is a fascinating assignment for me as a legal scholar.

In my research I have primarily focused on general principles in the property law branch of civil law. In my doctoral dissertation Direktkrav [Direct Claims] I investigated the right of a party to file claims not only against the opposite party but also against another person with the corresponding obligation to the opposite party. Among other aspects, I studied the general principle of the subjective limitation of contracts. The monograph Borgenärsskydd och specialitet [Protection of Creditors and Speciality] contains in turn an analysis of the general principles for protecting creditors. The issue addressed there is what is required for a party to be protected against property that the opposite party is obligated to produce being used instead to satisfy the general obligations of the opposite party, in bankruptcy, for example.

Currently I plan to study, in a small research team, solutions in principle to the conflict that arises when someone purchases property from an unauthorised seller, general principles for purchase protection.

Watch Laila Zackariasson’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

PerOla Öberg, professor of political science

My research has involved classical issues of democracy and power, with an emphasis on the role of civil society in the system of government. I have shown that, under certain conditions, leaders of interest groups may be prepared to moderate their demands and enlist the support of their membership. Knowledge about such matters is of importance if we wish to shape our system of government in a way that enables citizens to influence it, but without forcing the best interest of society as a whole to be put aside in order to placate special interests. Another main theme has been the question of how trust (faith between people) is established and what function it fulfils. This is a core issue of social science, as we know that individual workplaces and society in general function more efficiently in a number of different ways if those involved trust each other. Our research has shown that trust within workplaces and between organisations is strengthened if the regulations (institutions) are perceived as equitably constituted. My current research is about knowledge and politics. How can we arrange decision-making processes so that decision-makers can make use of the prevailing state of knowledge in the best way? And can we achieve this without democracy being threatened by technocratic rule and a diluting of politics?

Watch PerOla Öberg’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Last modified: 2021-01-21