New professors 2018

Forty-five new professors were inaugurated at Uppsala University on 16 November 2018 in the grand inauguration ceremony. Here they present their research.

Contents

Paul Barklem, astronomy specialising in atomic processes in stellar atmospheres

Paul BarklemHow did our Milky Way galaxy form and evolve? Where and when were the various elements formed that make up the Earth and humans? Stars can be compared to fossils, and many of them show on their surfaces the composition of the gas from which they once were formed. By studying carefully selected stars, we can follow the history of the galaxy and the elements and obtain answers to these questions – a kind of archaeology with very long time horizons.

To do this, we need to measure the elemental composition of the stars. Because stars are so distant, the only way to investigate these fossils is by analysing the light that comes to Earth entirely “voluntarily”. Almost everything we know about stars comes from investigating the spectrum of stellar light. Each type of atom absorbs light at its special wavelengths, and we see this as spectral lines. In this way atoms in stellar atmospheres leave their fingerprints in the spectrum, from which we can measure the elemental composition.

My research deals with the theoretical calculations of atomic processes in stellar atmospheres. I and others use these calculations to accurately interpret the complex information of spectral lines and thereby stitch together a detailed and coherent picture of the history of the Milky Way, including an understanding of stars like the Sun, planets like Earth and their origins.

Watch Paul Barklem’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Annica Black-Schaffer, physics specialising in materials theory

Annica Black-SchafferTo be able to describe all the different materials and phases of matter in nature, we need to understand how an almost infinite number of electrons interact with each other through the laws of quantum mechanics. As a theoretical physicist, I try to find simple, but universal models that explain the properties of whole families of different materials.

My research primarily deals with superconductivity, which is one of the few purely quantum mechanical phenomena we know of. A superconductor conducts electricity – that is, electrons – with no resistance at all. This occurs when electrons form what is known as a quantum condensate at low temperatures. I investigate superconductivity in materials we do not yet fully understand, neither why these materials are superconducting nor what their properties are. Among other things, I am interested in materials where the electron’s wave functions have a different structure, called topology. In topological superconductors, particles can emerge that behave like half electrons – or more accurately stated, the electron’s wave function is split into two completely separate parts. The half electrons are called Majorana fermions, and we have good expectations that their non-local nature can be used to build a stable quantum computer.

Watch Annica Black-Schaffer’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

David Black-Schaffer, computer science

David Black-SchafferComputers are the most powerful and most versatile tool of our time for understanding, modelling, protecting and improving the world around us. Though we can build systems with greater and greater computing capacity, their effective performance is limited by the energy and the time required to transfer data.

My research focuses on understanding, modelling and solving the problem of how we can effectively transfer data in computer systems. This includes developing techniques to analyse and improve software programs, increase the effectiveness of hardware to transfer data, design systems in which hardware and software go hand in hand and create radically new constructions that reconsider our fundamental approach to how we can most effectively transfer data. By solving these problems, we can achieve a significant streamlining of data transfer in computer systems and thereby provide better performance for all.

Watch David Black-Schaffer’s inaugural lecture (in English)

Eric Bylander, procedural law

Eric BylanderProcedural law is the aspect of law most sharply focused on how trials and other proceedings in court are to take place. My research in this area of law has especially addressed issues related to the law reform “More modern legal proceedings”. Inspired by rhetoric, I have, primarily in my dissertation, studied the choice between the spoken and written word in light of both modern technology and experiences in legal history.

In recent years I have focused on the higher courts’ leave to appeal process – in other words, the simplified assessment that determines whether or not an appealed ruling is reviewed. What many of my procedural law research contributions have in common is that they often involve applicable situations of great practical importance for the functioning of the courts. A recurring theme is the individual’s perception of fair judicial treatment.

Watch Eric Bylander’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Åsa Cajander, human-computer interaction

Åsa CajanderSystems development work is difficult, and many information technology (IT) systems do not work in a satisfactory way, despite intensive technological development. My research focuses both on improving the situation and understanding the root of the problems. I am researching ways to improve working methods in the organisations and the projects that develop and introduce IT. The focus here is user-centric methods, gender, socio-technical perspectives and agile development. I have also researched the competencies need by people in the projects for them to be able to work with the development of complex systems that support people effectively.

Digitisation also has consequences for our work environment, and I have been particularly interested in my research in work environment issues in the development and introduction of IT. The goal of my research is to contribute to improved digitisation that addresses human needs.

Watch Åsa Cajander’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Una Cunningham, didactics specialising in multilingualism

Una CunninghamChildren who grow up surrounded by multiple languages can, if they have an environment that supports it, become multilingual. Older children and adolescents (and adults) who end up in a situation where they are surrounded by several languages also can learn one or more new languages if they need to do so, and they will be either helped or hindered by their existing language skills. Instruction can help students develop strategies for their use of language in a new country and simplify their learning of a language.

Multilingualism has great benefits for the individual, but a monolingual standard prevails in many countries, including Sweden. The school system is primarily designed for children and young people who have Swedish as their native language. This means that those who have other native languages create a problem for the school. The solution has varied, but usually it is the students who must adapt to the school rather than the other way around, and only recently has the focus shifted somewhat from what the students lack to the knowledge and skills they possess. Students must learn Swedish as soon as possible, but if they have to wait until their proficiency in the new language is sufficient before they can resume their education, they will lose many years. They need to be able to make active use of their previous language and other knowledge in their learning.

Watch Una Cunningham’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Ulrika Dahl, gender studies

Ulrika DahlWhy is the feminine subordinate to the masculine? What does sexuality have to do with femininity and being a woman? How is being Nordic construed in gender research? How do LGBTQ individuals form families, and what can we learn about the norms of Swedishness, parenthood and gender, the future and a sense of belonging of those who do not belong to the majority? These are questions that I, as an interdisciplinary gender scholar and feminist researcher, have investigated.

As an anthropologist, I am interested in the power structures that shape the experiences and understanding of fundamental aspects of the organisation of society, namely gender, sexuality and reproduction. Inspired by post-colonial perspectives on the development of knowledge in the West, I orient my research towards what is familiar and nearby, rather than what is unfamiliar. I have studied the area where I grew up and homosexual subcultures, and I have also investigated feminist development of knowledge and politics, always with a focus on how power relationships are woven together and find expression. As a writer, I also investigate how language and style shape bodies, stories and knowledge.

Watch Ulrika Dahl’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Mats Daniels, computer science specialising in computer science didactics

Mats DanielsComputer science and IT permeate much of today’s society, and the pace of development is increasing rather than decreasing. This makes it very important that individuals training in the field are competent purely in technical terms, but also in how the technology they are involved in developing is used and its possible consequences from a holistic societal perspective.

In my research I have particularly focused on creating and studying educational settings in which students can develop competencies that lead to an increased ability to collaborate, even across cultural boundaries, with colleagues, other experts, users and others involved in managing complex tasks that can be solved in many different ways. Some important educational issues regarding competencies are understanding what is needed in different contexts, how this can be described, how students can get hands-on practice and how abilities can be assessed. Perhaps the biggest challenge is raising awareness of the benefits of competencies beyond the purely technical among students and teaching staff.

I am working to strengthen subject didactics research at Uppsala University and internationally with the aim of laying the groundwork for educational programmes in which students develop a professional competence to prepare them to take on the major societal challenges resulting from rapid and pervasive IT developments, both locally and globally.

Watch Mats Daniels’ inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Anna T. Danielsson, didactics

Anna T. DanielssonLearning the natural sciences is about learning subject matter content, but it also involves learning to participate in the natural sciences as social and cultural activities. Who is included in the subjects, which subject matter content is emphasised and what work methods are used – these are key issues in didactics.

In my research I have primarily focused on issues of identity, gender and power in relation to teaching and learning in the natural sciences, especially in higher education. What knowledge is considered important in the science classroom, and what consequences does this have for the ability of pupils and students to identify with the subjects? What is the role of gender and social class for teaching and learning in the natural sciences? Questions such as these, where teaching and learning are examined in relation to a particular academic content, are what interest me about subject didactics. The goal of the research is to contribute to more inclusive teaching of the natural sciences.

Watch Anna T. Danielsson’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Andreas Dorn, Egyptology

Andreas DornMy research domain is primarily ancient Egyptian archaeology. I focus on microhistory and the landscape’s impact on religious expression in architecture and its impact on individuals, ancient Egyptian religion, special festivals, informal contact with the gods and ancient Egyptian literary texts and their cultural and historic value as texts for education and how they reflect society.

An ongoing research project is a publication on the burial equipment belonging to Seti I and a publication on the excavations and the architecture of the tomb of Siptah (both pharaohs who lived around 1250 BCE). I am also working on newly discovered graffiti in the Valley of the Kings (1530–1050 BCE) and nearby desert valleys and on literary texts that are preserved in the French Institute in Cairo and in the Egyptian Museum in Turin, especially the oldest map of Egypt.

Watch Andreas Dorn’s inaugural lecture (in English)

Herman Dürr, instrumentation and accelerators

Herman DürrMy research focuses on the development of methods that make use of very short pulses (a millionth of a billionth of a second, called a femtosecond, 10-15 of a second) from modern laser and X-ray sources. When these light sources are combined with advanced spectroscopy, the researcher can examine the dynamics in condensed matter at the atomic length and time scales by which the most extreme macroscopic properties of materials are determined.

I am particularly interested in rapid transitions between magnetic and electronic states, especially what ultimately limits how quickly such transitions can occur. The processes that interest me are those crucial to the performance of materials used in information technology, for example. The X-ray pulses generated in a free electron laser provide completely new perspectives. With them you can achieve a precision in space and time that permits detailed studies of the fundamental processes. In addition to the work on light pulses at the department’s short pulse laser and at the major facilities in Stanford and Hamburg, I am developing an entirely new method that has the potential to provide unique insights on ultrafast dynamics and that will be of great importance for materials science, chemistry and structural biology. This method uses electron pulses that are very short and high-energy, moving close to the speed of light.

Watch Herman Dürr’s inaugural lecture (in English)

Tomas Edvinsson, solid state physics specialising in theoretical and experimental Raman spectroscopy

Tomas EdvinssonInteraction between light and matter is the basis of life on Earth through photosynthesis, but it can also be used to harness solar energy by converting sunlight into electricity through solar cells or into environmentally friendly fuels through solar-powered decomposition of water into oxygen and hydrogen. I conduct research on low-dimensional materials for solar cell applications and photocatalysis. We use the latter in everything from purification of drinking water and light-induced cancer therapy to the generation of solar fuel.

In my research, light is used also to understand what happens during the actual energy conversion processes, where we direct laser light towards materials and some of the laser light’s energy is converted to vibrations in the materials. Based on the loss of light in specific energy packets, researchers can then derive the vibration energies in materials and thereby understand the chemical bonds that exist or are changed during the processes. The method is called Raman spectroscopy. Both theoretical and experimental Raman spectroscopy are used in my research along with other methods to obtain a better understanding of the material itself and the light-matter interaction and to improve the efficiency of new generations of solar cells, processes for water purification and solar-powered water decomposition.

Watch Tomas Edvinsson’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Máté Erdèlyi, organic chemistry

Máté ErdèlyiWeak chemical interactions are extremely important for life processes. These interactions determine the properties of the matter in and all around us and whether a substance is water or fat soluble. They are also responsible for keeping our DNA strands together in a stable double helix. Thanks to these weak chemical interactions, each protein has a special structure, which is essential for the performance of their specific functions. These weak chemical interactions also enable pharmaceuticals to have an effect on our body by binding them to their target molecules.

My research focuses on the weak chemical interaction known as halogen bonding. This type of interaction is expected to transform future pharmaceutical development and open unparalleled opportunities in the manufacturing of new materials. Nevertheless, its characteristics are still not well defined, mostly due to lack of sufficiently sensitive techniques for its detection. Halogens frequently are present in pharmaceutical molecules, despite the fact that their importance for the effectiveness of the pharmaceutical are not well understood. I am developing new methods to investigate halogen bonding in various chemical and biological processes in a more reliable way than has been possible up to now. A molecular understanding of this interaction will allow us to develop new catalytic reactions for more efficient production of various materials and pharmaceuticals. In addition, it will be possible to use halogen bondings to increase the specificity and affinity of pharmaceuticals to reduce side effects.

Watch Máté Erdèlyi’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Maria Eriksson Baaz, political science specialising in international politics

Maria Eriksson BaazMuch of the violence committed in armed conflicts affects civilians. In many conflicts this violence is committed largely by regular government forces. Violence is expressed in many different ways, such as executions, torture, forced recruitment, sexual violence and property crimes in the form of looting and illegal taxation. What can we make of these abuses? How are men and women affected? What does the relationship between the various forms of violence look like? These issues have been at the heart of my research over the last 10 years. My empirical focus has been the armed conflicts in Central Africa, primarily the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and I have searched for answers through interviews with civilians and especially through long-term field work among the government army and the police.

The research results have problematised several dominating notions about violence in war. Among other things, it has shown that the idea that sexual violence in war is to be understood as a military strategy is extremely simplistic. It also shows that men and boys are victims of sexual violence to a much greater extent than assumed. The research also demonstrates how blurred the boundaries often are between civilian and military spheres. A large part of the violence committed involves various forms of private and commercial conflicts among civilians, who turn to military groups to resolve these disputes.

Watch Maria Eriksson Baaz’ inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Frank Thomas Grub, German

Frank Thomas GrubIn my research, which connects literature, culture and language, I focus mainly on German post-war and contemporary literature. I am especially interested in social aspects and how power structures are portrayed in literature. My dissertation is an attempt to analyse the fall of the Wall, the reunification of Germany and its consequences for literature from a holistic perspective – in particular, how authors from East and West Germany interpreted these events and discourses.

After defending my dissertation, I have immersed myself in various areas, including literary theory, autobiographical writing, literary production and reception, and environmental and sustainability issues. Issues in these contexts have included how military conscripts in the East and West have described their experiences, how Astrid Lindgren’s works have been received and mythologised in Germany, and how authors in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) warned of ecological collapse early in their writings.

In recent years I have researched travel literature from the GDR. My studies are centred on books about countries to which GDR citizens usually could not travel, such as Sweden. In many of these writings, social systems in the destination countries have been deconstructed; before the end of the 1980s, however, a certain depoliticization of both writings and images can be noted. This approach allows the refutation of clichéd notions about GDR literature.

Watch Frank Thomas Grub’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Per Jemth, protein chemistry

Per JemthProteins ensure that everything functions in living organisms. They facilitate chemical reactions, enable cells to communicate with each other, transport oxygen in the blood and build up muscle fibres. My research team uses experimental and computer-based methods to search for answers to fundamental questions about proteins and how they work. Random changes in DNA can give rise to altered proteins.

The team is focusing on how these evolutionary processes in proteins affect how they function and is applying an evolutionary perspective to understand the role of proteins in disease, by which viruses, bacteria and cancer cells change their proteins to reproduce or to evade our immune system.

Watch Per Jemth’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Jorijntje Henderiks, marine micropalaeontology

Jorijntje HenderiksPhytoplankton play a crucial role in marine ecosystems and the global carbon cycle. Like trees and plants on land, marine phytoplankton bind large quantities of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. My research aims to better understand the interaction between climate change and the occurrence of marine phytoplankton over different time scales to gain a better understanding of changes in the global carbon cycle. There is much to learn from current living algae through field studies and experiments in the laboratory. If we want to understand the long-term effects of climate change, we need to go back in time and study fossil time series.

I focus on coccolithophores, which are incredibly beautiful, single-celled marine algae. They make up a globally significant group of calcium-binding algae, and their microfossils (very small calcium disks) are preserved in the continuously deposited sediments on the seabed. By studying core samples from deep-sea sediment, I can read the Earth’s past climate history, understand how coccolithophores have changed and adapted in light of earlier climate changes, and interpret present-day climate changes on Earth based on this information.

Watch Jorijntje Henderiks’ inaugural lecture (in English)

Paula Henrikson, literary studies

Paula HenriksonMy research has had four main focal points. The first concerns Swedish drama in the early 19th century, and particularly Erik Johan Stagnelius’ dramatic writings. The second concerns the theory and practice of scholarly text publication. I have published works by Stagnelius and Carl Jonas Love Almqvist, and I have discussed methods and theories about texts and authors that guide such publications. A third focus is the study of the history of scholarly text publication in Sweden, which has raised questions concerning the view of literature, the role of writers and educating the public, among other things.

My research has often revolved around the literary epoch known as Romanticism. The fourth focus concerns the relationship between this era and literary classicism, among other things in connection with Sweden’s support for Greek independence in the 1820s. A recurring interest in my research concerns historical consciousness and cultural memory: what has looking backward meant for literature in different periods?

Katarina Hjelm, caring sciences

Katarina HjelmThe incidence of chronic diseases is increasing as society develops, placing great demands on health care. As a starting point in my doctoral thesis, I have oriented my research towards studies of migration and health, the care of people with chronic diseases and international perspectives on health. Global public health problems such as diabetes mellitus, varicose ulcers, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, stroke, coeliac disease and mental illness are being studied. The focus is on perceptions of health, disease and health care and the significance of health-related behaviour. I have compared people originating in different countries with diabetes, gestational diabetes and diabetic foot complications, relating differences to origins and living conditions.

I have also studied health trends of migrants, elderly immigrants, opportunities to communicate and use of interpreters. Both national and international comparative studies of the care of people have been carried out and are under way. The specialised knowledge from this work will help us to develop an optimal care organisation providing the best possible care for all, regardless of origin, and primarily implemented outside of hospitals/institutions.

Watch Katarina Hjelm’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Eva Hultin, didactics specialising in Swedish

Eva HultinThe Swedish curriculum and the Education Act emphasise that school should not only develop students’ knowledge and skills in various subjects to prepare them for further studies and future careers. It should also prepare students to be politically-aware citizens. In other words, schools as a social institution have been given an important role in ensuring the future perpetuation of democracy. The latest curriculum for primary and lower-secondary schools emphasises, in particular, that the responsibility for the democracy mission applies to all subjects and that all teaching is to be organised in democratic ways.

In my research I have studied the conditions for learning, discussing and experiencing democracy in teaching the subject of Swedish in different types of schools. I have studied the conditions for discussing fiction in upper-secondary school instruction of Swedish as a subject. I have also studied the conditions for learning to read and write in classrooms that are equipped with digital resources in the early years of primary and lower-secondary school. While studying the conditions for student learning and discussing in the Swedish as a subject, I have turned my attention to what opportunities students have to influence the content and form of learning and to experience democracy.

Watch Eva Hultin’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Oleg Kochukhov, astronomy specialising in stellar magnetic fields and activity

Oleg KochukhovAs the building blocks of galaxies and planetary hosts, stars are the central objects of astrophysics research. The nature of stellar magnetic fields and their influence on the stars themselves and their surroundings is one of the key problems in modern stellar physics.

The purpose of my research is to develop an understanding of stars through a detailed study of the origin and development of their magnetic fields. I use advanced polarisation measurement units at large telescopes to detect magnetic fields and then apply sophisticated computational techniques to reconstruct their topologies. By using this method, I obtain unique three-dimensional representations of distant stellar magnetic fields and flecks. I then position these maps on theoretical models of magnetised plasma to further develop the theory for a complete description of the stars and their environments.

In addition to forming a new cornerstone of stellar physics, this research provides us with an understanding of how the Sun’s magnetic activity develops over a period of time and how it affects the Earth’s climate and the biosphere.

Watch Oleg Kochukhov’s inaugural lecture (in English)

Esbjörn Larsson, history of education

Esbjörn LarssonSchool and education are key parts of most people’s lives today. However, that has not always been the case. It can be said that there has been an educational revolution since the beginning of the 19th century and I have devoted much of my research to this phenomenon. Through empirical studies I have shown that this development is by no means the result of aspirations for today’s educational society. Instead it has been characterised by social change and the endeavour of different social classes to sustain their position. In studies of the school system that emerged during the 19th century, I have taken an interest in the origin of what might be described as a parallel school system, with different types of schools for different social classes. I have investigated both the composition of student bodies and the design of education, at which point I was able to show that the 19th-century school system contributed to the maintenance of disparities among different social classes.

Moreover, I have also devoted myself to other aspects of the school system’s development, such as the introduction of defence service training in Swedish schools during World War II. These analyses have shown how the threat of war challenged the modern view of children that had emerged at the beginning of the 20th century while the threat of war also helped to expand views of the role of girls. In addition, I have been involved in communicating education history research, among other things as one of the editors behind the textbook Utbildningshistoria – en introduktion (trans: Education History – An Introduction) (2011, 2015).

Watch Esbjörn Larsson’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Lotta Lerwall, administrative law

Lotta LerwallMy research deals with public law and concerns both administrative law and constitutional issues, but also European and international law. The subject of administrative law is extensive and includes many parts. Key questions for me concern the rights of the individual; the rule of law; the obligations and responsibilities of authorities; and governance, oversight and control. Freedoms and rights have been a central theme in my research since working on my dissertation, which dealt with gender discrimination.

Now I am focusing on the school system and the right to education. As a major and important sector of society, education includes both general administrative law questions and questions specifically related to school legislation. For example, this legislation can determine who has the right to education, division of responsibilities, students’ legal rights, processing requirements, opportunities to appeal decisions, the legal status of independent schools and the Swedish Schools Inspectorate’s oversight and quality audits. Education is a rewarding field of research from a legal point of view because schools are a key social institution, and at the same time there are lots of legal issues still unanswered. To spark interest in researching this area, I have participated in establishing the Institute of Education Law at the Faculty of Law at Uppsala University.

Watch Lotta Lerwall’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Jan Lexell, rehabilitation medicine

Jan LexellA neurological injury or disease often results in significant changes in life, and regaining a good quality of life is a major challenge for the individuals and their families. An important part of rehabilitation is physical activity and exercise, with organised sports and parasports serving as a way to become more active and involved. In my research I identify the consequences of a neurological injury or disease and study how different rehabilitation initiatives improve participation in society and increase satisfaction with life.

My research includes people with traumatic brain injury, stroke, spinal cord injury and neurological disease, such as Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, post-polio and muscular dystrophy. Another of my research domains concerns physical activity for individuals with lifelong disabilities and how we can get more people with spinal cord injury, including those of advanced age, to become more physically active. In another project I am studying the incidence of injuries and diseases in Paralympic sports.

Watch Jan Lexell’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Anna-Sara Lind, public law

Anna-Sara LindPublic law includes the study of rules that have a bearing on the relationship between the individual and the public and how the public is regulated in a broad sense. The subject can be said to consist of the full extent of administrative law and of constitutional law. After completing my dissertation on the subject of constitutional law, I have expanded my research into new areas. Public law has allowed me to immerse myself in diverse areas such as medical law, freedom of religion, data protection issues and freedom of the press and of expression.

Throughout my research, comparative dimensions of public law have been important, both Nordic and European law. Several of my research projects have been implemented within the framework of multidisciplinary collaborations, both in the Nordic region and internationally. Among other things, I have investigated administrative legal issues dealing with implementation of the welfare state, such as social law, information technology and citizenship. The study of basic and human rights at different levels in different legal contexts and legal systems has become increasingly important in recent years. This ultimately is about how interaction within the law functions when various types of legal systems in pluralistic modern law interact and coexist. Other constitutional issues I have worked with have concerned setting standards regarding social rights and the question of how power over welfare (under national and European law) should be handled. Europeanisation and internationalisation of public law is ongoing and present new challenges for society and jurisprudence.

Watch Anna-Sara Lind’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Fikret Mamedov, molecular biomimetics

Fikret MamedovPhotosynthesis is a vital biological process that occurs in plants, algae and cyanobacteria, both on land and in water. This process captures sunlight and converts it into chemical energy. From water and atmospheric carbon dioxide alone, photosynthesis forms the food, oxygen and energy that we use daily in our lives.

My research studies how electrons and protons are extracted from the water and transferred in photosynthetic membranes, and also how these light reactions are regulated in a varied environment. I use a multidisciplinary approach combining spectroscopic, biophysical and biochemical methods. The goal is to apply a molecular understanding of these reactions so that photosynthesis can be manipulated to produce renewable fuels.

Watch Fikret Mamedov’s inaugural lecture (in English)

Mats Målqvist, global health

Mats MålqvistMillions of children die every year before age five – about 15,000 children a day – despite the fact that we know simple and inexpensive measures that could save their lives. In my research I have studied various methods and strategies for translating this knowledge into practice. In Vietnam, Nepal and Swaziland, I have worked on projects that tested various ways to support the efforts of health care personnel, parents and local groups to change their situation and improve the survival and health of children. For this to happen, it is important to understand how social structures affect the health of women and children, not only in health care but also in society at large. Social injustice is one of the greatest challenges of our time, and in my research, I have shown how economics, education and ethnicity affect the chances of good health for women and children.

Watch Mats Målqvist’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Hugo Nguyen, microsystems technology

Hugo NguyenMicrosystems are very small things, usually much smaller than a human hair, that control lights, microwave ovens, refrigerators and more. Computers and mobile phones are literally full of them. Micro gas sensors, like large gas sensors, are needed to monitor our living environment and industrial processes. They can also be used to quickly analyse exhaled air and diagnose possible diseases. Smallness, low battery drain, fast measurement and high sensitivity are some characteristics of a gas sensor that can be used in portable gas meters. Currently I am most involved in researching gas sensors that are microscopic but that still contain a few to many thousands of nanowires of metal oxide. Different metal oxides are sensitive to different gases. Researchers can also treat nanowires with other elements to achieve higher sensitivity to a specific gas.

My plan for the coming year is to work with my colleagues on researching micro gas sensors that require very little energy from batteries. The goal is to make it possible to build them into mobile phones so that they all can send measurement values with coordinates to a computer, which in turn will make a map of different gases at different places in the world. Deviations from a normal level can mean an ongoing leakage of a dangerous gas or signal an impending volcanic eruption. Early action saves lives and property, and – most importantly – our living environment.

Watch Hugo Nguyen’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Paulina Nowicka, food studies, nutrition and dietetics, especially communication of dietetics

Paulina NowickaMy scholarly area of expertise is child obesity. In this work communication of dietetics is very important. When a child is diagnosed with obesity, dietary advice is part of the treatment process. How this advice is received depends on the relationship between the treatment provider, the patient and the patient’s family. For me, as a dietitian and family therapist, it is important to study the therapeutic relationship and its communication processes. How do we create a good relationship? How is dietary advice conveyed to the family members who are not in the room but who are equally important for the treatment results? What is the involvement of other health care providers and the surrounding community, such as the preschool, school and sports movement? In addition, my research on food and eating in relation to socio-cultural and socio-political norms has made me curious about a new research focus: critical dietetics. An important aspect that critical dietetics can bring to bear is a self-critical look at how one’s own (that is, the profession’s) implementations can contribute to stigmatising overweight and reinforcing unhealthy relationships with the body and eating.

Watch Paulina Nowicka’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Jonas Oldgren, coagulation research

Jonas OldgrenHeart and cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in Sweden and many other countries. Heart attacks are usually caused by a blood clot in connection with a rupture of an atherosclerosis of the coronary arteries, and a stroke (apoplectic fit) can be caused by blood clots that have formed in the heart during atrial fibrillation and then follow the bloodstream to the brain.

In my research I have tried to gain a better understanding of the biological processes that lead to heart attacks and strokes with the objective of improving treatment of these widespread diseases. As a clinical researcher, I have evaluated the efficacy and safety of new pharmaceuticals. For example, in collaboration with several pharmaceutical companies, I have studied the new anticoagulants that now are the first line of treatment in large parts of the world for preventing strokes in case of atrial fibrillation. At the same time, I have studied biomarkers (proteins) in the blood as indicators of the risk of new blood clots and death or of bleeding as a complication of treatment. The results have changed international treatment guidelines and laid the foundation for a current national clinical study of individually tailored treatment to prevent strokes in patients with atrial fibrillation. In my role as Director of the Uppsala Clinical Research Center, I have collaborated during the past five years with clinical researchers in many disciplines within Uppsala University Hospital and other Swedish and international higher education institutions.

Watch Jonas Oldgren’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Arnold Pears, computer science specialising in computer science didactics

Arnold PearsComputer science didactics is about how education at all levels, from primary and lower-secondary school to higher education, can be understood and developed to better respond to the needs of pupils, students and society. In my research I study the challenges that arise when teachers are to help their students understand various concepts and develop skills in computer science. The research results will contribute to better teaching and lead to more systematic models for the development of computer science skills. The goal of the research is to promote better and deeper understanding of the computer science subject to create inclusive educational settings that increase the opportunities for students to succeed in their studies.

An important factor for successful learning is giving novices support in finding their place and identifying with computer science. Students should also receive support in developing a vision of their role as an engineer and computer scientist. By studying students’ performance during their education, we have contributed many new insights into how students and pupils develop computer science skills. My greatest contribution is the new teaching methodology I have been able to develop and communicate to colleagues nationally and internationally through research, arranging conferences and my leadership roles in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). This supports the learning of basic programming, data communication and parallel programming.

Watch Arnold Pears’ inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Cecilia Persson, applied materials science specialising in biomaterials

Cecilia PerssonWhen body parts stop working due to illness or accident, biomaterials are available as a substitute. The choice of biomaterials is not simple, and depending on exactly what material is to be replaced, such as a piece of bone or the knee joint, different demands are placed on the biomaterial’s chemical and mechanical properties. The material has to be biocompatible – that is, have the ability to perform a specific task with an appropriate response from the body. This seemingly vague definition, however, reflects the importance of putting the material in its context to be able to evaluate its function. In other words, the biomaterial must be evaluated with respect to functionality in its system as much as possible. I place great emphasis on this in my scholarly work.

In my research I have developed and evaluated several injectable bone substitutes, some adapted for patients where age and the clinical picture make it possible for the body’s own bone to regenerate as the biomaterial breaks down, and some adapted for patients where that possibility does not exist, and a permanent solution is required. However, new technologies offer new opportunities, and a large part of my current and future research lies in the development of new biomaterials for additive manufacturing. This means 3D printing, where this new manufacturing method is not only particularly suitable for patient-adapted implant geometries, but also results in completely new materials with new properties, which have to be evaluated in their systems.

Watch Cecilia Persson’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Stefan Sjöström, social work

Stefan SjöströmSocial work is concerned with vulnerable individuals and social problems. How the problems occur, how they are perceived and, most of all, what can be done to prevent, relieve and remedy them.

A mixture of curiosity and coincidences have led me to become engaged in a large number of projects that have involved studying many aspects of social work: client trends in the field of psychiatry, the work of school welfare officers, disabilities, care in home environments and the relationships social services with the mass media. My main contribution to the subject, however, has been to examine the problematic power relationship that often arises between vulnerable individuals and professional helpers. When society uses coercive interventions to help, many issues related to this are brought to a head. A common denominator for coercive institutional care for mental illness, children who are maltreated or people with substance abuse problems is the fact that we know very little about these effects. This poses difficult challenges for those who are to decide when it is appropriate to still use coercion. In several projects, my colleagues and I have pointed out serious issues in the rule of law when courts make decisions on coercive institutional care.

My interest in vulnerability in legal issues has led me to address how the judiciary system handles rapes. By contrasting the raping of women with other types of crimes, we want to highlight the power relationships in the court along with the importance of cultural notions about sexuality and gender. This, in turn, affects judicial outcomes but also the experiences of crime victims.

Watch Stefan Sjöström’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Alkistis Skalkidou, obstetrics and gynaecology

Porträtt av Alkistis Skalkidou.Mental illness has increased in recent decades. One of the groups most afflicted is young women in their reproductive years. The period during and after pregnancy is one of the most dynamic periods in adulthood and can involve great stress for both body and soul. Depression during or after pregnancy afflicts up to 20 per cent of all women, which corresponds to 25,000 women each year in Sweden. Despite the high prevalence, many women do not seek help for their problems, which can have tangible consequences in both the short term and long term for the woman, her partner and her family.

I research how a woman’s mood during and after pregnancy is affected by an intricate interplay among hormonal, biological and social factors. I also focus on how the child’s health may be affected, potentially through epigenetic programming. The purpose of my research is to increase knowledge about mental conditions related to pregnancy and to propose measures for the early identification of individuals at high risk, so that preventive measures can be applied in time.

Watch Alkistis Skalkidou’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Pär Stattin, urology

Pär StattinSince 2006 I have been in the responsible contact person for the National Prostate Cancer Register (NPCR). NPCR is an important source of information for clinicians, patients, administrators and the public. An open annual report, based on reporting from all of Sweden’s clinics, is available to the public at www.npcr.se/ratten/. Based on information from NPCR and a number of other Swedish health registry and demographic databases, I have created the research database Prostate Cancer Data Base Sweden (PCBaSe). This type of data, known as “real world data”, has become increasingly more important in clinical research in recent years. With the help of PCBaSe, it has been possible to highlight a number of important clinical aspects of prostate cancer and in particular to disprove several false alarms about pharmaceutical side effects.

Watch Pär Stattin’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Ulla Stroh-Wollin, Nordic languages

Ulla Stroh-WollinMy research is primarily concerned with the structure and history of the Nordic languages. As a grammarian, I want to understand the rules of the language that we, completely without thinking about it, apply when we speak our native language. The linguistic units on which this study focuses are not those that usually receive the most attention when language issues are being discussed, but rather form-words and inflectional endings. For example, in my dissertation I discuss the little word “som”, one of the most common words in the Swedish language. It really does not mean anything, but it is still absolutely necessary in some situations; in others it may be both included and done without. Neither is obvious. Later I became interested in how the ability to inflect nouns in the definite form is emerging in the Nordic languages.

During one period I also studied profanity, how it developed and how it has been used from the 18th century onwards. Unlike my other research, this theme has also led me to study the social dimensions of language.

Watch Ulla Stroh-Wollin’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Helena Svaleryd, economics

Helena SvalerydThe foundation is laid early in life for individuals to do well in the labour market and live a good life. Unequal investments in children in terms of time and resources contribute to the inequality in income and health that we see in adulthood. This makes it important to understand what factors affect children’s health and abilities so that society can reduce disparities in circumstances. In my current research I am studying how family background and institutions that invest in children affect the health, abilities and well-being of children. I do this, for example, by studying how children are affected when a parent loses a job, by having access to preschool or by being the younger of siblings.

In my earlier research I have studied how institutional rules concerning governance affect decision-making in local government and in companies. In the same way that shareholders delegate management of the company to the managing director, voters delegate decision-making to elected politicians. The structure of accountability and governance surrounding politics and entrepreneurship therefore have important consequences for the distribution of resources in society. I have studied such things as whether, and in what way, the ownership structure of companies affects company hiring decisions and wage rates and how political competition and representation in elected assemblies affect the manner in which the interests of citizens are considered in the political process.

Watch Helena Svaleryd’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Fredrik Söderbom, biology specialising in microbiology

Fredrik SöderbomAll the cells in a multicellular organism have the same set of genes. These genes are translated into messenger RNA, which in turn is rendered into proteins. It cells are built primarily by the proteins and these perform the chemical reactions necessary for cells and the organism to able to function and reproduce. But if all cells contain the same genes, how do multicellular organisms with different types of cells exist? This depends on gene regulation. This means the genes’ expression is regulated so they produce the right amount of protein, depending on the cell type.

My research aims to understand how genes are regulated with what is known as small non-coding RNA. These are RNA molecules that are not translated into proteins but have their own function. These have been studied primarily in multicellular organisms where they control most biological processes. Mutations that result in formation of the wrong amount of the small RNA can give rise to diseases. In addition to studying how small RNA molecules act on a molecular level, I am also trying to understand their role in the evolution of multicellular organisms. For these studies, I mainly use social amoebas as model organisms. The goal is to identify, analyse and understand how the small non-coding RNA has evolved and how it has driven evolution from single-celled organisms to multicellular individuals.

Watch Fredrik Söderbom’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Irene Söderhäll, biology specialising in comparative immunology and haematology

Of all the animal species on earth, the vast majority – more than 80 per cent – belong to the arthropod group. This includes insects, crustaceans, spiders and millipedes. There are many reasons for the success of this group of animals. My research focuses on understanding how the arthropods, primarily crustaceans and insects, defend themselves against diseases. These animals lack the advanced immune systems that we humans have, with antibodies and an immunological memory. This means that the animals cannot be vaccinated. Yet they have a very effective immune system and can survive in environments where they are more or less swimming in a soup of micro-organisms. How do they cope with this? First of all, an attacking pathogen has difficulty penetrating their hard shell. If there nevertheless is a hole in the shell, the animals have specially adapted blood cells that quickly help to repair the damage and then release proteins into the bloodstream that very effectively prevent the further spread of the pathogens. The animals’ blood cells play a key role in their survival. Complex processes regulate the formation of these blood cells from stem cells, which I identify in my research and compare with similar processes in other animals and humans.

Marianna Virtanen, life course epidemiology

Marianna VirtanenLife course epidemiology is defined as the study of the long-acting effects that critical periods of the foetal stage, childhood, adolescence and adulthood have on later health and risk of diseases. This perspective emphasises the fact that biological and social factors during childhood and afterwards interact in impacting health and producing disease in populations. In my research I also focus on the relationship between working life and health, such as sick leave due to stress and mental illness. The goal is to increase understanding of the factors affecting health throughout the course of life and to reduce the consequences of poor social and psychosocial conditions.

Watch Marianna Virtanen’s inaugural lecture (in English)

Rafael Waters, electricity specialising in renewable electrical energy conversion

Rafael WatersResearch on sea-wave power involves extracting energy from ocean waves and converting it into electricity. Wave power is a renewable energy source that can contribute to the phasing out of fossil fuels, and it has the advantage of being easy to forecast and less variable than solar and wind power.

My research is largely based on large-scale experiments in the sea near Lysekil on the west coast of Sweden. We have built and launched a dozen wave power plants there and studied the waves’ forces and absorption of energy and also how the power stations and the five-metre high buoys should be designed and launched to cope with the harsh and salty environment. The aim has been a renewable energy technology that produces electricity of high quality and that has the potential to be economically competitive.

My research also consists of studies of wave energy as a natural resource, of how it varies over a period of time and how these natural variations can be compared with and complement other renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and tides. The aim is to investigate if and how a 100 per cent renewable energy system with a stable energy supply can be achieved.

Watch Rafael Waters’ inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Matthew Webster, computational genomics

Matthew WebsterAlthough individuals from the same species share the same genetic make-up (or genome), there are many genetic differences among them. Such genetic variation is the key to examining a number of issues such as a population’s history, an individual’s risk of disease and how new mutations occur. In recent years new technology has been developed for identifying genetic variation by sequencing the DNA of the entire genomes of thousands of individuals. Managing these large amounts of data requires huge computing power.

In my research I analyse DNA sequences to understand fundamental biological processes that give rise to genetic variation. These processes include mutation, which creates variation, and recombination, which blends it in each generation. I also want to understand the connection between genetic variation and differences in physiology, appearance and behaviour among individuals. I use statistical methods based on evolutionary theory to study these questions in many different species. The goal is to better understand how genetic variation arises and how genetic mutations can lead to evolutionary adaptation or cause disease.

Watch Matthew Webster’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Jenny Wiksten Folkeryd, didactics specialising in Swedish

Jenny Wiksten FolkerydReading and writing different types of texts are a very important aspect of learning in all school subjects today. When a student learns something in a subject area, this also means that the student learns how to speak, read and write in a new way. As students grow older, there are increasing demands that their language use encompasses both everyday language and academic and more scientific ways of expressing themselves.

In my research I have primarily focused on various issues related to developing students’ speaking, reading and writing skills. How do students read and write in different school subjects? What are the differences and similarities between what the language looks like and how it is used in various school subjects? What norms for good reading and writing skills do instruction, policy documents and national and international knowledge measurements create? An important goal of the research is to contribute knowledge about how good conditions for developing speaking, reading and writing skills can be created in instruction. The purpose is to give all students the best possible tools for responding to the changing world and the changing text worlds in which we live.

Watch Jenny Wiksten Folkeryd’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Anna-Karin Wikström, obstetrics and gynaecology

Anna-Karin WikströmEach year about 115,000 children are born in Sweden. Our country has world-class prenatal and obstetric care, but pregnancy and childbirth are risky for both the pregnant woman and the unborn child in spite of this. Therefore, optimising the care of the pregnant woman is of utmost importance. My research aims to reduce the complication risks during pregnancy and childbirth and to provide better treatment for those affected. My research consists of epidemiological studies of various risk factors, studies investigating mechanisms underlying complications and intervention studies.

Watch Anna-Karin Wikström’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)

Johan Wikström, neuroradiology

Johan WikströmNeuroradiology is the science of diagnosing diseases of the nervous system with imaging techniques. The most important of these is magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which produces images of the body with unsurpassed soft tissue contrast. This is of particular value in studying the brain, where the anatomy is very complex. The method also provides many opportunities for functional studies.

In my research I use the MRI to develop safer, simpler and more reliable methods of examination, partly to study various disease mechanisms. I am especially interested in developing and evaluating functional methods of analysing the brain’s blood circulation, metabolism and activation. I use these to study conditions such as brain tumours, vascular malformations and the effects of preeclampsia on the brain.

In collaboration with researchers from other departments, I also study how the brain is activated during different mental processes and how this is affected by psychiatric conditions. Another research domain is the diagnosis of foetal anomalies using magnetic resonance imaging.

Watch Johan Wikström’s inaugural lecture (in Swedish)