The Solar Cell Researcher heading CEMUS
5 September 2019
A moment with... Charlotte Platzer-Björkman, professor in solid state electronics and researcher on thin-film solar cells, who began a three-year appointment as the director of the Centre for Environment and Development Studies (CEMUS) on 1 August. She will be spending 25% of her time working at CEMUS.
What attracted you to this job?
“The Board of CEMUS inquired whether I was interested in the position during the spring. I was very curious and thought that it sounded extremely exciting. Of course, my normal field of research is solar cells, which I greatly enjoy and fully intend to continue to pursue; however, the opportunity to place solar cells in a broader context and also look at them from different perspectives feels highly stimulating.”
“The Centre is student-driven but also multi and interdisciplinary. The intention is to focus on sustainability issues from a systems perspective, ideally bringing people form all possible disciplines together. I believe that I was offered the job because the Centre is looking to strengthen ties to engineering. At the same time, they were looking for someone whose work is linked to sustainability and who is already engaged in these types of issues.”
Will your research be able to contribute in some way to operations at CEMUS, or vice versa?
“CEMUS mainly conducts undergraduate education; so, above all the emphasis is on the students and the students’ questions. That said, their questions and the kind of education they want are crystallised into courses, to which they invite guest lecturers and take a broader approach. As director, and only being employed 25%, I will not be involved in the organisation full-time, but naturally I will take part in discussions and maintain a dialogue with the students working at CEMUS as course coordinators and teaching assistants. I don’t necessarily see that this will affect my research in the short term. It may do so of course, and affect how we work; however, I see it more as widening horizons and, above all, I believe in the idea of working with students in a different pedagogical form than traditional education. The students I meet are enormously dedicated and knowledgeable so it’s going to be a great deal of fun.”
Will you be teaching as well?
“I may well hold occasional lectures on my solar cell research; for example, I will be lecturing on solar energy at Framtidsakademin. This is a series of lectures held at Uppsala Public Library during the autumn. CEMUS conducts a large number of outreach activities with organisations such as Uppsala Municipality, the Sigtuna Foundation and Folkuniversitetet. Although active teaching is not part of my role as director, my contact network of researchers and others may also be advantageous in terms of finding guest lecturers or starting various collaborative projects.”
Do you have any specific experiences that you can call on in your mission?
“Renewable-energy technology is a field in which I am up to date, among other things I work in the STandUP for Energy research programme. I also have a network within the university from my work in the Academic Senate. The pace of development is so fast in so many fields and you need many people in order to keep up to date on everything that’s going on. Our education must be able to meet the questions and needs that the students have in terms of knowledge; here at CEMUS, linked to the big, big concerns about global challenges, climate change being only one of those. We must also be able to offer course content matched to the expertise we have here at Uppsala University, as well as at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, which is also part of CEMUS.”
Is there anything else that you are looking forward to doing as director?
“What I am looking forward to is getting to grips with and being able to contribute to this educational model with its student-driven education, and doing what I can to support it. Given its unconventionality, it brings with it a number of challenges. But, of course, the joy in that is to meet such committed people and students. It is not simply an interdisciplinary environment, it is also international and attracts many exchange students. The course coordinators and teaching assistants who work at CEMUS also come from many different parts of the world. I find that extremely enjoyable.
“In my work as director I also have a great team around me in the form of several course coordinators, a director of studies and a board of directors. CEMUS also enjoys close links to the Climate Change Leadership Node and the Zennström Professors of Climate Change Leadership, so I am also looking forward to working with the current visiting professor Keri Facer and the group around her.”