Here we present a few of Uppsala University’s prominent researchers and the people behind the research. Research for a better world that raises important questions and contributes solutions to large societal problems.
Sometimes all it takes is a simple question from a Swedish postdoctoral researcher in exile in the U.S. Twenty years later Kerstin Lindblad-Toh has directed the mapping of the genetic makeup of 230 mammal. Now she is preparing to bring perhaps the greatest scientific revolution of our time – understanding the human genome – all the way into health care.
“I’m driven by curiosity about how things are interconnected,” reflects Anders Backlund, professor of pharmacognosy. When he is not navigating through the eight dimensions of chemical space, Backlund is trying to define the emphasis of Uppsala University’s role in global society.
Peak season has begun for bird researcher Per Alström, who has discovered seven new bird species. He spends much of his time in nature in countries such as China, India and Vietnam, where he looks for well-known and unknown birds, and spends as a lot of time listening to their songs.
The vehicles of the future are fossil-free and run on batteries – but there are many challenges left to solve. Kristina Edström, Professor at the Department of Chemistry – Ångström Laboratory, is playing a key role now that the European Commission is investing big in battery development.
In “Swedish Music History”, a radio programme with 106 episodes, Professor of Musicology Mattias Lundberg has brought to life Swedish music history, from the first recordings until 2018, for a general audience.
As a child, Tomas Edvinsson was fascinated by what happens when light interacts with matter. Today, he researches energy interactions between light and materials for applications in new-generation solar cells, solar fuels and water treatment.
If Swedish care services are to provide the correct treatment for Muslim women, we must accept them as rational individuals and listen to their own problem descriptions rather than educate them in our gender-equality ideals, says Birgitta Essén, Professor of International Maternal & Reproductive Health.
How is a large multinational corporation, with subsidiaries, customers and suppliers all over the world, managed? How can the headquarters have knowledge of all important business relationships around the world? These questions are a focus for Ulf Holm, Professor of International Business. At Uppsala University’s Department of Business Studies, he heads the International Business research group.
Håkan Engqvist, Professor of Applied Materials Science, has been involved in starting several companies and has more than 50 patents. His special area of interest is ceramic materials, which can be used for many applications in the human body.
Paulina Nowicka is a new Professor of Food Studies, Nutrition and Dietetics, especially Communication of Dietetics, at the Department of Food Studies, Nutrition and Dietetics. Her research focuses primarily on how to find treatments that work for children with obesity.
Sixty years after the Swedish Institute for Racial Biology changed its name and became part of Uppsala University, Ulf Pettersson, Post-Retirement Professor of Medical Genetics, can look back on the long journey from dubious historical ballast to scientific flagship.
What is the best way to introduce digital technology in society and in our lives? According to Åsa Cajander, we need to devote more time and money in the development and introduction phases of digitising so that it doesn’t lead to new problems. “I want to make sure that the work people do continues to be good for them even when it is digitised, and I want to lend a hand with methods to ensure that this occurs.”
Committed teacher, brain scientist and pseudoscience opponent... Dan Larhammar has several different roles. As the new chair (and President) of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, he has relatively little time for teaching, but his efforts to strengthen the role of science and basic research in Sweden are continuing.
When it comes to growth and flexibility, the plant kingdom exceeds us humans by far. Annelie Carlsbecker keeps finding new signs of the intricate interplay and adaptability of plants.
“The fascinating part is that not only do plant cells have the ability to exchange information, they also know what information they need to share in order to develop properly. And how do they know that?”
It did not take Christer Betsholtz long to stun the research community the first time. Almost four decades later, his work is still moving the boundaries of vascular biology. But a reputation as a leading figure can have its drawbacks.
Li Bennich-Björkman, Skyttean Professor of Eloquence and Government, is an untiring defender of academic freedom and long-term research projects. In her own research, she likes to make space for existential dimensions, most recently in a book about what it means to live a life in exile.
His passion for chemistry once took Felix Ho to Europe from the other side of the world. But today, he is as strongly motivated by higher education issues as by research. “If I can bridge the gap between disciplinary research and discipline-based education research, I would be very happy.”
Why do 1.3 million Swedes drink more than they should do? And how can society help them not to develop an addiction? Ingrid Nylander, professor of pharmacology, has dedicated her life as a researcher to investigating the negative aspects of alcohol but it is not always easy to find the answers.
When as a young physics student Valentin Troll caught sight of a volcanic rock during a geology course, something strange happened. “The stone started to at first gently, then more and more clearly, answer my questions in a language I could suddenly understand.” Over 20 years later, the volcanologist still finds himself captivated by the stories of rocks.
Enzymes are biological catalysts. They are able to greatly accelerate various reactions that would otherwise have been very slow at normal temperature, without being consumed themselves. Lynn Kamerlin’s research team is particularly interested in what happens in one fundamental chemical reaction: phosphate ester hydrolysis.
Dag Blanck has been interviewed by journalists thousands of times to comment on what is happening in the United States. As an historian, he began studying the migration from Sweden to America. He is now Director of the Swedish Institute for North American Studies (SINAS) at Uppsala University.
From the outskirts of Ulleråker to the entry of Uppsala University Hospital: psychiatry in Uppsala has taken a fascinating journey, and in October, Professor Lisa Ekselius received the 2017 Rudbeck Award for her significant contributions along the way.
He ran his first laboratory as a teenager, established his career at Caltech and, since his return to Uppsala, his team has brought forth a string of companies worth billions. Ulf Landegren’s CV is one few can match, but there are still visions to achieve.
What happens in cells when the molecular composition changes? In her research, analytical chemist Ingela Lanekoff at the Department of Chemistry-BMC, tracks the progress of small molecules or metabolites. “We are focusing on seeing things that nobody else can see in cell tissues. By measuring and determining the significance of molecular processes, we can better understand disease progression.”
Why are certain insects only interested in a certain type of plant and not others? And what do plants do to attract just one type of insect? Understanding the intricate interplay between plants and insects is the goal of ecologist Magne Friberg.
The interior of Johannes Heuman’s office at the Hugo Valentin Centre is Spartan. This is perhaps due to the fact that he spends most of his time at the École Pratique des Hautes Études in Paris. His research deals with French post-war history, with a special focus on French anti-racism and relationships between Jews and Muslims in France.
As Cancer Researcher of the Year, Lena Claesson-Welsh rather reluctantly watched herself become the cover lady for Swedish research. It is probably useful training, though, considering that her laboratory contains findings that could give her far greater exposure still.
Using nanotechnology, Zhen Zhang hopes that an entirely new kind of sensor for environmental control will become reality. To create conditions for the research, Zhen Zhang’s research team built up a process flow for the production of nanocomponents and an advanced test lab at the Ångström laboratory.
Environmental activism not only exists outside companies, but also among the employees at energy companies, for example. This is according to Annika Skoglund, who in her research has followed employees at Vattenfall in Sweden and the UK.
Bone healing, cancer treatment... the list of Professor Jöns Hilborn’s research interests is long. But they all have a single objective in common: to bond molecular pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
Ninety percent of the world’s fungi are invisible to us, hidden in a widely ramified underground society. But one of these mysterious fungi systems is now being examined using a new method by evolutionary biologist Anna Rosling.
He lets curiosity light the way
Few Swedish oncologists have helped save as many lives as Bengt Glimelius, Professor Emeritus of Oncology, but that doesn’t mean he is ready to stop his scientific contributions to the field. In recognition of his achievements, Recently, he was awarded the Olof Rudbeck Prize in his home town of Uppsala.
It has been a successful year for theoretical physicist Monica Guica. She has gone from having no own research funding to heading a research programme financed from a number of different sources. Its aim is to discover the beautiful and interesting theory behind black holes and holography.
An interest in island archaeology has followed Helene Martinsson-Wallin throughout her career as a researcher. Her roots are in northern European archaeology and she has carried out archaeological research primarily on the Swedish Baltic island of Gotland – and also in Polynesia.
As a researcher of systematic botany, Magnus Lidén has discovered around 150 new flowering plants. His field trips have included India, China and Iran and have not always been problem-free.
Without advanced musculature the first four-legged animals would not have been able to move onto land. How the interaction between muscles and bones once evolved remains a mystery, one that palaeontologist Sophie Sanchez is determined to solve.
“Of course, I understood that it would be big, but not that big!
A study into the effect of milk on our health was professor Karl Michaëlsson’s ticket into the lion’s den. A year and a half later he is back, unharmed and armed with new findings.
Uppsala University received a record grant of SEK 80 million to recruit Don Kulick, Professor of Anthropology. He will lead an interdisciplinary research programme about new perspectives on vulnerability and is now in place to establish a new research environment.
Technical developments in recent decades have made it possible to characterize the genomes of every living thing. The study of the genomes of micro-organisms that have adapted to humans, animals and plants is adding further pieces to the puzzle. New DNA sequencing techniques are making it possible for Siv Andersson, professor of molecular evolution, to make revolutionary discoveries about the origins and evolution of bacteria.
An Oscar, the scientific spotlight, and fresh millions in the research account. The autumn of 2015 was an eventful one for Tove Fall, Associate Professor of Epidemiology.‘We had a feeling that the study would draw the attention of the media.´
Water, climate change, migration, integration—these are all part of the work done by Ashok Swain as a professor of Peace and Conflict Research. He grew up in rural surroundings in the poorest part of India. After gaining his doctorate in 1991, Ashok Swain joined the Department of Peace and Conflict Research in Uppsala.
How do various drugs affect cells? What genetic alternations are hidden in the tissue of tumours? Using new image processing methods, researchers are able to analyse large amounts of samples faster and more efficiently than ever before. One of the most advanced tools in image analysis is built on the research of Carolina Wählby, Professor of Quantitative Microscopy.
‘I often tell my children they must find a job they love,’ says physiology professor Mia Phillipson. She practises what she preaches, not even seeing days in the lab as work. Still, life as a researcher is not without friction.
Leena Huss’ research revolves around minority languages and cultures. This spring, she received Uppsala University’s award for equal opportunity, partially due to her longstanding work and commitment to increase the acceptance of minority cultures at the University.
The unifying theme of Mats Larhed’s work is the improvement of human health. It is reflected in both his efforts in developing new drug candidates and in his coordination of the EU health project EIT Health in Uppsala.
Louise von Essen
In 2010, researcher Louise von Essen’s career was changed overnight, as the government announced that she had been chosen to lead U-CARE, an extensive pilot programme in providing psychological care through the Internet – yet she still considers real-life human interactions essential.
Charlotte Platzer Björkman
If solar energy is to become available to more people, smart material choices need to be made. Charlotte Platzer Björkman is researching solar cells made from materials which are cheaper and more readily available than those used for today’s solar cells.
Henrik Williams is one of the world’s leading experts on runic inscriptions. He is probably better known abroad than in Sweden. He often attracts large audiences to his lectures outside Sweden where there is considerable interest in runes and Vikings. His audience in Sweden is smaller, not least in his home town of Uppsala.
New renewable energy sources from waves, wind and tidal currents. This is Mats Leijon’s speciality. The principle is simple: instead of seeking maximum output, it’s all about getting low cost energy hours.
‘That’s when renewable energy will become a possibility for everyone.’
Torsten Gordh is Sweden’s first professor of clinical pain research. In mid-February, he presented the latest findings in pain research at the AAAS international scientific conference in San Jose, USA.
Olga Botner, Professor of Physics, is among the Uppsala researchers who help to select Nobel Prize winners. It enables her to learn more about other people’s research fields and investigate her own in depth. Hers is about particles from space that have been found deep down in the ice at the South Pole.
There is not just one Islam: there are many. Professor Mohammad Fazlhashemi wants to bring about a broader view of one of Sweden’s most widespread religions. There is keen interest in the University’s new Islamic theology and philosophy courses.
Ten years ago, Maria Strømme became Uppsala University’s first professor of nanotechnology. After a decade of acclaim, with successes like 30 patents, more than 200 scientific articles and board membership in a range of national and international research councils, the question is which of Strømme’s career dreams remain.
Over the years, Lars Wallentin has acquired an almost unique position in the world of medical research, or, as Google has it, the status of ‛international superstar cardiologist’. For his own part, the 71-year-old senior professor can’t understand what all the fuss is about.
Coco Norén, Professor of French, became the new Dean of the Faculty of Languages this summer. She is also currently attracting attention with a research project on debate in the European Parliament, and has just completed her task of proposing new goals and strategies to Uppsala University Management.
Leif Andersson’s subject, functional genomics with a focus on domestic animals, used not to arouse any particular interest among either funders or colleagues. Now the field is red-hot and there has been no lack of money or attention recently. In the past few years, advances have come thick and fast.
In the late 1980s, when she was working on her Master’s degree in sociology in Kenya, she experienced how hard it could be to try to help boys she had come into contact with in the streets. She found they did not want to leave the streets and thought it was because they were streetwise. Today, 20 years later, she knows better.
Mats G. Hansson
The technological advances in medical research keep moving faster and faster, and sometimes unexpected ethical consequences arise. As professor of biomedical ethics, it is Mats G. Hansson’s job to find ethically defendable approaches to new situations.
He could have become a professional mountaineer but instead chose to devote himself to research on genetic changes that have been of great importance to human evolution. Mattias Jakobsson was recently appointed professor of genetics.