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An eye on the future

Big breakthroughs in science and technology have been made possible with the strong focus on research in some top Swedish universitie

education Updated: Oct 30, 2013 11:03 IST
Ayesha Banerjee

The World Economic Forum's annual Global Gender Gap Report continues to rank Sweden and other Nordic countries at the top for gender equality. Not surprised then, to know, that the Stockholm University gave the world its first female professor of mathematics, Sonja Kovalevsky?

It's not that the men do not get their share of honours. The current Swedish prime minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, studied here and five researchers have won the Nobel prize or the economics prize, including Svante Arrhenius, Hans von Euler Chelpin, George de Hevesy and Paul Crutzen (all for chemistry) and Gunnar Myrdal (for economics)

Researchers are the stars here, says Karin Bergmark, vice-chancellor. They contribute to the development of public policy and political decision-making and participate in Nobel prize committees and international expert bodies. About 40 scientific researchers are also members of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which appoints the Nobel Laureates in physics and chemistry .

Sweden's largest institute for higher education is known for humanities, law, science, social sciences and teacher training. About 80 master’s programmes are taught in English.

SU has the largest science faculty in Sweden, says Miriam Huitric, programme director for social-ecological resilience for sustainable development. It is also in the top one hundred science faculties in the world on the Shanghai Rankings. Leading research areas include astrophysics and particle physics, atomic and molecular physics, biological membranes, climate, seas and environment, genome function and stability. Glaciology taught here has a strong link to climate, and a significant part of the work is based on data collected at the the university-operated Tarfala Research Station and through polar expeditions.

Researchers have for many years taken part in international expeditions with Oden (a ship designed to break a channel through ice) to investigate climate change. The faculty is also involved with scientists to find solutions for sustainable living. Ziaodong Zou professor of inorganic and structural chemistry at the department of materials and environmental chemistry is working at the research centre Berzelii Centre EXSELENT to discover new materials – small crystals, zeolites. This research is followed by the energy sector seeking solutions for reducing industrial emissions. The institute also has the Asko Laboratory for marine research, the field station for Stockholm University’s Baltic Sea Centre where Prof Lena Kautsky is studying a type of seaweed to find out more about the effects of pollution. Studies centre around the importance of shallow coast environments for fish spawning and rejuvenation, managing natural resources and restoration.

Other programmes at the university include: Archaeology, philosophy, cognitive ageing, economics, social and health inequalities, evaluation of public policy, stress, work, health and restitution, environmental law, and intellectual property law.

The university administers a number of scholarships aimed at talented international students. These scholarships are in effect just a tuition fee waiver.

First person

‘I want to teach here’
Hakim Jaffer studied in Anna University, Chennai, and then worked for Wipro as a software engineer before moving to Sweden. He enrolled in a computer programme and got an Erasmus Mundus scholarship join SU for a PhD in neurochemistry. “That subsidised my studies to quite an extent. I find the curriculum here very impressive,” he says. All that Jaffer wants to do now is to teach in this university.

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