Stockholm university

Profile areas at Stockholm University

Stockholm University has identified sixteen profile areas: eight in the human sciences and eight in the natural sciences. Each area has many researchers, research environments and approaches, including a range of education programmes.

Taken together, these research areas demonstrate the University’s overarching commitment to independent basic research.


Within the human sciences there are eight of the university's profile areas.

Cultural Heritage & Historical Processes 

The profile area examines how tangible and intangible remains from the past are preserved and attributed meaning in interactions between people over time. Central partners include nations, states and their institutions as well as international organisations and, increasingly, local and regional actors. The area studies how different forms of conservation include both passing things down and reinterpretation, and how the creation of designated cultural heritage is a political process. The proximity to national archives, museums and other institutions in the region provides favourable conditions and particularly good access to empirical material. 

Internationalisation & Migration 

The profile area studies the economic, cultural, linguistic, social and environmental consequences of global flows of individuals, goods and information. The infrastructure and networks resulting from internationalisation and globalisation are also examined. In addition, changes resulting from population movements, both in the present and in the past, are studied, as well as the multilingualism that is a consequence of migration. The research examines how the world is affected and changed by international flows, contacts and exchanges of ideas and services. 

Language & Learning 

Language is a prerequisite for thinking, communication, learning and identity creation, as well as for various aesthetic and cultural expressions. Stockholm University conducts research and education in some thirty languages. The profile area focuses on issues in a broad field that includes language learning and language didactics, multilingualism and social interaction, as well as language history and philosophy of language. Language is central to e.g. law, literature, media, politics and various aesthetic experiences, which means that research in the area focuses on both the instrumental functions of languages and their cultural, representational and meaning-making expressions. Contact between languages is also explored in the form of interpretation, translation and other multilingual practices. Researchers in the area move between millennia-old written remains and the problems and opportunities of the digital age.

Norms, Laws & Ethics 

The profile area studies norms, legal rules and regulations, as well as the limits and possibilities of norms. Research and education in this area include ethical issues of human and social behaviour. Research on crime and punishment occurs in a variety of disciplines. For example, the profile area includes issues of human rights, international conflict management and norm-critical perspectives. There is extensive outreach in the form of expert assignments, dissemination of knowledge through the media and the drafting of consultation documents on legislative issues.

Power, Democracy & Welfare 

This profile area studies power, democracy and welfare and how these fields interact with each other. Research includes the study of major societal challenges such as climate change, migration and globalisation. Key research themes include digitalisation and a reformed education system, an ageing population and a changing media landscape, and how these affect and are affected by management and governance at different levels. Proximity to government agencies and national policy feeds the area, and both education and research take place in collaboration with public and private organisations at the local, national and international level.

Society, Organisations & Individuals 

Societal institutions are created by individuals with both shared and conflicting desires. The challenges faced by human societies change over time and are subject to continuous analysis and discussion. The research and education in this area deals with the well-being, attitudes, values and behaviour of individuals both alone and in social contexts. This profile area studies different goals and forms of governance in nations, regions, companies and other organisations, as well as the media. There is a long-standing and well-developed collaboration with, for example, governmental agencies and international organisations. 

Visual Representations & Interfaces 

Today’s research and education in human science increasingly uses various forms of images and visualisations to convey, visualise, interpret or illustrate complex phenomena and contexts. Examples of this include graphs, charts, diagrams, illustrations and aesthetic expressions and, increasingly, various forms of digital interfaces. In addition, there is research on how people relate to, interact with and create visual representations. All of this places great demands on continuous methodological and theoretical development and also creates the conditions for new types of interdisciplinary meeting places within the university and between the university and various external actors – ranging from cultural and research institutions to companies and government agencies. 

Worlds & conditions of children and youth 

This profile area includes the study of children and young people as actors in school, peer life and family life, and their worlds of ideas, rights and vulnerability. Learning, communication and identification are studied from the perspective of children and young people. The area also includes the study of children’s culture: literature, music, film and theatre productions targeting children, as well as the representation of children and young people in various artistic expressions, including style and fashion. A practice-oriented collaboration takes place with Stockholm County schools and an open seminar activity is conducted. 


Within the natural sciences there are eight of the university's profile areas.

Astrophysics, Cosmology and Particle Physics

The research in particle physics and astronomy at Stockholm University covers a wide area: from the smallest building blocks of the universe to the formation and evolution of galaxies over billions of years. How do particles get their mass, and will the Higgs boson provide the final answer? Why is there more matter than antimatter in the universe – is this related to hypothetical axions or the processes that are responsible for neutrinos mass? What happens when compact stars – such as neutron stars and black holes – merge, and how are the gravitational waves that are generated by this process linked to other signals of light and neutrinos? How can energetic particles that reach the Earth provide us with information about processes in distant galaxies? How are galaxies and stars formed? What is the dark matter and the dark energy that dominates the universe? Research at the Departments of Astronomy and Physics seeks to answer these and related questions. The research area includes theoretical research as well as large-scale experiments and observations.

Atomic, Molecular and Complex Quantum System Physics 

This profile area covers a wide range of research: from studies on the properties of isolated atoms, molecules and dynamic processes when such systems interact with photons or each other, to studies of entangled photon and particle states, quantum encryption, quantum information, cold atomic gases and topological quantum materials. In addition, the profile area includes studies of clusters, the properties of liquids – especially water – and catalytic reactions on surfaces. The research is pursued with development of new theoretical and experimental methods, in the latter case often with strong elements of instrument development. Atoms, molecules and clusters are studied and manipulated using ion traps and ion storage rings; laser radiation is used to control the properties of individual photons, and the time structure of the radiation is used to study ionisation dynamics and achieve intertwined photon states and the teleportation of quantum states, as well as manipulate quantum materials out of equilibrium on ultra-fast time scales. Free-electron lasers and synchrotron light facilities are crucial for catalysis studies, studies on new properties of water in various forms, as well as studies of other materials. Using ion storage rings, ion-ion collisions are studied with new powerful methods – including applications in astrophysics.   

Biological Membranes 

Cell membranes have a central function in biochemical processes inside the cell. Stockholm University conducts unique research on the proteins that constitute a large part of the cell membranes. Many central processes in the cell are dependent on membrane proteins, and a majority of future pharmaceutical drugs are expected to target these proteins. Cellular processes are closely tied to the function of membranes to regulate what substances pass in and out of the cell. Membrane proteins, which control these processes, are thus the focus of many research groups, both in Sweden and internationally. What makes the research at Stockholm University unique is its breadth. There are more than twenty research groups that use both experimental and theoretical methods within areas such as biochemistry, biophysics, cell biology, molecular biology, structural biology, neurochemistry, bioinformatics and biotechnology. Studies include how membrane proteins are structured, how they are produced inside the cell, how they function, and what role they play in the cell's energy metabolism.

Catalysis in Organic Chemistry 

Stockholm University conducts successful research on new, efficient and selective synthetic methods to construct organic molecules through catalysis. The reactions that are developed contribute to a sustainable production of pharmaceuticals, agrochemical products and other products of importance for our society. 
The research includes the development of catalysts based on organic and organometallic compounds, as well as on metal nanoparticles. Modelling with computational chemistry is an important component to understand the mode of action of the catalysts, thus facilitating the design and synthesis of new, and improved catalysts. Catalysis in an important principle within Green Chemistry, and catalytic methods are also essential in the synthesis of complex molecular systems that are needed in other research areas, such as material science, energy production (solar cells) and in life sciences.

Climate, Seas and Environment 

How the oceans and Earth's natural climate and ecological systems have developed over time and function today and how they are affected by human activities are central questions to this profile area. Impacts of climate and land use change on biodiversity and ecosystem services as well as sources of pollutions and their toxic effects are other important fields of research within the profile area. The broad research being conducted at Stockholm University comprises specialised studies and interdisciplinary approaches to advance our understanding of these complex systems and help supporting a sustainable development. The research is carried out at individual departments, at centres and in major interdisciplinary research programmes. The University’s Bolin Centre is an important forum for climate science organized in collaboration with SMHI and KTH. The climate development and climate-related processes in the Arctic comprise some of the Bolin Centre's research areas. At the Baltic Sea Centre, the research ranges from individual bays to the open sea as well as from large-scale modelling to practical actions. Central research questions are the importance of coasts for the climate and what role biodiversity plays in the absorption and emission of greenhouse gases. Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC) focuses on sustainable development and resilience of social-ecological systems and integrates social and natural sciences. The centre for broad transdisciplinary research on circular and sustainable systems, SUCCeSS, is also a part of the profile area. The research within Climate, Seas and Environment provides a basis for decision makers at local, regional and international levels and contributes to a sustainable development of our society.

Interactions between Genes, Organisms and Environment

The interaction between genetic heritage and the environment affects all life, at species, population and individual levels. Environmentally induced selective pressure causes changes in genetic frequencies, resulting in geographic variation in individual characteristics and the emergence of new species. These factors can with time lead to large-scale alterations of the biodiversity and ecosystem compositions. Environmental variation also leads to physiological adaptations and can cause rapid changes in gene expressions by modifying regulatory proteins and non-coding RNA, but it can also cause global and more long-term changes. The latter include changes to the genome, changes in its organization and function through so-called “epigenetic mechanisms”, and the evolution of plastic traits that adapt the individual to expected environmental variation through natural selection. At Stockholm University, interactions between genes, organisms and environment are studied extensively, including how organisms adapt to their surroundings and cellular responses to environmental change at the mechanistic level. How genes, organisms and environment interact is central for all life on Earth, not least when it comes to our own health.

Materials Chemistry 

In the field of Materials Chemistry at Stockholm University, important research is conducted with the aim to produce and study materials with desirable properties and functionalities stemming from understanding of atomistic details and control of molecular, mesoscopic and macroscopic structures. The results are important for sustainable systems and reduced energy use, as well as for the environment and health. Hybrid materials derived from earth-abundant raw materials and biomass or high-performance polymers are central for applications in e.g. chemical processes, the built environment, and for climate action including water and air purification. Porous materials are studied for applications in, for example, gas separation and (electro)catalysis for mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions and the development of enabling technologies for hydrogen production and storage. Nanocellulose, lignin nanoparticles, and other nanomaterials are tailor-made for new and improved functions in adsorption, catalytic, mechanical, heat-insulating, magnetic and optical applications. Understanding the structure of a material is crucial in order to explain its properties and to optimize it for specific applications. Electron microscopy, diffraction, NMR spectroscopy and scattering studies using synchrotron light or neutrons are being developed and used for structural characterization. In addition, theoretical tools are being used to explore the structure-property-function correlation of materials.

Mathematical Theory Development and Modelling 

Mathematical structures are a cornerstone of many scientific theories. In physics, mathematical theories and models are absolutely central tools is very extensive and, in addition, new important mathematics has developed from ideas originating  from physics. In astronomy, chemistry and Earth science, mathematical modelling is becoming more and more important, and in some areas, such as quantum chemistry and meteorology, it is a fundamental tool. A new and important development is that mathematical modelling is becoming increasingly important in life science and in the social sciences. There is reason to believe that mathematical theories will become even more important than today in both the natural sciences and in other fields. This means that mathematical tools will need to be developed in collaboration with other researchers to a greater extent. This includes numerical aspects and needs identified when analysing new types of high-dimensional data. Such  cross-fertalization means that new advanced mathematics, and mathematical intuition, will become useful in other scientific areas. In turn, questions in these areas will inspire mathematicians to formulate, and gain insight into, new mathematical concepts and structures. Stockholm University has strong theoretical research in many scientific disciplines, and the links between these disciplines and mathematics are becoming more important with time.



Human Science Academic Area

The Human Science Academic Area is cross-faculty and includes three faculties:

Faculty of Humanities

Faculty of Law

Faculty of Social Sciences 

Science Academic Area

The Faculty of Science consists of four sections.

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