The underlying intention of these investments is to boost Sweden as a research nation by retaining the greatest talents in the country and by recruiting young international researchers to Swedish universities. The four researchers at Stockholm University are: Wushi Goldring, Johannes Haushofer, Ville Kaila and Karin Lind.

Wushi Goldring: How much geometry can be generated by mathematical groups?

Wushi Goldring, Department of Mathematics.

Since mathematicians discovered group theory in the early 1800s, it has proven a powerful tool in many branches of mathematics. Wushi Goldring, Department of Mathematics, will now investigate whether group theory plays a larger role in geometry than was previously thought.

“My project’s aim is to illustrate how objects from seemingly unrelated areas – particularly across geometry – are generated by groups”, says Wushi Goldring.

Group theory has contributed to many important advances in mathematics and has been an invaluable tool in the development of quantum theory, which revolutionized physics in the 20th century. Group theory is also used in chemistry to model molecules and develop the understanding of systems in molecular biology, for example.

Johannes Haushofer: Can an unconditional cash transfer combat poverty?

Johannes Haushofer
Johannes Haushofer.

Families in low-income countries often receive help in the form of physical items, such as food, but this rarely leads them out of poverty. In Kenya, a charity called GiveDirectly has instead given families a one-off payment equivalent to two years of annual income to use how they wish. In his previous research, Johannes Haushofer, from Princeton University in the US, has shown that these unconditional cash transfers counteract poverty and are free of negative consequences such as increased alcohol or cigarette consumption.

Johannes Haushofer, like 2019’s Laureates for the Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, is an experimental behavioural economist. He will now investigate the long-term effects of the cash transfers. How have consumption, business and agricultural income, health, educational outcomes, and wellbeing been affected after five years?

As a Wallenberg Academy Fellow, Johannes Haushofer will work at Stockholm University.

Ville Kaila: Mapping the energy technology of life at molecular level

Ville Kaila
Ville Kaila, Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics.

Cells use chemical energy from photosynthesis and cell respiration to power vital processes such as metabolism, cell growth and adaptation to changes in the environment. Ville Kaila, Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, is making detailed studies of energy conversion in cells, and one aim is to be able to recreate these natural processes and produce sustainable solar fuels.

“All cells need energy to work; today we know what their complex protein machineries look like at the molecular level. But there are still gaps in the knowledge about how the structure at atomic level can be linked to biological function,” says Ville Kaila.

The aim is to be able to put artificial systems together, systems that function in the same way as living cells. This is pure basic research – understanding how something works – but by extension, the results can be used to create sustainable energy technologies such as solar fuels and to understand diseases in which cellular respiration is damaged such as diabetes, cancer and Parkinson’s disease as well as normal aging.

Karin Lind: Chemical fingerprints reveal the history of the Milky Way

Karin Lind
Karin Lind, Department of Astronomy.

In the atmosphere of every star there is a chemical fingerprint of the gas cloud that once created it. Karin Lind, Department of Astronomy, use advanced computer simulations to map the chemical composition of hundreds of thousands of the oldest stars in the Milky Way. In this way she can draw conclusions of how the stars developed in the galaxy’s childhood.

“The objective is to create an image of how the Milky Way developed in its childhood. What was the mass of the first stars and how did they end their lives? How did the Milky Way assemble from smaller building blocks? And what was the process through which chemical elements were enriched?” says Karin Lind.

Wallenberg Academy Fellows

The program, funded by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, was established in close cooperation with the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences, the Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry, the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities, the Swedish Academy and Swedish universities.
Funding is SEK 5 to 15 million per researcher over a five-year period. At the end of the first period, researchers will have the opportunity to apply for another five years of funding. Since 2012, the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation has distributed a total of SEK 1.9 billion via the program.

The Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation

All photos: Markus Marcetic © Knut och Alice Wallenbergs Stiftelse/Kungl. Vetenskapsakademien