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Published: 2024-01-31

Kunskapsnoden kicks off prioritised research areas

NEWS The annual Kunskapsnoden event at Grand Hôtel in Stockholm held on 7 February will mark the start of Umeå University’s new investment in three prioritised research areas. There will be interesting discussions on human learning and brain plasticity throughout life, how we can overcome microbial infections, and how plant research can contribute to a green transition in the Subarctic.

The three prioritised research areas have shared SEK 50 million in an initiative commissioned by the Vice-Chancellor. The selection of prioritised research areas has evolved from the work and thematic discussions that started in 2022 based on a Government proposition to allocate research funding to all higher education institutions based on specific profile areas. Umeå University has used this momentum to enhance research quality and competitiveness on a long-term scale through these research fields.

Learning and brain plasticity throughout the life span

Lars Nyberg, Professor at the Department of Diagnostics and Intervention, and Maria Josefsson, Associate Professor at the Umeå School of Business, Economics and Statistics, coordinate the project.

You derive from two very differing research fields – statistics and neuroscience – what do you envisage this project to achieve?

“I’m looking forward to intensifying and setting up new, rewarding collaborations. For instance, recent technical advances through AI and machine learning have opened up for new research ideas linked to these new analyse methods. I believe we have lots to gain from collaborating across research fields,” says Maria Josefsson.

“We hope to acquire new knowledge and find new opportunities, but also limitations, when it comes to learning at different stages of life. It could be to promote strong and sustainable learning at school, set up conditions for renewed learning in adulthood, for instance when changing careers, and how to maintain vital brain capacity and well-functioning memory with age,” says Lars Nyberg.

Mastering microbial infections

This prioritised research area is coordinated by Marta Bally, Associate Professor at the Department of Clinical Microbiology, and Fredrik Almqvist, Professor at the Department of Chemistry. Both also work at the Umeå Centre for Microbial Research (UCMR).

So, here we have a researcher studying viruses and one studying bacteria setting up a whole new research field together. What will you focus on and what exciting results can we expect?

“Our field will be an intensification of the research already conducted at UCMR, where we both work and where the foundation for a Nobel Prize has already been laid once before. These additional resources will be hugely beneficial and contribute to new exciting research on infectious diseases, viruses, pandemics, antibiotic resistance and other related themes,” says Marta Bally.

“The extra funding we receive will help us focus even more on clinical research, and take on young researchers with clinical background. We’ll also invest in doctoral students and take a look at current problems in healthcare and link those to issues that will be of great importance in the future. Our ambition with this investment is to take huge leaps in our research and in the long run save further lives around the world,” says Fredrik Almqvist.

Plant science for a sustainable green transformation of the subarctic

This prioritised research area is coordinated by Sofia Lundberg, Professor at the Umeå School of Business, Economics and Statistics, and Stefan Jansson, Professor at the Department of Plant Physiology.

A plant scientist and a business school professor spontaneously sound miles apart, but what are your respective strengths that will make this field fly?

It will be really exciting to see what we can achieve together.

“We need to coordinate natural sciences, social sciences and humanities research on northern Swedish forest and food production to be able to make a difference. Current forestry debate shows how complex these issues are and since we think it’s possible to set up new opportunities for plant breeding for food production in northern Sweden, all these aspects need to be covered,” says Stefan Jansson.

“The field spans across several disciplines and the common denominator for everyone, including my economics discipline, is food. This new interdisciplinary research field can be described as a life-cycle analysis following a food item from plant to being consumed. It’ll be very exciting to see what we can achieve together,” says Sofia Lundberg.

Follow the lectures online

The Kunskapsnoden lectures are held before invited guests at Grand Hôtel on 7 February, but the lectures will also be broadcast live and available to everyone on umu.se/live.