Astrophysics, Cosmology and Particle Physics

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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

DESIREE. Foto: Eva Dalin

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, bioinformatics and biotechnology. Studies include how membrane proteins are structured, how they are produced inside the cell, how they move, and what role they play in the cell's energy metabolism.

Catalysis in Organic Chemistry

Katalys i organisk kemi. Foto: Kalman Szabo

Stockholm University conducts successful research on new, selective synthetic methodology. Reactions that are of interest to, for example, the production of pharmaceuticals are developed using different catalysts. The research covers the development of catalysts based on organic and organometallic compounds, as well as on metallic nanoparticles. Novel synthetic methods are developed for precise control over what chemical substances are created. Modelling with theoretical chemistry is an important component to predict which reactions may occur, thus facilitating the modification of the catalysts.

Climate, Seas and Environment


Studies of Earth's natural climate and ecological systems and how they are affected by human activities are key to s, this profile area. The broad research being conducted at Stockholm University comprises specialised studies and interdisciplinary approaches to advance our understanding of these complex systems. Much of the research is carried out at centres and in major interdisciplinary programmes: the University’s Bolin Centre, which is an important forum for climate science and organized in collaboration with SMHI and KTH, now also includes research addressing the effects of climate and land use changes on biodiversity and ecosystem services; the Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC) focusses on sustainable development and human impact on natural resources and ecosystems; eutrophication and the effects of toxic pollutants in the Baltic Sea are important questions for the Baltic Sea Centre, the Baltic Eye and the Baltic Nest Institute and provide a basis for political decisions that will contribute to a sustainable management of the Baltic Sea.

The impacts of climate change on Arctic regions, pollutions, environmental chemistry, and toxic effects on humans and animals are other important fields of research within the profile area.

Gene-Environment Interactions

Samspel mellan gener och miljö

The interaction between genetic heritage and the environment affects all life, both at 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. Different organs in an individual communicate their status with each other and adapt the individual’s physiology and behaviour to local variations in the environment, such as after a meal, during stress, or at different temperatures. Environmental variation can cause rapid changes in genetic expressions by modifying regulatory proteins and non-coding RNA, but it can also cause global and more long-term changes. The latter include changes in the genome and its packaging through so-called “epigenetic mechanisms”, in addition to the evolution of plastic traits that adapt the individual to expected environmental variation through natural selection.  At Stockholm University, interactions between genes and the environment are studied extensively, including populations adapting to their surroundings and cellular responses to environmental change at the mechanistic level. How the environment and genes interact is a central issue for all life on Earth, not least when it comes to our own health.

Materials Chemistry

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In the field of materials chemistry at Stockholm University, important research is conducted with the aim to produce and study materials with unique properties. The results are important for sustainable systems and reduced energy use, as well as for the environment and health. Hybrid materials based on naturally occurring polymers, carbon or minerals are key, and are developed for applications in, for example, chemical and architectural engineering. Porous materials are studied for applications in, for example, catalysis and the separation of carbon dioxide from flue gas. Nanomaterials are tailored to have new and improved functions, including catalytic, mechanical, thermal, magnetic and optical properties. Ion liquids are studied in relation to the sustainable chemical synthesis of materials. Understanding the structure of a material is crucial in order to explain its properties and to optimise it for specific applications. Electron microscopy, diffraction, NMR spectroscopy and diffraction studies using synchrotron light or neutrons are examples of important methods used to characterise the structure of the materials.

Mathematical Theory Development and Modelling

Matematisk teoribildning och modellering

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.