Atomic spectroscopy is a time-honoured speciality in Lund, featuring
such names as Janne Rydberg, Manne Siegbahn and Bengt Edlén. Research
today is investigating the structure of the exteriors of atoms by
analysing the spectra emitted by atoms in the form of visible light and
ultraviolet and infrared radiation. But light provides information not
only about atoms – our knowledge of the structure of stars is based on
studies of their spectra. When the Hubble Space Telescope was put into
orbit in 1990, NASA needed expertise of a very special kind in atomic
physics to interpret certain observations. They found that expertise in
Lund, and the two departments maintain an intensive cooperation.
The goal of particle physics is to explore the fundamental particles and natural forces responsible for the origin and development of the universe. It is also important to understand how particles acquire their mass. Experiments are going on in the context of major international cooperation at CERN in Geneva and DESY in Hamburg. In 2007, CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will come into use, with extensive participation from Lund.
Nuclear physicists are active members of international projects investigating collisions between atomic nuclei. In violent collisions nuclear matter is expected to melt down to the state that existed at the birth of the universe. Scientists from Lund are taking part in major international heavy-ion experiments at Brookhaven in the USA and at LHC at CERN. For example, nuclei are set in motion, taking on new structures and forms that are being studied in big, efficient detector systems.
There are three research groups of theoretical physicists. One of them is studying the interplay between the basic building blocks of matter, quarks and gluons. Computer simulations of “the Lund Model” have become an internationally acknowledged standard tool for the analysis of experimental results. One group is studying complex systems and optimization problems. Physical methods are used to tackle boundary-transcending problems such as protein development and the analysis of ECG signals. A third group is studying the electron structure of metals and semiconductors, especially dynamic processes and lifetime problems, and also low-dimensional systems, such as quantum threads.
The inner structure and function of the human body can be revealed with the nuclear physics methods of radiation physics. The Division of Radiation Physics has six electron accelerators. Inspection of our radiation environment is carried out during expeditions at the North Pole and other regions. The radioecology of the Baltic Sea is another area of research.
In recent years, synchrotron light has revolutionized research in many
fields. It is emitted by electrons which are accelerated almost to the
speed of light and allowed to illuminate the specimens to be examined.
Lund University is the home of the Max-laboratory, one of two national
laboratories in Sweden financed by NFR (the Swedish Natural Science
Research Council). The Max-lab has three storage rings electrons, the
biggest of which, Max II, is one of the most powerful synchrotron light
sources in the world. The Max-lab is used by over 600 researchers, half
of whom belong to international groups.
An interesting research area using synchrotron radiation is biotechnology. X-ray diffraction can be used to study the structure of proteins, viruses, etc. With the aid of X-ray light and advanced computer processing, scientists create three-dimensional models of molecules. One of the aims is to use knowledge of the appearance of proteins to compose special new drugs. This field is so interesting that several pharmaceutical companies are doing research at the Max-lab.
Lund astronomers have collaborated in the development of the Nordic
Optical Telescope on La Palma, and are participating in work on the
joint European Very Large Telescope, which is now being completed in the
Atacama Desert in Chile. There are also plans for antennae to measure
short-wave radio radiation, 5,000 metres above sea level. Instruments in
space measure cosmic light, totally free of the disturbing effects of
the atmosphere. Astronomers are studying such things as the chemical
composition of the stars, their birth, life and death, the existence of
planetary systems like ours, and the development of space, time, and
matter since the beginning of the universe.
Since 1999 the departments of Mathematics, Mathematical Statistics, and
Numerical Analysis have shared a Mathematics Centre belonging jointly to
the Faculties of Technology and Science. The mathematical sciences play
an important role as a mediator of general methods for modelling and
analysing nature. For example, partial differential equations,
traditionally a strong research area in Lund, express the natural laws
describing electromagnetic wave propagation, water and air flows, heat
conduction, strength, etc. Important applications are in coding and
computer security and in mathematical image processing and computer
Research in mathematical statistics is primarily concerned with stochastic processes and time-series analyses, with applications in technology and natural science. Important areas are algorithms for signal processing, biostatistics and environmental statistics, and stochastic modelling in telecommunications.
Research in numerical analysis is geared to calculation techniques for differential equations. There are applications in mechanics, chemistry, electrical networks, etc. The aim is to achieve a good theoretical basis on which to construct reliable and efficient software for scientific and technological calculations.
Quaternary geological research in Lund focuses particularly on
environmental and climatalogical fluctuations during our most recent
glacial cycle (i.e. the past 130,000 years). Lund’s quaternary
biological research facilities include laboratories for carbon 14
dating, dendrochronology (dating by means of the annual rings in trees),
palaeobiology and environmental magnetism, geochemistry with
clay-mineral and ceramic analysis, etc.
Human impact on the landscape is studied in collaboration with archaeologists. The extensive road construction in southern Sweden has provided a rich body of material for analysing the prehistoric human environment.
Polar research, especially in the Arctic, constitutes an important part of ongoing research. The polar regions may prove to be the key to our understanding of the global climatic system.
A significant part of bedrock research is pursued as major international projects. Some of these aim at studying how the continents grew through the gradual build-up of new continental crusts.
A special programme is investigating the relation of Antarctica to all the southern continents through studies of sedimentary rocks and their fossil content. One result has been the discovery of the oldest known quadrupeds and flourishing plant communities in 250-million-year-old sediments in Antarctica.
Research at the Center for Chemistry and Chemical Engineering transcends
faculty boundaries. Combining resources achieves a dynamic unity with
opportunities for joint financing of advanced apparatus and for creating
centres that are not constrained by traditional subject fields. Research
is beeing conducted, for example, in the areas of bioseparation and
amphiphilic polymers, with substantial contributions from industry.
The Lund-Malmö region has a vigorous pharmaceutical industry that depends on well-trained chemists. Many of the divisions in the Center for Chemistry are involved in research of significance for the pharmaceutical industry. The findings are valuable for the development of drugs and diagnostic aids and for the production techniques of the pharmaceutical companies.
With the aid of advanced parallel computer systems, theoretical chemists have developed the methods of quantum chemistry and today they can also use these methods to study the complex geometry of large biomolecules.
Photosynthetic reactions are studied in biochemistry and, in more physical terms, using ultrafast laser spectroscopy. In these reactions, electron transfer occurs between metal centres, which is a research topic in inorganic chemistry. There are also attempts to imitate photosynthesis in technical systems. Artificial photosynthesis could become a future source of energy. It may be added that a great deal of the research at the Center for Chemistry is of environmental interest.
Functional morphology in Lund is a subject with a neurobiological
orientation. Scientists investigate not only the connections within the
nervous system, but also the function of sensory organs and their
projections on the nervous system. Invertebrates are particularly
interesting. Very sensitive methods have been developed to measure the
effect of light on compound eyes by inserting microelectrodes.
Animal Physiologists study nerve regeneration and receptors in cell membranes, which are important for understanding how nerve pathways originate.
Plants have complicated systems for regulating their basic metabolism, photosynthesis, and respiration. At the Department of Cell and Organism Biology, this regulation is being studied at the level of enzymes and genes. The depletion of the ozone layer means that plants and animals are subject to increased ultraviolet radiation. The effects of this are being studied, especially in plant communities in polar areas.
Geneticists are using molecular biological methods to study the family trees of vertebrates. The analyses are comprehensive, showing that fish and birds have not evolved in the way that today’s authorities claim. It has also been found that humans and chimpanzees diverged ten or more million years ago, and not five million years ago as today’s textbooks state.
Geneticists have taken an interest in both plants and animals. Major work was done on cancer chromosomes by Albert Levan. In 1956, along with a visiting Chinese scientist, Tjio, he also succeeded in determining the number of human chromosomes as 46 and identifying them.
Microbiologists also use molecular biological methods to study viruses that attack salmon, how the activity of different genes is regulated in bacteria, and how complex systems for energy conversion are formed and function in cells.
A great deal of ecological research in Sweden is concentrated in the Department of Ecology in Lund, whose activities were gathered under one roof in the new Ecology House in 1994. The department is among the international leaders in research into bird migration. Scientists examine how birds cope with the physical strain of non-stop flying over oceans and how they navigate.
Plant ecologists have initiated a project aimed at understanding the long-term production capacity of woodlands and how their biological diversity can be maintained. Lund’s ecologists are also deeply involved in studying soil and the root zone of vegetation from both chemical and microbiological perspectives.
Other ecologists are interested in the effect of climatic fluctuations on the ecosystem, chiefly as regards large-scale interactions between climate and the terrestrial biosphere through changes in the circulation of carbon and water.
Insects communicate with each other by means of chemical signals,
pheromones. A large research team is studying these signals, which are
often scents. The basic research of the team concerns evolutionary
explanations of why insects “speak chemistry” and why the scent signals
have the form that they have, and also neurobiological aspects of
insects’ scent perception. Applied research seeks to develop scent-based
methods to predict and combat insect onslaughts.
The methods of molecular genetics are being increasingly used in ecological research. By charting genetic differences between individuals from natural populations of animals and fungi, scientists are now studying how variation in individual genes affects the evolution, for example, of resistance to disease and toxins.
Limnologists have been working with the restoration of lakes and wetlands. In cooperation with municipal and county authorities, they have managed to improve the water in Lake Ringsjön, an epoch-making achievement that can serve as a model for restoring other lakes.