Professor at Chalmers joins prestigious academy

Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede, Professor at the Department of Biology and Biological Engineering, has been elected a member of The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. She will be the third Chalmers professor in the Chemistry class, and the sixth woman.

Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede is Head of the division of Chemical Biology, and was on the academy’s general meeting on May 11 elected to join the fourth class of chemistry.
– It will be fun to participate! I am honored, and this of course proofs that I have been doing a good job – they've really examined my resume thoroughly, she says.
– Being a member of The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences adds weight and reputation to my name, it will probably open many doors. On a personal level, it feels almost unreal to have come this far. But here I am! I have a lot of experience and knowledge, I’m a senior scientist and part of my task today consists of helping the younger researchers.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences is an independent organization with the aim to promote science and strengthen its influence on society, according to the website. The academy is a forum for interdisciplinary discussions, a place for unique research and distribution of information, to stimulate interest in science and build networks. The academy reward outstanding research achievements through numerous awards – the most famous of course being the Nobel Prizes in chemistry and physics.
– That’s kind of a dream of mine, to one day sit on the Nobel committee. It would be extremely interesting to see how they work, Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede says.

A total of 20 members are active in each class. But the election is for life, which means that 57 members are listed under Chemistry today. Of these, only five are women.
– As a woman, it feels extra important to be included. And I think they need me; I will do good things, and I believe I can be a role model for other women. I'm also used to communicate with society and to explain science in a simplified way.

Read more about The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on the academy’s website.


FACTS Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede

Professor at the Department of Biology and Biological Engineering, and Head of the division of Chemical Biology, since 1 September 2015.
PhD in physical chemistry at Chalmers in 1996. Has worked at Tulane University, New Orleans, as Assistant and later Associate Professor, and as Associate Professor at Rice University, Houston.
Professor of Chemistry at Umeå University in 2008.

Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede’s research is focused on the function of the body’s proteins at a molecular and mechanistic level. Proteins consists of long chains of amino acids linked together in a specific order, based on our genetic code. To be activated, each chain needs to be folded up to a specific structure. Many proteins also have to bind to metals or other protein chains in order to perform their work inside the cells. Errors in protein folding are the basis for many diseases, such as Parkinson's disease. Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede is also studying metal ions, focusing on the systems that deliver copper to the proteins that require such a metal in their active site.

Text: Mia Malmstedt

Published: Tue 17 May 2016. Modified: Tue 28 Jun 2016