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April/May 2021 Vol 92:03 $9.95
Accomplished Swedish Alumni | Eligibility & Admissions | SWEA BUS
Reconnect With Your Roots – Study in Sweden By Kajsa Norman
tudying in Sweden is a common dream among both Swedish expats and North Americans of Swedish descent. Whether you embark on a short exchange or pursue a degree, it can be a great way to further your education while also taking the opportunity to reconnect with your roots. Here’s what you need to know about requirements, fees and deadlines. Attending University in Sweden
Swedish universities are keen to welcome applicants from abroad. Visit www.studyinsweden.se for a list of the many programs available in English at both the Bachelor and Master levels starting in the fall of 2021. You’ll also find practical information regarding accommodation, health insurance, visa requirements, and much more.
University Eligibility Requirements for American and Canadian Students All courses and programs have general entry requirements. These can be found at the admissions website for Sweden, www.universityadmissions.se. In order to meet the general entry requirements for Bachelor’s level studies, you must: • have successfully completed your upper secondary (high school) education (including courses in mathematics equal to the Swedish courses Mathematics 1a, 1b or 1c); and • be able to demonstrate proficiency in English. Most North American applicants meet this requirement through their high school studies. For application to Master’s level, you must have been awarded a Bachelor’s degree (equivalent to a Swedish kandidatexamen) from an internationally recognized university. Most courses and study programs have specific entry requirements in addition to the general requirements. For example, an economics course may require a higher level of Swedish Press | April/May 2021 | 12
upper secondary school mathematics. A Master’s program may require a Bachelor’s degree in a specific subject area. These specific requirements are outlined in the individual course or program descriptions which are found on the university’s website.
How to Apply Canadian and American students should consult www. Universityadmissions.se which offers detailed, step-by-step information about entry requirements, application procedures, key dates, selection and admissions results, as well as fees, scholarships and residence permits. Rules differ for Swedish citizens, Swedish permanent residents, EU citizens, and citizens from the rest of the world – including the United States and Canada. Once you are clear about which category you belong to, the process is fairly straightforward.
Deadlines The first admission round (closing January 15) was created specifically for international students. In this round, the entire catalogue of courses and programmes taught in English is available. The second admission round (closing April 15) is the regular admission round for Swedish students. The entire catalogue of courses and programmes taught in Swedish
is available, but some universities also offer courses and programmes taught in English in the second round. International students are welcome to apply to both rounds, but the admissions decision from the second round doesn’t come until July. As you cannot submit your application for a residence permit until you have been admitted to full-time university studies in Sweden and have paid your first tuition fee instalment, non-EU/EEA applicants who require a residence permit are encouraged to apply in the first round.
Fees, Tuition and Scholarships There is no tuition for Swedish or EU citizens. However, as an American or Canadian citizen you will pay SEK 900 (US$ 108) when you apply to study in Sweden. The application fee is the same regardless of how many programs you apply for. The tuition fee for Americans and Canadians can be as low as SEK 80,000 (US$ 9,600) per year, or as high as SEK 295,000 (US$ 35,500), depending on the university and the program of your choice. However, most Swedish universities and colleges offer scholarships to international students. For a complete list along with eligibility information, visit: https://studyinsweden.se/scholarships.
What If I Want to Study in Swedish?
Du som talar svenska och vill läsa vid ett svenskspråkigt program har ett mycket större utbud att välja bland, särskilt på kandidatnivå. Förutom en avslutad gymnasieutbildning måste man ha goda kunskaper i svenska, engelska och matematik. De flesta utlandssvenskar har läst engelska och matematik, men med svenskan kan det vara värre. Det räcker nämligen inte att ha svenska som modersmål för att bli behörig i svenska. – Även om man har svenska föräldrar och talar svenska hemma innebär inte det att man klarar universitetsstudier på svenska. Det handlar ju om helt andra uttryck och termer än dem man använder till vardags, säger Dan Larsson, biträdande rektor vid Hermods Distansgymnasium som bland annat erbjuder kurser i Svenska 1, 2 och 3 på distans. För att bli behörig till en svenskspråkig universitetsutbildning krävs att man klarat gymnasiekursen Svenska 3 eller Svenska som andra språk 3. Man kan också ta ett så kallat TISUS-test (test i svenska för universitets- och högskolestudier), men det upplevs av många som ett svårare alternativ och bara ungefär hälften av dem som genomför testet blir godkända. Det finns dock hjälp att få.
Global Svenska Plus (GSP) erbjuder förberedelsekurser på distans. För elever som studerar vid en IB-skola utanför Sverige erbjuder de också möjligheten att integrera IB Swedish A eller B i gymnasieexamen. Oavsett vilken väg man väljer är det viktigt att börja planera i tid. För att kunna läsa svenska på distans behöver man nämligen ha ett godkänt betyg i svenska från årskurs 9. Det kan man skaffa sig via Sofia Distans, en kommunal grundskola inom Stockholms stad som har som uppdrag att undervisa svenska elever bosatta i utlandet. Sofia Distans följer grundskolans kursplaner och kunskapskrav för årskurs 6-9. Hos dem kan man läsa hela högstadiet på distans, men man kan också fokusera på enstaka ämnen såsom svenska för att få behörighet till svenskt gymnasium. Kurserna vid såväl Sofia Distans som Hermods Distansgymnasium är avgiftsbelagda, men om åtminstone en förälder är svensk medborgare kan man söka om statsbidrag hos Skolverket. Detta görs via Sofia Distans eller Hermods. För mer information besök www.sofiadistans.nu, www.hermods.se eller www.globalsvenska.com.
What If I Want to Attend Middle School or High School in Sweden? If you are a Swedish or EU/EEA citizen, you have the right to free education in Sweden at any level. If you are a Canadian or American citizen under the age of 18, you may be able to attend Middle or High School in Sweden free of charge. However, you would need a residence permit. To apply for one, you must have been accepted to full-time studies, have valid health insurance, and be able to support yourself throughout the period for which you’re applying. Check with the school you’re interested in attending for application deadlines and eligibility prerequisites. If your parents don’t reside in Sweden, you would need to attend a boarding school, such as Sigtunaskolan www.sshl.se, live with other close relatives, or participate in a student exchange. More information can be found at www.migrationsverket.se.
Photo: Magnus Liam Karlsson/imagebank.sweden.se
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Swedish Alumni Taking On the World Work-life balance, informal classroom settings and proximity to incredible nature are some of the main reasons international students choose Sweden, but Swedish academia can offer more than just a good time. Life Sciences, Engineering, IT, and Economics are some of the disciplines where Sweden stands out. Meet four Swedish university alumni who’ve succeeded in North America and beyond.
Gothenburg. She spent her last year in the program at Imperial College in London, England. “There I developed my appetite for doing research, figuring out undiscovered things,” she says. Pernilla returned to Sweden and started her PhD in Physical Chemistry at Chalmers, but her research soon took her to California Institute of Technology (CalTech) outside of Los Angeles. After two years, Pernilla was offered a position in the Chemistry Department at Tulane University in New Orleans. “Fortunately, my Swedish husband also managed to find a job in New Orleans. We lived there for 5 years, during which time I was promoted to full professor with tenure.” One day, Pernilla organized a party for alumni from Chalmers who
By Peter Berlin
Unlocking the Secrets of Parkinson’s and Cancer
orn in Umeå in Northern Sweden, Pernilla WittungStafshede studied Chemical Engineering at Chalmers University of Technology in
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lived in America. One of them was a professor at Rice University in Texas. “He suggested I send them my c.v. My only experience of Texas in those days was watching Dallas on TV, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to live there. But soon afterwards Rice University contacted me and offered me a position in Houston, a city which is a real hub for research in many fields. I accepted the offer and my husband managed to secure a work transfer to Houston. We were there for 5 years, during which time our second daughter was born.” After 12 years in America, Pernilla and her husband contemplated moving back to Sweden for the sake of their two daughters. “I heard that Umeå University was looking for professors in chemistry. I visited the university and fell in love with it. I also visited an elementary school and it all felt right.” Eventually, Pernilla went full circle and returned to her alma mater. “After 7 years in Umeå, Chalmers approached me. They were starting a new department and wanted me to be the head of one of its divisions. The challenge of leading not just my own research group but a larger team appealed to me.” Summarizing her research in her current position as professor at the Biology and Biological Engineering Department, Pernilla says: “I work on proteins, the body’s workhorses that in principle perform all functions. Proteins are long chains of amino acids. To function, these chains must fold into compact three-dimensional structures. My research focuses on how this folding process takes place and what can affect it. This is important as a lot of diseases are caused by proteins not folding correctly. Since my return to Sweden, I study more directly what
happens when proteins fold the wrong way. There are several neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s where proteins fold in the wrong way and then stick together to form dangerous plaque in the brain. When we understand why folding goes wrong, we can develop drugs that counteract the process.” At Chalmers, Pernilla is also head of Genie, which stands for Gender Initiative for Excellence. “Genie wants to create a better university by strategic female recruitments and improving the academic culture. Chalmers is dominated by men among both faculty and students. When I returned to Sweden, like most foreigners I thought the country was superior at gender equality. Indeed, Sweden is very good in many ways, but it has the same male dominance at top positions as the rest of the world. There is a lot of talking but nothing happens. I wanted action so I started Genie.” Pernilla is a staunch advocate of students gaining international experience through conducting a part of their studies at a foreign institution. “You learn so much more than your subject of study – how to live in a different place and meeting new people. You mature a lot as a person and may develop contacts for the future.” Why should North Americans consider studying at a Swedish university? “We maintain a high education standard. If you want to find out about Swedish culture and society, that is the way to do it. As an added bonus, everybody speaks English which makes life easier for a North American student – something which one cannot take for granted in other European countries.”
The Alarming Similarities Between the Spanish Flu and COVID-19
t is absolutely certain another pandemic will come, but we don’t knowwhat form it will have. The question is, how can we be forewarned?” Those omniscient words were spoken by pathologist Johan Hultin in a February 2002 interview, eighteen years before the outbreak of COVID-19. In search of answers, he set his mind on unlocking the genetic code of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic which ravaged humanity in three successive waves. In 1948, Johan Hultin entered Uppsala University to study medicine. However, the courses bored him so he spent much of his spare time arranging drinking contests with fellow students. Their alcohol-fuelled escapades caused considerable damage to University property. Hultin was summoned to the office of the Dean who threatened to expel him. With his Swedish career plans in doubt, he moved to the United States, was admitted to the University of Iowa, and graduated with an M.D. with a specialty in virology. Hultin was fascinated by potentially fatal influenza viruses. The most notable pandemics in modern time include the 1918 Spanish flu. This flu was devastating, possibly killing up to 100
million people worldwide, including Inuit communities in the Arctic. He reasoned that our ability to defeat influenza viruses with the help of targeted vaccinations depends on our understanding of their molecular make-up. Since influenza usually affects the lungs, Hultin estimated that his best chances of collecting well-preserved lung tissue samples would be to dig up Inuit victims of the 1918 pandemic buried in the permafrost of the Arctic. In 1951 he set out on an expedition to Alaska. There, he met Inuit leaders who gave him permission to excavate. He found what he was looking for and brought lung tissues back to Iowa City. Unfortunately, subsequent analysis showed that too much time had passed for the tissue samples to be of any use. In 1997, Hultin decided to have another go at retrieving well-preserved lung tissue from Spanish flu victims. Once again he travelled to Alaska, visiting the same excavation site as in 1951. This time he found the body of an obese 30-year-old woman whose body fat had helped to preserve her lungs in pristine condition. He and his fellow researchers now had enough material to sequence the complete 1918 virus and establish its similarities with viruses in subsequent pandemics. By solving the riddle of the Spanish flu, Hultin has been instrumental in our ability to fight the coronavirus today.
Johan Hultin. Photo: Stephan Elleringmann/SI
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The Swede Behind the Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine
und University alumnus Mikael Dolsten is the Chief Scientific Officer at Pfizer in the United States. Pfizer is, of course, the American pharmaceutical company that launched one of the first fully certified vaccines against COVID-19 in the fall of 2020. As Head of Research, Dolsten has been the “conductor of the symphony orchestra” that pulled all the necessary resources together to develop the vaccine in less than a year – a process that would normally require a decade. Much has been written about the fact that the Pfizer vaccine has to be
Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine
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stored at a very cold temperature. Compared to other COVID-19 vaccines, this is a drawback when it comes to distributing it to remote communities, especially in the developing world. However, one advantage of the Pfizer vaccine is that it can readily be used as a booster if a person’s immunity begins to wear off. Another advantage is that it can be quickly adapted for maximum effectiveness against new strains of the virus. This is so because it is based on so-called mRNA, a molecule that may be processed and edited. Dolsten grew up in Halmstad in the south of Sweden. He went on to study medicine at Lund University, obtained a PhD in cancer immunology, and was eventually appointed Adjunct Professor. In parallel he worked for the Swedish pharmaceutical companies Pharmacia and Astra. Pharmacia was later bought by Pfizer, and Astra became UK-based AstraZeneca. In 2004, Dolsten and his family settled for good in the United States. While at Pfizer, he served as scientific advisor to the Obama administration’s task force for improving regulatory and drug development, as well as to VP
Mikael Dolsten. Photo: Pfizer
Biden for the coordination of cancer research. He holds dual Swedish-US citizenship. During his time as a young researcher at Lund, he was granted a scholarship which enabled him to travel abroad and gain experience of international research. “That is something I am grateful for today,” he stated in an interview. “As a researcher you are part of a global knowledge community and need to get impressions of how others work, learn new techniques and gain new approaches. Travel scholarships are a tremendous investment in young researchers.” Mikael Dolsten spent 20 years in Lund, and the southern Swedish city has always occupied a special place in his heart. He therefore did not need much persuasion to accept a recent invitation to return to his Alma Mater, despite his heavy workload at Pfizer. As of January 1, 2021, he is a Visiting Professor at the University, intent on sharing his knowledge not only in research but also in the best ways to manage innovation and create entrepreneurial structures, so as to maximize the practical benefits of the research.
Listening to the Tweets of Exosomes
ith trillions of dollars having been spent on cancer research over time, it seems surprising that there still no reliable and non-invasive method of detecting cancer during routine health check-ups. Cancer is diagnosed only when some seemingly unrelated symptom – maybe abdominal pain or a persistent cough – causes a person to seek medical advice, and then often too late for a permanent cure. Surely, the day will come when a simple blood or urine test could reveal the onset of cancer anywhere in the body without the need for a costly
MRI scan or an invasive biopsy of human tissue? Well, that day may be getting closer thanks to a revolutionary discovery by Swedish cell biologist Johan Skog. In 2005, Dr Skog earned his PhD in Virology while doing research at Umeå University in northern Sweden. The following year he joined the Harvard Medical School in Boston to develop a gene therapy method for treating brain tumours. In the process, he became an expert on so-called exosomes, small packages released by cells into the blood stream and other body fluids such as urine. These packages contain various molecular constituents of their cell of origin, including proteins and ribonucleid acid (RNA). Working late one night in the laboratory, Dr. Johan Skog found that these exosomes included RNA from cancer. RNA is the “language of cells”, and the tiny exosome packages act as a means of communication between the cells, somewhat akin to Twitter messages. Eavesdropping on the tweets makes it is possible to detect a cancer and its origin early, and also to observe how it is changing over time. By taking
Exosome Diagnostics was founded in 2008 by Johan Skog. Photo: Exosome Diagnostics
Johan Skog. Photo: Johan Gunséus /Tidningen Curie
regular blood and urine samples from people and singling out the exosomes, proper treatment can be initiated before the disease has had a chance to grow and spread. Johan Skog obtained a patent for his discovery and started the company Exosome Diagnostics with initial focus on detecting prostate cancer. Currently, this type of cancer is the fifth most common cause of death among men in the USA Early prostate cancer is typically diagnosed almost by accident if a person’s blood test happens to include a measurement of prostate-specific antigen (PSA). However, the PSA method is unreliable to the point where it sometimes leads to MRI scans and biopsies being performed unnecessarily. For Exosome Diagnostics, detecting and monitoring prostate cancer is only the first step towards the goal of providing a more universal diagnostic tool. Johan Skog has handed over the day-to-day management of the enterprise to colleagues and is now working in the company’s laboratory as Chief Scientific Officer. His ambition is to expand the usefulness of his discovery to include other forms of cancer.
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