Starting this week, Professor Per Ljungdahl (Stockholm University) will take on the new role as SciLifeLab Campus Solna (CS) Director. As CS Director, Per Ljungdahl is responsible for the joint research environment at Campus Solna, and he leads the site support, safety, and IT teams as well as the joint finances.
Per was born in Stockholm and moved with his family to the United States at an early age of 1. He obtained his entire academic training in the US. In 1980, he graduated in Microbiology at Cornell University (Ithaca, NY). He continued his academic journey by earning his PhD in 1987 at Dartmouth Medical School (Hanover, NH) where he identified and isolated genes encoding the components of the mitochondrial cytochrome bc1 complex. Before moving back to Sweden at the age of 36, Per spent six years as a postdoc in Professor Gerry R. Fink’s group at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, MIT (Cambridge, MA) where he learned how to use genetic methods to map and dissect fundamental cell biological processes in eukaryotic cells.
In the fall of 1993, Per founded his own research group at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research (KI), and in 2007, he became a Professor of Cell Biology at Stockholm University. At SU Per also served as departmental chairman for 8 years, during which time he led the merger of three smaller departments to form the current Department of Molecular Biosciences, The Wenner-Gren Institute.
Per’s research is focused on obtaining a full understanding of how yeast cells sense and respond to amino acids available in their growth environments. His work has highlighted several novel aspects of eukaryotic-specific signal transduction that link events initiated by primary receptors located in the cell membrane to the induced expression of responsive genes in the nucleus.
”Interestingly, the same signal components are found in human pathogenic fungi and we have shown that they are important virulence determinants. Our results provide an excellent example that a broad understanding of cell biology is essential to fully understand cellular signaling systems and their important physiological roles,” says Per.
When asked what motivates him, Per responded by saying that he is intensely curious about understanding the many mysteries of life on a mechanistic level, and when asked about his new role, he has quite a few ideas.
”I want to contribute energy to further develop the basic research environment at Campus Solna, and thereby facilitate enhanced synergy between researchers who are constantly pushing the limits of new knowledge and the impressive national research infrastructures gathered at SciLifeLab. I believe that increasing the connections between the two major missions of Campus Solna is essential to maintaining an internationally competitive research environment. Among other things, the SciLifeLab Fellows program is an exceptional asset and something that I want to help develop further”, explains Per.
A bright future
”The high ambition level that permeates SciLifeLab is incredibly inspiring to me. In addition, the extensive scientific expertise at SciLifeLab already existing within highly successful research groups bodes well for a very bright future indeed”, says Per.
”I look forward to working in the unique and state-of-the-art research environment that defines the SciLifeLab Campus Solna, which was created by world-class universities in the Stockholm area. In addition, I really look forward to getting to know and to work with my new colleagues. Helping to contribute to the development of the people behind the science and research is a challenge that is incredibly exciting and motivating to me”, explains Per.
Spare time and family
”I’m attracted by and love almost everything that has to do with water. When I have the time, I enjoy sailing my old Scampi 30, which in summers is moored near our house on Lake Mälaren. As a young man, I also spent a great deal of time underwater exploring caves in northern Florida” says Per. ”As a father, I am incredibly proud of my three children who have developed into independent individuals with a positive outlook on the world. Their joy of life provides great satisfaction for my wife Cornelia and I.”