Three ERC Advanced Grants to Stockholm University


Frank Wilczek, professor at the Department of Physics and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Johan Rockström, Professor of Environmental Science and Director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre and David Strömberg at the Institute for International Economic Studies (IIES). These three professors at Stockholm University will receive prestigious ERC Advanced Grants.

Five out of the seven applicants from Stockholm University received the highest score in the second stage, which means that the evaluators wanted the projects to be funded, but the ERC's budget was not sufficient. The ERC Advanced Grant is the most prestigious of the European Research Council's grants, aimed at the most excellent researchers.

Frank Wilczek: The hunt for the hypothetical particles

In his project, Nobel Laureate Frank Wilczek will be trying to facilitate the experimental detection of axions. Axions are hypothetical particles whose existence would solve the problem of dark matter. They are very light and interact weakly, making them extremely hard to study. The research will mainly be carried out in Stockholm at the Oskar Klein Centre at Stockholm University and the Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics (Nordita).

"Axions are a target of research around the world, but most of this research involves small groups, which by their nature can't do justice to all aspects of the field, and synergies among them. The ERC grant will allow us, I think, to form a powerful, focused effort in Stockholm that will fill that role. We can also bring in visitors to exchange ideas. Since the research touches on big, appealing questions, I also hope to reach out to a wider scientific and public audience", says Frank Wilczek", says Frank Wilczek.

Johan Rockström: "We need to think nonlinearly"

The project of Johan Rockström takes on two overarching challenges: developing a cross-disciplinary model for studying the interactions of the social world and the biophysical planet; and introducing nonlinear ways of thinking about social-ecological "tipping points" when studying the future.

"We have entered a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene, where the social 'world' has become the dominating power in changing the physical 'planet'. That's why it's so important to deepen our understanding of how these two interact", says Johan Rockström.

"Despite the fact that we have strong and growing proof that nonlinear processes are common, often the norm, in social and ecological crises, it's incredibly difficult to incorporate this knowledge into our analyses and models."

David Strömberg: How is social media impacting China?

In his research David Strömberg will be analysing the effect of the massive increase of social media on society, examining protests and strikes, the sale of counterfeit medicines, the promotion of local leaders and the coverage of events censored in traditional media. The project will also study how Chinese newspapers are influenced by the trade-offs between political and economic goals.

"Posts appearing on social media have been left there deliberately. A possible reason is that the regime finds it useful – in fighting corruption, keeping an eye on protesters, or finding out what the people are unhappy about, for example", says David Strömberg.


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