Your donations enabled American students to obtain their Masters degree at Lund University

“This opportunity has changed my life”

Jacob is one of three talented young American students who received a scholarship for his outstanding academic achievements. He was born and raised in Alaska and is currently enrolled in a one year masters program of Entrepreneurship at Lund University.

Jacob, you have traveled a long way. What made you leave Alaska to obtain a masters degree in Sweden?
-I did a lot of researching for my masters studies and I found that Lund University offers the best combination of a great academic tradition, culture and history with modern and innovative ways of thinking and up to date research and development resources. Furthermore, the Entrepreneurial program looked amazing, not anything like any other masters programs I have read about!

Lund University have an extensive variety of Masters Programs, so why entrepreneurship?
-Well, with previous experiences from the fishing industry in Alaska and managing hostels in Panama I have worked with small businesses in an entrepreneurial setting. These experiences combined made me interested in starting my own company. The Entrepreneurship masters gives me the tools and resources to do so. Furthermore, when reading about the program I found that Lund University has a great support for this masters, and we are currently collaborating with other faculties and exchanging experience and knowledge, it is very rewarding.

Ideon and Venture Lab are two organizations at the campus of Lund University supporting and working closely with start-up companies from the University.

What are your plans after graduating?
-As part of the Entrepreneurship program I will actually realize my business plan and start my own business at the end of the program. As my visa expires when I graduate I will move back to the US with my knowledge, start up my company and work to commercialize my business idea there.

So you have already an idea of what type of business you want to start?
-Yes, I do… (Jacob smiles…)My business will be working with fishing, to direct market wild Alaskan salmon, a healthier and better product, to the Scandinavian market. There is nothing like Alaskan salmon.

Could you describe in what way this scholarship, from Sten K. Jonson, has affected your life?
-It has a great impact on my life. Without this scholarship I would never have been able to start my masters. I would have had to postpone it for some years… Thanks to this scholarship and this master program it has given me a lot more options in life and for my future. I am very grateful and in many ways this opportunity has changed my life!

Fact: American-Swedish Scholarship Fund
The American-Swedish Scholarship Fund targets top academic students from all over the U.S. with an aim to study at Lund University. Lund University Foundation’s current main focus is to further expand the American-Swedish scholarship fund to support American students at Lund University with their tuition fees. Non EU students are today required to pay tuition fees at Swedish universities.

LUF’s right hand in Los Angeles

Quick Q&A with…
Amanda Lundell, since a few month back our woman
 in LA:

Who are you and in what ways are you working with Lund University in Los Angeles?

– I am originally from Sweden but have studied at Lund University and graduated  with a masters degree in Business Strategy this fall. I have also had time to live in Sydney and in Spain, and I have  traveled around Asia and to New Zealand.

– At Lund University Foundation (LUF), an independent charitable non-profit organization that is supporting Lund University, my responsibilities are to develop and to strengthen our US Alumni network and by doing so enable more philanthropic donations to Lund University. Furthermore, I will organize Alumni-events, contribute to the development of LUF’s long-term strategies, and work with improving and updating our website.

How come you ended up in Los Angeles?
– I have always been fascinated with traveling and exploring new places – therefor I was determined to work internationally. I get highly motivated by challenges and I want to see results, so when I read the ad for this internship I thought to myself that this position would suite me perfectly! And luckily, so did Lund University… (laughter).

What are your expectations for these 6 months in Los Angeles?
– My goal is to have doubled the size of our Alumni- and Friends of Lund University -network and by doing so greatly increase  the awareness of the work of LUF in the US. I hope to have contributed, through my work at LUF and initiating new contacts, to more contributions and donations being made to Lund University. If I can aid Lund University in being able to distribute more scholarships to talented students from the US, supporting them to obtain a masters degree in Lund, then I have done a great job!

– On a personal level I expect to learn more about American business culture and how to build strategic relations and partnerships. If possible, I hope to come back and work in the US after my internship period has expired at Lund University Foundation.

As the first job after graduating, being transferred to Los Angeles, sound like a dream to most of us. How does a normal work-day look like for you?
– Due to the time difference there are always urgent emails that have to be responded to first thing in the morning. So initially I handle those, but mostly my work is to do research, find Alumni and Friends of Lund University as well as organize the Alumni database, create material for our website, and to organize the Lund University Foundation Alumni and fundraising events.

How do you see your life after LUF?
– I will continue to work internationally, preferably with strategic questions such as business establishment, positioning and relationships. Working for Lund University Foundation, I believe, will be a great learning path and a strong platform for my future international carrier.

Facts about Lund University Foundation (LUF)
The foundation is a charitable non-profit organization that focuses on prioritized areas such as charity, science, and education.  The aim is to strengthen the ties between America and Lund University, foremost focusing on US residential Lunda Alumni. The purpose of Lund University Foundation is to attract philanthropic donations for research and scholarships. The position of Amanda Lundell, and the whole LUF organization, is exclusively financed through special donations and pro-bono work.

Text and Foto: Joen Garsén
Translation: Amanda Lundell

Donation made ‘super recruitment’ possible

Attracting Kristian Pietras to Lund is a feather in the cap of both Lund University, where he will be employed, and Medicon Village, where he will be based. The investment has been made possible by an ‘impact investment’ of SEK 10 million from Professor Göran Grosskopf and his wife Birgitta.

“This appointment is one of the many important building blocks of the investment in life science research in Lund”, says Göran Grosskopf. “The recruitment of Kristian Pietras, who specialises in research on the boundary between basic research and clinical research, is perfectly suited to Medicon Village and its excellent clinical research facilities. We now hope to be able to attract more researchers in the field so that the successful research that forms the cornerstone for Medicon Village can rapidly be expanded further.”

To read the entire article: Donation made super recruitment possible (pdf)


“The Truth Is Out There…”

Medicon Village in Lund is one of the world’s foremost cancer research centres. One of the leading researchers who has just been recruited is Kristian Pietras, one of Sweden’s ‘super talents’ after heading a study that could lead to a vaccine against breast cancer.

For a tumour to grow larger than a pea, new blood vessels must be formed to supply it with oxygen and nutrients. The cancer cells therefore stimulate the body’s own cells to form blood vessels and support structures around the tumour. The more aggressive this growth is, the more deadly the tumour becomes. Kristian Pietras and his research team studied a protein, DII4, that is necessary for the tumour to ‘persuade’ other cells to form new blood vessels.

Kristian Pietras– Our studies gave us the idea of trying to develop a vaccine against the protein, says Kristian Pietras. It sounds so simple when he describes it. When asked, “how did you discover it?” Kristian laughs.

– Of course it is based on previous research, he says, drawing out his answer. But ‘discover’ is a bit strong. I was fascinated by the fact that a tumour can’t grow without interaction with the surrounding cells. How does it work? What happens when the tumour interacts with the other cells in the body? How can the tumour fool the body in this way? That was roughly how it went, he says.

A nice guy
He is humble and meditative during the interview, and careful to emphasise the contributions of others; for example Göran Grosskopf’s generous donation of SEK 10 million that made his recruitment possible and Lund University for daring to choose a young researcher, “instead of an older and safer card”, as he puts it.
He also emphasises the unique environment at Medicon Village with the focus on cancer research in particular and the proximity to the University’s hi-tech platforms and the biotech sector within easy reach.

We talk about the conditions for research and suddenly Kristian’s eyes light up.
– What a great opportunity the investment in Medicon Village will be for research throughout Sweden. Generally it is not a good thing that such a large proportion of the resources are concentrated on Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm. We need greater mobility among researchers – it is in meetings with others that we develop both our own and others’ findings.
– A University can never be good at everything. This investment means that Lund University can specialise to compete with other world leading institutions and really build something unique.

You are an internationally renowned researcher and have worked at the University of California in San Francisco, among others. Today you have a good job at Karolinska Institutet. What made you choose Lund over all this?
– The challenge! It’s a great opportunity to be involved in building something entirely new with the resources provided at Medicon Village. We will have the perfect conditions to exchange experiences across disciplines, something I am really passionate about. I also like the idea that the profits from the centre will be reinvested in research. It’s both kind and clever.

– My second reason for choosing Lund was that I like the University’s daring and desire to invest in a young researcher. Many people talk about it, but few dare to do it when it comes to the crunch, he says.

A couple of years ago you received a lot of attention for your trials of a vaccine against breast cancer. Will you continue to work on this in Lund?
– Yes and no. I have handed over the work on a possible vaccine against protein DII4 to others. I will continue to work on the interaction between cells and understanding how the tumours interact with other cells in the body.
– I have increasingly been drawn to research on breast cancer. It is a large disease group and the outlook for those affected is relatively good. Research in the field has come a long way and I will be looking at whether the cells in the immediate vicinity of the tumour control what type of breast cancer different individuals get, among other things.

Kristian Pietras grew up in Höllviken in Skåne. Yet he never studied at Lund University.
– No, he says, laughing at the insinuation of the question. “I didn’t go to Lund… I chose Uppsala instead because they were the first in Sweden to offer a degree in Biomedicine.

After gaining a PhD from the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in Uppsala, he went to the University of California to do a postdoctoral fellowship under Douglas Hanahan, an international authority within cancer research. In 2005 his longing for Sweden became too great.
– My wife and I had always said we would return to Sweden after a few years. Ten years in Uppsala meant that Stockholm and Karolinska Institutet was the most natural choice.

What is your ultimate dream as a researcher?
– For me, being able to work as a researcher is a dream. The conditions for young researchers in Sweden nowadays are tough, with intense competition for both jobs and grants. I am very grateful to have had these opportunities and my dream is to continue with what I am doing at the moment.
– A Nobel Prize? No, that’s not really something you dream about!

Do you think we will solve the mystery of cancer during your lifetime? Or perhaps even in ten or fifteen years?
– Cancer is really around a hundred different diseases. So we have around a hundred mysteries to solve. However, for every answer we find, new mysteries emerge that must be researched and pondered.
– I am doubtful as to whether we will ever solve the entire mystery of cancer. At any rate, we will not manage it in the next ten or fifteen years. The most important thing is rather that we are constantly on our toes and learning more. This will help more people with cancer to survive longer.

Kristian Pietras will complement the extensive cancer research that is already conducted at Lund University. The research is conducted across a broad spectrum, from epidemiological studies that map cancer cases to new techniques for early diagnosis and personalised treatment. All the research is carried out in very close collaboration with cancer care in Skåne.

In 2010 you were named as one of Sweden’s top talents by the leading business newspaper Veckans Affärer (placed 23 out of 101). What happens after a distinction of this kind, both professionally and personally?
– I don’t know about professionally…, he says, hesitating. That list is not very well known in academic circles. But personally it is great, of course.

Kristian is quiet for a moment.
– Researchers in Sweden receive far too little attention outside academic circles. All the large higher education institutions in Sweden have young researchers who really are world-leading and who do fantastic things – but neither the universities nor the researchers themselves are particularly good at explaining what they do to a wider audience. Imagine if these talented researchers were more visible, what a good example that would set for other young people. Just look at our sports stars. Researchers should be able to inspire young people in the same way and get them to realise what fantastic knowledge and discoveries are waiting for those who want to find them.

– We talked about dreams earlier”, continues Kristian Pietras. That’s probably one of my dreams: to set a good example and get other researchers and young people to see the opportunities available. Because they are there – just seize them!

About Kristian
Name: Kristian Pietras
Age: 38
Interests: Family and research. Being outdoors and breathing fresh air
Dreams of: A continued good life for me and my loved ones
Currently: Headhunted super talent at Lund University and Medicon Village

Text: Joen Garsén
Photo: Ulf Isacson


Related posts: “Donation made ‘super recruitment’ possible

To learn more about Medicon Village: