What are the highlights of your career?
I discovered chemistry early on in life and after a master’s degree in chemistry and chemical engineering at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm I was hired as a chemist for a pharmaceutical company.
Later I received a Cancer Research Scholarship which took me to the Karolinska Institute, working with cancer-inducing viruses which I found very fascinating. However, an old professor who had been granted the most important Swedish research grant in nanochemistry convinced me to let go of virology and start PhD Studies at KTH. I was attracted to the name of the research field and by the opportunity to explore new things. My work focused on developing novel methods of mass spectrometry.
Following this, I worked for the Swedish Defence Research Agency developing new detection methods for explosives and highly energetic substances. I also worked with the environmental remnants of war (oil, heavy metals, unexploded ordnances etc). Next, I was hired by another research institute to work on analytical chemistry of environmental research. I then joined WSP eight years ago.
My career has taken a rather curved path but I have picked up a lot of very solid knowledge along the way. Although my skills in gene cloning and solid phase fMOC-peptide synthesis etc. are probably from another era compared to the contemporary molecular biologist, knowledge is an easy burden to carry around!
What do you like the most about your role?
I am driven by learning and evolving in a field with a constantly changing perspective. From my previous experience, I feel very confident that I have the scientific and technical background to cope with most things thrown at me and seldom hesitate to accept new challenges. I am pleased to have leaders that give me freedom in developing new business strategies and services.
What projects are you working on currently?
I am working a lot with contamination mapping of PFAS and the strategies of PFAS remediation in soil and water. I am also currently trying to develop services within the framework of international chemicals legislation compliance.
What are the main trends currently impacting your work?
I identified a main theme several years ago: the chemical society. Every human being on this planet is now surrounded by manmade chemicals, from the moment they are conceived to the end of their life. No generation before us has lived their entire life in this chemical cocktail. Of course, most of these chemicals will have an impact on the different biological processes. Therefore, the life cycle of a chemical - from raw material to product to waste - needs to be accompanied by a lot of data. This enables safe handling, precautionary measures, exposure-based waiving, analytical techniques for monitoring, and remediation methods when concentrations in the environment, in our houses or in our workplaces raise health concerns. The key trend is that the “new” contaminants are mostly polar, extremely persistent and biologically active at much lower toxicological thresholds than before.
How are client requirements evolving? Will continue to evolve in the future?
As environmental concerns become more complex, clients may have less detailed knowledge and insight into their key strategic environmental problems. For instance, complying with all legislations will soon become even more complex, especially with regards to chemicals and adjacent product legislation (pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, biocides, conflict minerals etc.). Key clients will need to rely on key consultants like WSP!
What project or event are you looking forward to in 2018?
All projects have their charm and novelty, it’s unfair to pick one! But in several places in Sweden, we have finalized extensive contamination mapping of PFAS and will now proceed to the remediation phase, which I’m very interested in.