“Stockholm University has a reputation for world class research in chemistry. I believe the university and Sweden in general are in a unique position to become world leaders in redesigning chemicals in order to make them sustainable and produced from renewable sources.”

These are the words of Professor Paul Anastas, Director of the Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering at Yale University. Paul Anastas is generally regarded as the Father of Green Chemistry; in the 1990s, he formulated guiding principles on how to evaluate and minimize the environmental impact of chemical processes.

For decades Paul Anastas was a high ranking official within the US federal environmental agency, EPA, and served as an advisor to several presidents, before Donald Trump.     

“There is much talk about America first, I see it more as Earth first.”

Holder of the King Carl XVI Gustaf Professorship

During 2019 and 2020, Paul Anastas will be the holder of the King Carl XVI Gustaf Professorship in Environmental Science, hosted by the Department of Materials and Environmental Chemistry.

“I have already had very inspiring conversations with students and fellow researchers and I am looking forward developing those contacts further during my visits.”

During his tenure, starting this fall, he will – in addition to initiating new research networks – also reach out to decision-makers in industry and politics.

“We need basic research, but it is equally important that we also promote new sustainable discoveries and innovations in society.”

Holder of Tage Erlander visiting professorship

Professor Robin Rogers.Photo: Alec Tremaine Photography

Another strong advocate of using green methods in chemical synthesis is Robin D. Rogers, Professor at the University of Alabama. Besides having had an influential role in the expansion of interest and research in so called ionic liquid systems, he is also a serial entrepreneur and founder of several companies. In 2019, Robin D. Rogers is the holder of the Tage Erlander visiting professorship, also hosted by the Department of Materials and Environmental Chemistry.

“One thing which attracted me to come to Stockholm University was your President’s initiative of signing up to UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and her vow to make the university carbon neutral to 2040. This makes the university a forerunner in the world. And our joint research can actually support these goals and contribute towards achieving them,” says Robin D. Rogers.

Research on ionic liquids at the university

Professor Anja-Verena Mudring Photo: Niklas Björling

The fact that the Department of Materials and Environmental Chemistry in 2019 and 2020 hosts two guest professors is in part thanks to the permanent professor at the department, Anja-Verena Mudring, herself a distinguished scientist in the field of green chemistry. Since joining Stockholm University in 2016, Anja Mudring has developed and established research on ionic liquids at the university. She emphasizes that both Paul Anastas and Robin D. Rogers were appointed through open competition.

“They were nominated in open calls by the university but eventually appointed on their own merits by external scientific committees,” says Anja-Verena Mudring.

To her, the tenures are an acknowledgement of the first-class research environment at Stockholm university.  

“It’s a unique opportunity for the Faculty of Science as well as for the university as a whole to have two world-renowned chemists here at the same time,” says Anja-Verena Mudring.

Chance to boost ongoing research collaborations

Hosting Paul Anastas and Robin D. Rogers also offers the chance to boost ongoing research collaborations between the three. For example, Robin D. Rogers works with how to produce plastic-free materials from renewable raw materials, e.g. forest waste. One of Anja-Verena Mudring’s research projects aims at finding new energy efficient light sources.

“Together we will try to develop new sustainable plastic-free materials which can also support and hold those lights,” says Robin D. Rogers.

"Chemistry can make a change"

Chemists and chemistry are sometimes regarded as the cause of environmental problems. Not surprisingly, Anja-Verena Mudring sees things differently. She refers to Greta Thunberg, the Swedish environmental activist, who calls on the world to listen to scientists for solutions.

“The work of Robin D. Rogers and Paul Anastas show that chemistry can make a change. It can be used as a tool to produce chemicals with a smaller environmental footprint in order to increase sustainability,” says Anja-Verena Mudring.

Text: Henrik Lundström

This article appears in its original form here: https://www.su.se/english/research/profile-areas/materials-chemistry/prominent-us-chemists-guest-professors-at-stockholm-university-1.477560