Professor's portrait: Jonas Sjöstrand
Jonas Sjöstrand, Professor of Mathematics. School of Education, Culture and Communication , Division of Mathematics and Physics.
Please tell us briefly about your academic career – what decisions have brought you to where you are today?
For as long as I can remember, I've been interested in mathematics, physics, music, and programming! After my Degree of Master of Science in Engineering Physics from the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in 2003, I realised that I was mostly passionate about mathematics, so I stayed put and took my doctorate in combinatorics.
During this time, I was also active as a composer and put on several operas, including collaborating with the chamber music education programme at MDU (or MDH as it was called then). After publicly defending my doctoral thesis in 2007, I conducted research for a few years at the Centre for Cultural Evolution, an interdisciplinary research group at Stockholm University, and then I returned to KTH in 2010 and developed my current research interest, probabilistic combinatorics.
In 2017, I moved into the private sector and started working as an algorithm developer at a company called Tobii, and quite soon I realised that I wanted to keep a foot in the private sector and the other in academia. I got the chance to do research part-time for a year in Uppsala and now enjoy my position as a Mathematics Professor at MDU while still working part-time at Tobii.
In what area do you conduct research?
My area is probabilistic combinatorics. It is related to the properties of random finite structures. One example that is close to my ongoing research project is the boarding of aircraft: How much time could we save if passengers stood in the right order at the gate instead of in random order? For me, the reason that this research area is attractive is that it contains both beautiful and concrete mathematics. The research questions can often be formulated so concretely that they can be understood without deeper knowledge, but the analysis can require both powerful tools and new ideas.
How would you describe your research environment at MDU?
It's small but great! We are a mixture of applied researchers in various areas in mathematics.
What is the driving force in your research?
Mainly curiosity, but also the pleasure of solving problems and discovering new contexts, particularly if this is done together with other researchers.
Which research domains are particularly important for you?
In addition to my main field of study, probabilistic combinatorics, I am interested in enumerative and algebraic combinatorics, game theory, machine learning and complexity theory.
How do you feel about becoming a Professor given that MDU has recently become an official University?
It is of course a great time to work here as the research organisation expands. As a Professor, I hope to be able to get more resources to develop my research team, for example by hiring more doctoral students.
What's the best part about conducting research at MDU?
MDU, particularly the School and department I work in, has a well-functioning management and organisation and there is a pleasant atmosphere among the employees.