Glad sommar – och gör skillnad i världen!

– Publicerad den 7 juni 2018

Så är tiden inne att önska oss alla vid LTH en riktigt skön sommar. Jag vill passa på att önska lycka till åt alla er som nu lämnar LTH, efter fullföljd utbildning eller av andra anledningar. Jag hoppas att ni härifrån tar med er inte bara bildning och goda minnen, utan också vetskapen om att ni kan göra skillnad. Världen står inför stora utmaningar och vi behöver alla bidra.

Vill dela de tankar jag försökte förmedla i det tal som jag höll under LTH:s Examenshögtid den 30 maj i Universitetshusets aula.

Ha en riktigt skön sommar!

Viktor Öwall
Rektor LTH


Rektors tal vid  LTH:s Examenshögtid den 30 maj

Äntligen stod prästen i predikstolen.
Församlingens huvuden lyftes.
Så, där var han ändå!

This is one of the most famous opening lines in Swedish literature, the one of Gösta Berlings saga by Selma Lagerlöf, the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize in literature and to be elected into the Swedish Academy.

A paraphrase in English could read:

“Finally, the Dean stood on the podium.
The assembly rose their heads.
So, there he was after all!”

If my modesty hadn’t made me reluctant I could have continued:

“The Dean was young, tall, fit, and radiantly beautiful!”

No other comparisons to Gösta Berling, for you who happen to know the story.

Why do I start like this?
The reason is not only that I’ve always wanted to start a speech like this. These days, there is a special reason.
Selma Lagerlöf was as I said the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize in 1909. It was against the will of the then powerful Permanent Secretary of the Academy, Carl David af Wirsén.
After he passed away in 1914, she could be elected into the academy.

Another reason for this opening is that a short while ago in an academic discussion a professor in humanities, trying to prove a point (and obviously to be funny), said: “It's like discussing equality with engineers!”
My response was: “Given the current affairs in the Swedish Academy, I don’t think the humanities have too much to boast about.”
A low hanging fruit I must admit, but the laughs were on my side!

During the fall of last year, the #metoo campaign became viral. This has put the spotlight on something we always knew was there, but maybe we had not realized to which extent.
Maybe we choose not to see? Maybe I choose not to see!
But this is nothing new. It was probably even worse before, in the days of Selma Lagerlöf! And it was not until 1944 that another woman was elected into the academy, Elin Wägner.

But what is then the status at LTH? Are we free from sin?
Of course not — we are part of society, we reflect society, so these issues exist among us as well.
But we should NOT and do NOT accept it.
We shall treat EVERYONE with respect in all situations, no matter what.
In relations between teachers and students, and in relations between students. Let’s work on it together!

Many of you will have leading roles in your workplace and in society.
Therefore, you have an extra responsibility. TAKE IT!

SO: Dear Graduates, (families, friends, students, colleagues),
The University has three central tasks that guide us: Education, Research, and Collaboration with society. And the greatest of these three is Education.
As my colleague Rector of Twente University in the Netherlands stated:
“A university without research is a bad university.
A university without students is no university!”

This becomes especially obvious on a day like this: your graduation ceremony. You are, sorry for using the somewhat disrespectful epithet, our finest product!

Therefore, I feel privileged and honoured to stand in front of you on this day of your graduation ceremony. It is with great pleasure we release another batch of students into “the real world” (a world I apparently never entered).

We are confident that you all will make great contributions to society.

Though, it is a staggering thought that you will have a working career stretching to 2065 and beyond!

Whatever your choice is, I’m confident that you will do fine and that we will be proud of you. You who are representing the core of the university and our future — our students!

However, with this also comes responsibilities!

At the university, you have been taught to honour facts, figures, and logic reasoning. But also to question. Don’t believe something just because a professor says so!
Have an open and critical mindset.
Do NOT trust what you are told right away!
Always question and always use your brains!
This is especially true in these days of alternative facts, fake news, and the hard-to-believe information flow we get through social media and dedicated news channels.

We see it with a tweeting US President and populism spreading throughout Europe, with Brexit, Poland, and Hungary being some examples but we also see it here in Sweden.

We have the responsibility to honour real facts!

Let us take it!

I’m sure your competencies will be needed in the future to an even greater extent than today. Technology, architecture and design is not the problem in the challenges facing society today: climate change, energy, water, waste, famine, communication, city planning, immigration…
It is an integrated part of the solution!
You are needed and wanted!
I hear companies constantly screaming for you.

Sweden has a long tradition in the field of innovation and some we come in contact with frequently are:

• The Johansson wrench or adjustable spanner, in Sweden known as “skiftnyckel” (Johan Petter Johansson, a Swedish Thomas Alva Edison).

• TetraPak from Lund.

Other well-known inventions from Lund are:

• The artificial kidney.

• Diagnostic ultrasound.

• Bluetooth. One of the inventors of Bluetooth in the 90s was Sven Mattisson- Sven  was the supervisor for my Master Thesis project in the late 80´s and some 15-20 years later I was the supervisor of his son Nils, now running a start-up MINUT focused on home security. In the same area of wireless communication , LTH holds the world record for 5G data rates. Joao Vieira who gets a stipend for best PhD thesis today is part of that effort!

There are also innovations directly coming from student projects:

• Hövding by Anna Haupt and Terese Alstin.

• The “space shower” from Mehrdad Mahdjoubi at Orbital Systems. I emailed with Mehrdad yesterday. Mehrdad needs engineers.

YOU can make a difference!

However, inventions can often be a double-edged sword!
How responsible are we regarding how our findings are used?
How should we access the dangers of new technologies?
Things are not just black or white!

Today we see the huge discoveries and fantastic inventions being made in Nanotechnology: in electronics, LEDs and solar cells. But there is a new big topic popping up: nano-safety! But is it really new?
We saw the huge health hazards of asbestos, which can be seen as a nano-material. Asbestos  has some fantastic properties, especially for heat insulation, but are also a threat to our health. It is a paradox that it was actually used in cigarette filters in the early 50’s!

Sweden now has a crisis in finding housing for a lot of different groups; students, young couples, immigrants, etc., etc.
Let us not make the same mistakes as in the 60s and 70s, as with the “millionprogrammen”.
You architects and urban planners have a huge role to play!
Let us love your cities as much as we love Paris, New York, Rome … or whatever your favourite is!

In a short while, I will be handing you the diplomas, which feels fantastic. To stand here and hand out the diplomas, to sign over a thousand examination diplomas each year. Why is this fantastic?
Because as I said previously,  I believe the universities’ main contribution to society is the students. I hope you go out and can follow the Lund University vision: “to understand, explain and improve our world and human conditions.”

You are the future!

You’ve now completed your studies and I’m sure it has been a lot of hard work, stress, and anxiety.
However, now you will enter another phase of your life.

I’m sure that for many of you, the correlation between your thoughts and plans today, and where you finally will end up will be rather low.
How many of you had a clear sense of what you wanted to do 4-5 years ago?

Don’t see that as a problem, see it as an opportunity!
How could I as a young student in the early 80s imagine that I would stand here several decades later handing out your diplomas?
Life takes unexpected twists and turns. Grab the opportunities when they come. You’ve got a great education from LTH that I believe will serve you good. It is a great foundation!

When you see an opportunity, a problem waiting to be solved, ask yourself:
If not I, who?
If not now, when?

I truly hope you will look back at your student time with good memories and that you will act as good ambassadors for your Alma Mater.

Good Luck and go out and change the world for the better!