It is important that the Lise Meitner professors work in LTH’s environments

Ultimately, it is about creating an open and creative environment that attracts students and researchers, and where everyone can realise their potential. I have taken part in events which highlight the fact that currently more women than men leave academia after earning a PhD – and that it is thus harder for LTH to recruit women as lecturers and professors – writes LTH’s Dean Annika Olsson concerning a professorship for gender equality, diversity and research brilliance.

– Published 2 December 2021

A professorship that is part of LTH’s work for gender equality and diversity, and which is to ensure brilliance within academia, is named after Lise Meitner, who was not given a shared Nobel Prize in Chemistry along with Otto Hahn in 1944.

Last week I had the pleasure of listening to three of LTH’s Lise Meitner professors at a seminar where they talked about their research and inspired me and other researchers, students and staff from LTH.

The day after the seminar I also had the pleasure of joining four of them on a panel to talk about our careers in academia at the Lise Meitner pub session arranged by and for LTH’s students.

Both these events highlighted in many ways how important role models are, but also how important diversity is at our faculty, where different perspectives can interact and be made visible.

What is the Lise Meitner professorship at LTH? Well, it is an initiative that goes back to 1999 and one example of the work being conducted to enable LTH to attract the best talents and be a place for gender equality and diversity. Through the guest professorship, leading researchers are invited to devote a period of time to conducting research and teaching at the faculty.

During the events, the professors talked about their research and their experiences and lessons learned as researchers in academia. Their experiences from different parts of the world and from different parts of the research community impressed me greatly.

With humility and humour, they shared their experiences and advice on being stubborn, being yourself, standing up for your expertise and finding your place. Wise and important!

Many aspects were brought up in the panel discussions, for example that a more even gender balance in academia depends to a great extent on attractive forms of employment and competent mentors, and that, among other things, we can make it more attractive to return to LTH as a member of the teaching staff after time spent doing enriching work and gaining experience in industry.

Who was Lise Meitner? Some people would claim that she is the most “potential” Nobel Prize winner of all time, and the most forgotten and hidden, among those who would have probably been worthy recipients of the prize.

Lise Meitner was a physicist who in 1938 succeeded in explaining the nuclear fission process, and she was a pioneer in a male-dominated field when she began her research in the 1910s. Lise Meitner was at Lund University for a time during the war years when she was forced to leave Austria.

After a very rewarding collaboration with the German chemist Otto Hahn, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1944 (!) – which she deserved at least to share.

In view of this, at LTH we want to back professors of the underrepresented gender and recruit talented visiting professors in Lise Meitner’s name.

As dean, I feel proud to be able to recruit leading, external researchers to our faculty, so that we can contribute to diversity and strengthen our gender equality. Ultimately, it is about us wanting to create an open and creative environment that attracts both students and researchers – where everyone can make the most of their potential. 

The professorship

The Lise Meitner professorship focuses on recruiting external professors of the underrepresented gender to LTH. Employment as a visiting or adjunct professor is part-time (usually 20 per cent of full-time working hours) and is for a three-year period. Two to three professors are recruited every year. The initiative has played a part in affecting the proportion of women among LTH’s professors, which is currently 24 per cent. 

The 2021 Lise Meitner professors

  • Petra Andersson | Adjunct professor, Building and Environmental Technology, LTH
  • Margret Bauer | Professor, Automatic Control, LTH
  • Evelyn Buckwar | Professor, Centre for Mathematical Sciences, LTH.
  • Sandi Hilal | Adjunct professor, Architecture and Built Environment, LTH
  • Hilde Johnsen-Venvik | Professor, Chemical Engineering, LTH
  • Susanne Norgren | Adjunct professor, Mechanical Engineering, LTH
  • Sofia Thorsson | Professor, Architecture and Built Environment, LTH