Bertil Andersson has always been fond of speed like the fast biochemical reactions occurring in nerves that capitvated him while he was an undergraduate. It was until he met his supervisor who geared his attention towards photosynthesis reactions – a field of growing interest in the mid – 1970s.
Andersson went to Umea University in northern Sweden for his graduate degree in biochemistry and found interest in plant molecular biology. As a postdoc at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, he helped correcting the textbook descriptions of chlorophyll-protein complexes and their role in energy conversion.
He returned to Sweden as an associate professor in biochemistry at Lund University before moving on to become chair of Stockholm University’s biochemistry department at the age of 37. With a talent in administration, he was promoted to dean, which led to committee chair positions on the Swedish Biochemical Society and the Nobel Committee for Chemistry.
After becoming frustrated with both research and administrative duties, Andersson took the post of chief executive at the European Science Foundation to find a research field that could outdone the United States, Japan and China. He’s most proud of a grant programme that wins Europe’s finest early-career scientists and also designed a common procedure for the peer review of grant applications.
Adding to his milestone, Andersson will become the first official to run a major university in Singapore, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) which has 25,000 students in April.
“We rightly believed that strong scientists, such as Andersson, would be attracted to a system that has ready funding and few boundaries to create research programmes,” says Haresh Shah, Stanford University professor.
Andersson says he wants to take advantage of how quickly the Singaporean government moves from idea to implementation and he’s excited about connecting his European and US colleagues with Singapore’s opportunities and many science resources.