Professor Travels to Sweden
June 25, 2008
Robert J. Griffin, associate professor of atmospheric chemistry and Earth
sciences, traveled to Sweden this spring. A report of his trip follows.
During May 2008, I had the pleasure of traveling to Göteborg, Sweden,
with partial support from the CIE. I visited the department of chemistry/atmospheric
science at the University of Göteborg and had the honor of acting as
the ‘opponent’ during a doctoral degree disputation.
I arrived in Göteborg on the afternoon of May 7, after an overnight flight
to Frankfurt, Germany, and a connecting flight to Sweden. After transferring
to my hotel and getting settled, I took a walk around the university and surrounding
area, as this was my first trip to Scandinavia and I was very excited to wander
the town. My faculty hosts joined me for a light dinner.
The next day (May 8), I toured the department of chemistry, including the
laboratories focusing specifically on atmospheric science. I also met individually
with each of the faculty members in that research area and had the opportunity
to discuss potential future collaborations (including on a proposal due in
June) and the placement of one of my current doctoral students in Göteborg
as a post-doctoral scholar next year.
Later that afternoon, I gave a research seminar, again highlighting potential
avenues for collaboration. That evening, my faculty hosts and I had dinner
at a traditional Swedish restaurant with other members of the doctoral examination
The disputation occurred on the following morning (May 9). One aspect of my
duties for the occasion was to give an introductory presentation placing the
work of the doctoral candidate into context. The candidate then gave an overview
of her specific results.
My role as opponent then took center stage; over the next hour, it was my
responsibility to examine the candidate’s background knowledge of atmospheric
chemistry, detailed understanding of the theory behind her work (which investigated
organic particle formation in the atmosphere), research approach, data analyses,
The remaining committee members and audience were then allowed to ask questions.
The candidate performed admirably. During a brief, closed-door discussion,
the committee (with input from me as the opponent) passed the candidate unanimously.
A department-wide reception was held with light refreshments; a luncheon for
the candidate, her advisors, the thesis examination committee, and me followed.
The ‘disputationsfest’ hosted by the candidate’s family
was held that evening; the candidate, her advisors, and I were the guests of
honor. Food and drink were plentiful, as were toasts praising the personal
and professional accomplishments of the candidate and the singing of traditional
(and not-so traditional) Swedish songs. Dancing and general merriment followed.
Swedes certainly know how to celebrate a new member of the doctoral community.
The following day (May 10), my last in Sweden, was spent touring Göteborg,
including a walking tour of churches, government buildings, and the shopping
district, the Göteborg Art Museum, and the Göteborg botanical garden.
All in all, the trip was a success and will likely lead to future collaboration;
the trip would not have been possible without the support of CIE. Thank you.