12 March 2020

As business development specialist for the Finnish gas company Gasum, Sofie Lärkhammar has had an exciting – and important – start to her professional life. From her education at LiU and the Master’s programme
Energy - Environment - Management she has some unforgettable memories.

Sofie Lärkhammar.
Her interest in the environment and the natural worldwas awakened in her teenage years. “Now I’ve read and heard so much that Icannot disengage. My deep commitment is part of me. But at the same time, it’simportant to keep it as such a level that I can maintain it.” Magnus Johansson

Spreading biogas

Setting up this interview with Sofie Lärkhammar wasn’t easy: it took several days to catch up with her. She’s out travelling and meeting farmers, administrators in municipalities, and other actors to discuss a planned production facility for liquid biogas. If the plans become reality, something that Sofie believes has good chances, the new facility will be one of Gasum’s largest.

This is exactly what the role of business development specialist involves: surveying the market for future biogas facilities operated by the Finnish gas company, and working as project manager until the final decision to invest has been taken.

"Of course, sometimes I get despondent and frustrated about climate change and the impact humans have on the environment. But then I usually ask myself if I am capable of just not casring and walking away. Of course I can´t."
Photo credit Magnus Johansson

Sofie will reach her second birthday in the company soon.

“Well…what do you think? Should I bring a birthday cake to work?” she asks when we meet in a small meeting room at the Gasum offices, just the other side of the Linköping railway station.

“It’s great to have this job so early in my career. Getting involved and helping to develop a biobased circular economy is both exciting and meaningful. There’s a lot going on, and biogas is an important part of the green conversion to sustainable sources of fuel.”

Chose LiU with the heart

After graduating in 2017 with a Master’s degree in Energy - Environment - Management (EMM), Sofie worked at a cleantech company, Climeon, in Kista, before returning to Linköping and the job at Gasum. The EMM programme at LiU was not an obvious choice for her, and came about by something of a lucky chance. Sofie wanted to study in the general area of environmental science and sustainability, and looked at several programmes at other universities.

But she thought that most of them concentrated rather too much on technical aspects. She was looking for a programme that combined technology and mathematics with more socially oriented subjects, such as management.

“I remember how I was standing in the kitchen at home, leafing through the education catalogue from LiU. Suddenly I saw the entry about the Energy, Environment, Management... I was immediately hooked – this was the programme for me.

“I chose to follow my heart. And then I was lucky that the question of sustainability became increasingly relevant in society during the period I studied.”

Still remembers the task

The five years spent at Campus Valla also included work with the student union and helping to arrange Climate Week. Sofie was also active in the student revue “Holgerspexet” (“an amazing experience where I made some really super friends”), and spent a year as an exchange student at Edinburgh University. It was here she became a fixture at a music pub, and often sang and played together with other guests.

One idea from the EMM programme has meant a great deal to her in her profession: systems thinking. The complete education is permeated by a broad perspective that emphasises the links between different factors and how they affect each other: investment is not simply about economy, but also about the environment, and the environment is not simply about climate change, but also about acidification... for example.

"Shy, but talkative." This is how Sofie Lärkhammar describes her younger self. As an adult she has conquered her shyness and performed both in student revues and at music pubs in Scotland. Photo credit: Magnus Johansson

One exercise remains particularly vividly in her memories.

“It was both fun and frustrating. The task was to determine what was most eco-friendly: a metal ship, which is heavy and has a high fuel consumption, but can be recycled, or a plastic ship that is light with a low fuel consumption, but cannot be recycled. It was definitely awkward. The answer was ‘Well, it depends’, based on which factors are considered to be most important.”

“I’m never going to be able to let go of thinking in terms of complete systems. It’s something that has become part of me, and I’m grateful for that.”

Hope and despair

In an interview published on liu.se in 2014, Sofie Lärkhammar, at the time a second-year student on the EMM programme, described how she was torn between hope and despair over the huge environmental challenges we are facing, not least climate change. She pointed on the one hand to a deep commitment and many concrete changes, while she also saw massive inertia and the risk that our actions are, in any case, insufficient.

She feels the same today. Doomsday prophecies in the media may be able to arouse people who do not see how serious the situation is, but she herself prefers to look to the future and focus on solutions. Technology is the solution to many things, but not everything.

“I’m convinced that we must also change our behaviour and change things at the societal level and in the economic system. It’s difficult, but not impossible. Just think about how the car changed the way people travel, or how the internet changed the way we obtain information. And remember how rapidly these changes took place.”

Translated by George Farrants


Environmental Technology and Management celebrates 40 years

 Head of Division Olof Hjelm has good reasons to feel happy. The activity at Environmental Technology and Management has grown rapidly for many years. Photo credit: Mikael Sönne

The most important programmes at the Division for Environmental Technology and Management are the Master’s programme Energy - Environment - Management (EMM), the Master’s programme Design and Product Development (DPU) and the Master’s programme Sustainability, Management and Engineering (SUS). The division is celebrating 40 years in 2020.

It all started in 1980 when the founder of the division took over an existing course in environmental technology. It wasn’t a particularly popular course, but students appeared to be interested and its popularity grew in the following years. A second course was added after a year or so – this one in environmental science – which was offered as an elective in several Master’s programmes in engineering.

The subject appointed its first professor at the end of the 1990s. The first licentiate thesis was defended in 1996 and the first doctoral thesis in 2002. As focus on environmental issues increased as the new millennium started, activities at LiU continued to grow, which continued unabated after 2010, when the courses described above were well established.

The division today has 45 co-workers and a budget of around SEK 45 million. It is characterised by strong ties to the region, active collaboration, and research with a practical focus. Its motto: “We turn environmental challenges into opportunities”.

The 40th anniversary will be celebrated on 19 March with lectures, debates and a banquet in the evening. - POSTPONED DUE TO THE CORONA VIRUS. MORE INORMATION TO COME

Latest news from LiU

Nerve damage from cancer treatment can be predicted

Many women treated for breast cancer using taxanes, a type of cytostatic drug, often experience side effects in the nervous system. Researchers at LiU have developed a tool that can predict the risk level for each individual.

Woman in safety helmet.

Her mission is difficult – but fun and achievable

We are in the midst of a tough transition towards more sustainable development. This requires innovation and knowledge, says Marie Trogstam, a LiU alumna who is now head of sustainability and infrastructure at the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise.

Closeup of small pieces of liver in a petri dish.

A liver biopsy may predict spread of pancreatic cancer

Microscopic changes in the liver can be used to predict spread of pancreatic cancer. The discovery may provide new ways of predicting the course of the disease and preventing pancreatic cancer from spreading to other organs.