20 Mar 2024

Sara Mazur reflects back on the achievements of WISE

As the former chair of the WISE board and the current executive director of the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, Sara Mazur reflects on the achievements of WISE and contemplates the future challenges that lie ahead.

Sara Mazur received a PhD in plasma physics from KTH Royal Institute of Technology and later became honorary doctor at Luleå University of Technology. She began her career at Ericsson and served as vice president and head of its research division from 2012 to 2019. Until last year, Sara was the chair of the boards of both WASP and WISE programs. Earlier this year she embarked on a new chapter as the executive director of the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation.

During the WISE Dialogue in Gothenburg on March 14-15, Sara Mazur joined us to reflect on WISE’s achievements during her tenure and to offer insights into WISE’s future trajectory. Additionally, she imparted valuable advice for young researchers, especially female students who may regard her as a role model.  

Of all the achievements of the WISE program so far, which one makes you proudest? 

– Excellence comes to mind first, of course! At the WISE Dialogue, we had the opportunity to learn about just a fraction of the remarkable work being accomplished within WISEHowever, what I am most proud of is the level of successful collaboration between the various universities in WISE. The research and technology platforms (RTPs) are good examples. Universities were able to come together to propose RTPs, that in some cases involved two or more universities. This not only prevented redundant efforts but also fostered synergies among them.

What do you think are the biggest challenges for WISE?         

– Materials are pivotal in addressing the pressing challenges of transforming our society into a sustainable one. However, as Magnus Berggren, Director of WISE, pointed out at the Dialogue, the biggest challenge is to speed up research, so these new green technologies and sustainable materials can reach the market and society before 2050. That is why collaborative efforts such as the WISE-WASP projects are fantastic because the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and data analysis can certainly help to accelerate innovations in material science.   

There are unfortunately very few female role models in science and technology, and we would like to take the opportunity to ask you, a successful female leader, to give a word of advice to all the young researchers who are just starting their careers. 

– Well, we saw during the WISE Dialogue, the presentation of Ericka Johnson, Professor of gender and society at Linköping University. Ericka talked about the challenges of increasing diversity and inclusion. The Foundation takes these issues very seriously. For example, until now 261 young researchers of whom 46 per cent are women, have been appointed Wallenberg Academy Fellows. The difficult part of evaluating candidates for the program is to make sure that enough female researchers are nominated by the universities for these positions. After that, there is no problem to achieve parity in the number of elected female and male fellows.  

Consequently, my advice to young female researchers is to make themselves visible. Get credit for your work and feel proud of it. Do not let people overlook your achievements. It is not easy; it requires practice, but it is needed.