Kategoriarkiv: Utbildning

”I want to find the answers that aren’t on Google”

Article in Swedish abotu Hiranya Peiris. We have translated the first part of it. Original you can find here


”I want to find the answers that aren’t on Google”
Astrophysicist Hiranya Peiris hunts for the answers to how everything began and what is actually hidden behind the dark matter of the universe.

Text: Elin Liljero Eriksson – December 6, 2022
Saltsjöbaden Observatory. The roof rotates in the domed building.

Hiranya Peiris squints at a meter-sized gap that faces the sky and puts his hand on a nearly hundred-year-old telescope, Northern Europe’s largest.

  • When these instruments were built, we did not know that there were other galaxies around us, she says. It is humbling to be connected to history and reminded of how astronomy, one of the oldest fields of science, is constantly evolving and making new discoveries.

She is described as a cosmological superstar, awarded a number of international prizes and a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. As a professor of astrophysics and cosmoparticle physics, since 2016 Hiranya Peiris has divided his time between University College London and the internationally leading center for cosmology, the Oskar Klein Center at Stockholm University. Now she leads one of the decade’s most extensive international research projects in cosmology to find out what is hidden behind the dark matter in the universe.
But it’s mainly another mystery Hiranya Peiris couldn’t stop thinking about: the beginning of everything.

  • How was the universe actually born? It’s a pretty bold question to tackle, and one I’ve researched for years. At some point it has started, there is a lot of evidence for that. The earliest light we have been able to trace is from 380,000 years after the big bang, but what happened before that? How could the universe be born by itself? We are not entirely sure of that.

Why care about the universe’s past?

  • One of the reasons why we got out of the cave and into civilization is because we are curious about how the world works. Researching the past is a continuation of that research – trying to understand our world, what makes it go round and why we are here. Working at the cutting edge of a field and trying to find something that can’t be googled… It’s as challenging as it is satisfying.
    The success story of Hiranya Peiris begins under the black night sky of Sri Lanka, where the stars shone brightly. She was seven years old.
  • I got a telescope from dad. Every night I went outside to look at the moon, Mars, Jupiter and its moons. It was so fascinating. I was captured by the idea that there is so much we don’t have answers to.

She devoured science fiction books and in her teens joined an astronomy club for young amateurs. But the idea of getting an education in his great interest lingered.

  • I don’t come from a background where people became professors, my parents are both civil engineers. I didn’t even know this was something you could do. But I loved maths and luckily no teacher told me I couldn’t do it, which unfortunately too many girls are told otherwise.

The civil war in Sri Lanka made Hiranya Peiris move to London with his family at the age of 16. Here she studied computer science at Cambridge, until she heard that NASA was looking for summer interns. The summer at JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) in California, where they build and control satellites and space probes for NASA, changed everything.

  • I thought that the people who worked there had their dream job. They worked in teams and got to see things no one else had seen. After that summer there was no turning back for me, it was obvious to change course.

Hiranya Peiris has worked on some of the largest research projects in astronomy. She has been part of the teams behind both Planck and the NASA project WMAP, two of cosmology’s most important space telescopes, both of which mapped the cosmic background radiation. As part of WMAP – The Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe – she managed to get answers to a long-standing puzzle: the exact age of the universe.

  • By studying the earliest light we can see, we were able to calculate that the universe is 13.8 billion years old.

Networks produce cheap respirators


Researchers at Malmö University are part of an international network that produces drawings to be able to manufacture cheap respirators. The equipment will now be inspected and the hope is that it will be able to be used within two years.

A group of volunteers in various specialist areas, including dentists, doctors and engineers, have formed the LibreLabs platform. Covid-19 has shown the need to be able to help patients through the development of new technology. The purpose of the collaboration is to make medical technology accessible to all. The drawings can be downloaded for free.

  • The pandemic has shown that the lack of respirators is a problem in many parts of the world, for example in my home country Sri Lanka, says Manjula Herath, doctoral student at the Faculty of Dentistry.

Lives up to medical standard
Respirators help patients with breathing. The aim is to make a sustainable and affordable solution that is made available for production in low- and middle-income countries, where there is a significant shortage of respirators.

  • It’s not a field respirator. It will be a respirator that lives up to the medical technical European standard and that works for long-term use. We are not there yet, but that is our goal, says Manjula Herath.

Together with colleague Lisa Papia, senior lecturer and dental technician, he has developed a design for 3D prints of some of the key components found in a respirator. Researchers at Trinity College Dublin have contributed computer simulations. In total, about 15 researchers are included in the project.

Can be ready within two years

  • We produce the drawings and create files. Based on them, you should be able to make respirators yourself, says Lisa Papia.

A first prototype will undergo a quality assessment in London by an independent party to see if the equipment works as intended. Manjula Herath and Lisa Papia believe that this will be ready within six months. Changes will probably need to be made, and they consider it realistic that an approved respirator can be in place within two years.

  • To be able to get there, we need financing, which is something we work with, says Manjula Herath.

”A commercially manufactured respirator today costs around 10,000 dollars and we believe that ours can be manufactured for around a tenth of that cost,” he says.

Start-up community på Sri Lanka

Sri Lankas startup community växer stadigt och detta tack vare stöd från både privata sektorn, men även universitetsvärlden. Universitetet i Moratuwa är en de främsta akademiska institutionerna på Sri Lanka och utexaminerar många studenter varje år, som snabbt får arbete i IT-företagen.

”Organised by the Entrepreneurship Society of University of Moratuwa together with the University Business Linkage Cell, Mora Ventures is a program aimed at budding entrepreneurs completing their higher education at Sri Lankan Universities. The initiative is currently pursuing its ambitious goal of discovering Sri Lanka’s first USD 1 Billion Startup Unicorn by the year 2027. ”