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Martin Lawoko – new professor in wood chemistry

Martin Lawoko.
Martin Lawoko. Foto: Jon Lindhe, KTH
Published May 03, 2021

At the turn of the millennium, Martin Lawoko began his doctoral studies at KTH. Now, 21 years later, he has been appointed professor of wood chemistry. Martin's research group will invest heavily in basic research on bio-based materials. He also wants to update the education with a focus on sustainability goals and strengthen universities in countries that lack resources.

How does it feel to become a professor?

“I have not had time to digest it properly yet, but it feels good!”

Martin Lawoko has already started his own research group and the idea is for it to grow. The group’s focus is on the broad perspective and how the research conducted at the Department of Fiber and Polymer Technology can contribute to achieving the UN's climate goals.

“My research is about fractionating molecules from biomass in order to then be able to make bio-based materials. Here I want to focus on basic research on the properties of the materials that are synthesized, and how they relate to the properties of the molecules. Then there are many professors on the materials side here at KTH who I collaborate with. It is through these collaborations that we will address and achieve the sustainability goals,” says Martin Lawoko.

Updating education

He also emphasizes that research must be anchored into education and that the educational material should be updated to reflect the sustainability goals; so that the education reflects today's problems and challenges and the students gain deeper insights into the situation.

“A lot is happening now and it requires that the courses are constantly updated. It is not easy, but you have to invest in it. It is a challenge that I look forward to working with.”

Martin is responsible for the master's course called the Chemistry of Biorefining, which he had just updated when the pandemic struck last spring.

“We were about to launch the course and I was looking forward to meeting the students, then came the Corona pandemic which resulted to online teaching. But I believe that blended learning is the future – that you have instruction both on site and online. I think it is good to alternate between learning environments. It also allows you to expand your outreach to everyone who cannot be at the location.

Cooperation with Uganda and the United States

In fact, Martin Lawoko is already thinking globally. He has been granted a three months' sabbatical to go to a university in Uganda and initiate future collaboration on both research and education.

“One of my goals is to improve education and research in developing countries. I think it is important to achieve the climate goals. That you expand your outreach to people and educate on how to handle the issue. Then it is important to help countries that lack resources.”

Martin Lawoko is also project manager in a new EU and Marie Skłodowska Curie Actions (MSCA) funded project where Postdoc Elena Subbotina will work with sustainable materials. It will be a collaboration with the University of Yale in the USA.

“We will work with Professor Paul Anastas, who is a world leader in green chemistry. Here focus will be put on designing environmentally friendly syntheses,” Martin concludes.

Text: Jon Lindhe

Contact Martin Lawoko