Published 3 June 2021 by Malin Alsved

Young Scientists at #LINO70: Malin Alsved – Research on Airborne Viruses

Photo/Credit: Photo/Credit: Courtesy of Malin Alsved

In spring 2020, the research topic of Malin Alsved rose a lot of attraction: she is focussing on the spread of airborne viruses, like corona. So the last year was really intense for her – including a presentation of her work during the Lindau Online Science Days 2020. For our blog she reflects on her career, their research and their plans for the future.

My research topic was not so popular before the corona pandemic, and now I am among experts, at least in Sweden, and have journalists calling every now and then asking questions. A lot has happened in a very short time. In my group, we have been measuring airborne viruses in hospitals since 2017 and we had measurements planned for 2020 as well, so we did more or less continue with those but focussing on SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing Covid-19. But we were stunned to see that other research groups who had not been in this field before did the same and published their work very fast. The publication rate in the field has increased multiple times.

Growing Acceptance of Spreading via Air

If I should say one thing on the topic that has really changed, I would say that it is the acceptance of viruses spreading via air, not only accepted by aerosol scientists, but also by medical doctors and epidemiologists. The old definitions of “airborne spread” vs “droplet spread” are now being challenged and we might soon see a change in the terminology that fits better to the spread of respiratory infections such as those from coronaviruses and influenza. Together with my colleagues, I am giving a course about aerosols and airborne spread of diseases to medical doctors, which I think is a great way to improve both theirs and our work. To learn more about my topic you can watch my presentation during the Lindau Online Science Days 2020 as a part of the Next Gen Science Sessions.

A Busy Period

Malin in the lab at Lund University. Photo/Credit: Courtesy of Malin Alsved

I wrote my PhD thesis during spring 2020, and in the early summer, I started up a new study on exhaled aerosols and droplets from singing, which we published in the late summer, only a week before my PhD defence. It was quite a hectic period, so I took a short break after that and then I applied for a position as a postdoc in my former group. I got the position and started working on a really cool project right away – collecting viruses directly from the exhaled air of infected patients.

Multifaceted Tasks as a Scientist

I found my way into the field when I applied for another PhD topic that was about nanoparticles, but the supervisor who held the interview talked me into this topic: transmission of infectious bioaerosols. Which I am now very happy about. I was not sure of continuing in science, but I think that it is a lot of fun work with the creativity, curiosity and interfering with medical staff and with media, so when I got a chance to stay it felt just right.

Interdisciplinary Collaborations

My plan for #LINO70 is to meet other young scientists and get to know how they cope with working in an interdisciplinary field. This kind of work is a true challenge and it takes a lot of time and endurance to get a collaboration to work. And I am sure that the Nobel Laureates know some interesting stories and helpful advice concerning this question.

About This Series

Within the next weeks you will find more young scientists who are selected for #LINO70 on the blog to learn more about their career, their research and their plans for the future.

Further articles in this series:

Lučka Bibič about Science communication by gamification

Jayeeta Saha about a green pathway to generate hydrogen

Robert Mayer about the prediction of chemical reactions

Daniel Reiche about the work of a theoretical physicist

Anna Blakney about the next generation of RNA vaccines

Ravichandran Rajkumar about Open Science in neuroscience

Lindau Scientists and the Pandemic

How other scientists in the Lindau community are dealing with the coronavirus:

Shift in research focus during the first year of the pandemic

Science from home

Malin Alsved

After her Master in Engineering Nanoscience at Lund University #LINO70 participant Malin Alsved started her PhD project about Aerosol Technology in Lund which she completed in 2020. Malin is continuing her research about understanding and preventing spreading of airborne diseases.