Studying ‘unmanly’: young Swedes

A new Swedish study shows that young male high school students, enrolled in the science programme, often downplay their schoolwork in order to culture the social aspect of their future career through making friends and networking.

Studying 'unmanly':  young Swedes

“The young male science students think they need other resources than what they will be graded on in school to be able to compete on the labour market – and that includes culturing an extensive social circle,” said Ann-Sofie Nyström, doctor of sociology, at Stockholm University, to daily Dagens Nyheter (DN).

Many are hoping to take up high powered employment as lawyers, doctors and engineers, but they are counting on getting into these programmes through something other than high grades, namely the Swedish Scholastic Aptitude Test (Högskoleprovet).

Failing to get into the Swedish programmes that way, however, many plan to study abroad.

The study shows that there is a very complex interplay between the teacher and the male and female students in the classroom, based on the way “you are supposed to be” if you are a girl or a boy.

It is okay for girls to be ambitious and take their schoolwork seriously, whereas for the boys, it is important to be seen as smart, well-read and knowledgeable, but with minimal effort seemingly required.

According to Nyström there was also a discrepancy between how the boys described their studying in a one-to-one conversation compared to in a group setting.

“I am pretty sure that they played down their studies. Because it is important to know a lot, be clever and well-informed. That gives high status in the group, but it has to seem effortless,” she said to DN.

According to the study, the boys see themselves as high achievers but rate the social aspects–being popular, getting invited to parties, and winning arguments–as the key to getting top jobs.

Those students that focus on their studies are seen as less intelligent and unlikely to get hired.

The girls that were interviewed found the boys’ attitude naïve. They also see themselves as high achievers but believe that studying is what is important to get anywhere in science.

TT/Rebecca Martin

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Nobel Prize in Chemistry awarded for ‘ingenious tool for building molecules’

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm, responsible for awarding the Nobel Physics and Chemistry Prizes, has announced the winners of the 2021 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Peter Somfai, Member of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry, announces the winners for the 2021 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Peter Somfai, Member of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry, announces the 2021 winners. Photo: Claudio Bresciani

The prize this year has been awarded to Germany’s Benjamin List and David MacMillan from Scotland, based in the US.

The Nobel Committee stated that the duo were awarded the prize “for their development of a precise new tool for molecular construction: organocatalysis”. The committee further explained that this tool “has had a great impact on pharmaceutical research, and has made chemistry greener”.

Their tool, which they developed independently of each other in 2000, can be used to control and accelerate chemical reactions, exerting a big impact on drugs research. Prior to their work, scientists believed there were only two types of catalysts — metals and enzymes.

The new technique, which relies on small organic molecules and which is called “asymmetric organocatalysis” is widely used in pharmaceuticals, allowing drug makers to streamline the production of medicines for depression and respiratory infections, among others. Organocatalysts allow several steps in a production process to be performed in an unbroken sequence, considerably reducing waste in chemical manufacturing, the Nobel committee at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said.

The Nobel committee gave more information in a press release as to why List and MacMillan were chosen: “Organocatalysis has developed at an astounding speed since 2000. Benjamin List and David MacMillan remain leaders in the field, and have shown that organic catalysts can be used to drive multitudes of chemical reactions. Using these reactions, researchers can now more efficiently construct anything from new pharmaceuticals to molecules that can capture light in solar cells. In this way, organocatalysts are bringing the greatest benefit to humankind.”

List and MacMillan, both 53, will share the 10-million-kronor prize.

“I thought somebody was making a joke. I was sitting at breakfast with my wife,” List told reporters by telephone during a press conference after the prize was announced. In past years, he said his wife has joked that he should keep an eye on his phone for a call from Sweden. “But today we didn’t even make the joke,” List said. “It’s hard to describe what you feel in that moment, but it was a very special moment that I will never forget.”