– These are strange times, says Per Vult von Steyern. The Swedish professor in prosthetic dentistry is currently a guest researcher at NIOM. Fortunately, the Norwegian Covid19-restrictions do not restrict him. Quite the contrary. – It’s so quiet, it’s almost meditative, he says, half smiling.

Per Vult von Steyern in one of NIOM’s laboratories.

Usually, Per divides his time between his responsibilities at the Faculty of Odontology in Malmö and his position as president of the Swedish Dental Society, among other things. That means educational activities, specialist dental care and research. He can sit in a meeting discussing Riksstämman one day, and perform intricate dental surgery the next.

– I’ve stood with one foot in the clinic and one foot in the lab for almost 30 years now, he says.

Per explains how he has long wanted to delve deeper into materials research, and especially translucent zirconium dioxide.  His current studies concern changes in material properties, as the traditional zirconium dioxide, to more translucent variants of zirconium dioxide.

– To be able to take six months sabbatical and dedicate all my time to research, is a privilege and an opportunity that you can’t miss, he says.

Knowledge multiplies at NIOM

Per applied to be a guest researcher at NIOM after he met NIOM’s CEO Jon E. Dahl at a science conference organized by the Swedish Dental Society.

– I was drawn to NIOM because there are experts here in so many fields, bordering on my own. It’s very inspiring to work with like-minded people. You might get into questions you have thought about, but had no one to discuss them with. And here you have the people with that knowledge, and they’re all under one roof, he says.

Per explains how dentists have a lot of knowledge of materials, but that it is usually from a clinical perspective.

– So, when you add the chemist’s perspective or the engineer’s … then the knowledge does not just grow in the usual one plus one equals two. It gains momentum, and suddenly equals three instead, he says.

– And the fact that people are exceptionally nice and welcoming here, doesn’t hurt either, he adds.

Advice for the research-curious

When asked what he thinks would be the best way to enter the world of research, he ponders.

– I think the most important thing is to find an inspiring research group. It can be enormously stimulating to meet the right people, and get into the scientific way of thinking. For someone new, that enthusiasm and inspiration is, in my opinion, more important than the subject. There is so much to learn, and to do that with a good group of people, is invaluable, he says in closing.

Per Vult von Steyern is head of the Department of Materials Science and Technology, Professor and Senior Dental Officer at the Faculty of Odontology, at the University of Malmö, Sweden.