Capturing people’s interest

She loves new challenges and thrives on the opportunity to learn new things and share the knowledge with others.

Rushing down the wooden staircase inside the University of Gothenburg’s Ågren Residence, she greets us with a big smile. Angela Wulff radiates energy and joy. She just returned from a ski trip with her family and seems fully charged. When asked jokingly if she skied off-piste at all, she replies:

‘Well of course. I’ve always loved physical challenges. I’ve finished the Swedish Classic Circuit four times. You know, 90 km cross country skiing in Vasaloppet, 300 km cycling in Vätternrundan, 3 km open water swimming in Vansbrosimmet and 30 km cross country running in Lidingöloppet, all in one year.’

As a little girl she was into horses – an interest her two daughters have inherited. And she sees running in the forest as an important wellness measure; it keeps her from getting burned out from work and helps her rid her mind of anger and irritation.
‘I think physical exercise and keeping a good balance between work and leisure are important for your energy levels and overall wellbeing.’

PRIOR TO BECOMING a marine biologist, Angela Wulff taught physical education and biology for five years. She has thought a lot about why she changed track.
‘Honestly, I think the former Minister for Schools Göran Persson was the main reason. When he transferred the management of schools to the municipal level, I thought right away it wasn’t going to work! And since I’m a passionate scuba diver, I wanted to study marine biology.’

That was in 1992. Soon thereafter, researcher Kristina Sundbäck raised Wulff’s interest in microscopic algae. Sundbäck became a major source of inspiration and eventually Wolff’s mentor and supervisor.
‘As a scuba diver I was mostly interested in corals and underwater animals. I had this naïve dream of studying whales and dolphins. Then I came across something I had never even heard of, microphytobenthos, which are microscopic algae on the ocean floor. They really fascinated me, so I started working on a PhD.’

TODAY ANGELA WULFF studies the effects of climate change on marine microbial communities, or in other words bacteria and microscopic algae.
The PhD programme also opened her eyes to polar research. Wulff had an opportunity to visit Antarctica as part of a Swedish-South African research collaboration.
‘I caught polar fever. I was mesmerised by the landscape. It’s magnificent with its endless expanse of nothingness. There is only endless snow and ice, but still thousands of colours, like the sea.’

Teaching and making science understandable is important, she says. And regardless of the type of audience you are dealing with, teaching is a little bit like acting.
‘You have to capture your audience. If I see a student in the corner of the classroom who is not paying attention, I take it personally and will do my best to get that person involved,’ says Wulff.

SHE IS VERY CONCERNED ABOUT the lack of scientific knowledge in society. Without a solid knowledge base, it is hard to form an opinion about for example fetal testing and genetically modified crops, and you risk ‘falling victim to journalist, social media and unfounded opinions’.
‘I feel I have a special responsibility as a scientist, professor and woman. When I visit schools, I want to show that, yes, I’m a polar scientist despite being a woman and having a family. It works for me and can work for you too!’

Angela Wulff

Job: Professor of marine ecology specialising in marine botany
Age: Just turned 50
Family: Husband Krister and children Nanna and Smilla, 13 and 11, and German Shepherd Elina
Lives: House in Vänersnäs
Hobbies: Horseback riding, training the dog, skiing, scuba diving, running and English detective novels.
Titbits: She was one of the first Swedish women to complete military service. She is a reserve officer (captain) in the air force.