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Coming dissertations at Uppsala university

Please note that the date and time given on these pages is the time of electronic publication, and not the date of the public defense. To find the time and venue of the public defense, please follow the link to DiVA of the thesis in question.
  • From Antagonism to Alienation : Redirecting Radical Democracy

    Author: Sofia Helander
    Publication date: 2021-06-11 11:11

    How can democratic theory address contemporary problems of alienation? Today, alienation manifests itself primarily in processes of precarization and deprofessionalization. When the subject’s work security or professional autonomy is undermined, her relations – not only to others, but also to herself – can become inhibited. This dissertation argues that while alienation poses a serious problem in today’s democracies, it is a form of social suffering that is particularly difficult for democratic theory – preoccupied by the political – to address. 

    In this dissertation, I seek to address alienation in a radical and open way by taking agonistic democracy as my starting point. Indeed, I assume that a suitable theory of alienation should satisfy two general criteria. On the one hand, it should be radical, engaging with the suffering that people experience in a way that encourages them to contest it. On the other hand, it should be open, avoiding the pitfalls of determinism, human essentialism and the ideal of harmony, all of which risk breeding authoritarianism. In this respect, agonistic democracy seems like the best theory to address alienation. The theory is characterized by its emphasis on transformative social struggle as well as its concern with avoiding what it sees as the authoritarian pitfalls of traditional socialism. 

    However, while agonistic democracy, preoccupied with the struggle against social marginalization, should be able to address alienation, it cannot. This, I argue, is not merely due to the historical conditions from which it emerges – marked by a turn away from traditional socialist concepts towards a focus on antagonism – but also due to a deeper tension in the theory itself. In its attempts to remain both radical and open, agonistic democracy comes to rely on a subject who is flexible, strong and conflict-seeking. For this reason, it fails to include those who cannot thrive in social disorder, those who are left alienated. I therefore seek to reformulate the subject of agonistic democracy in order to address alienation in an open and radical way. 

  • Multiscale Modeling in Systems Biology : Methods and Perspectives

    Author: Adrien Coulier
    Publication date: 2021-06-11 10:09

    In the last decades, mathematical and computational models have become ubiquitous to the field of systems biology. Specifically, the multiscale nature of biological processes makes the design and simulation of such models challenging. In this thesis we offer a perspective on available methods to study and simulate such models and how they can be combined to handle biological processes evolving at different scales.

    The contribution of this thesis is threefold. First, we introduce Orchestral, a multiscale modular framework to simulate multicellular models. By decoupling intracellular chemical kinetics, cell-cell signaling, and cellular mechanics by means of operator-splitting, it is able to combine existing software into one massively parallel simulation.  Its modular structure makes it easy to replace its components, e.g. to adjust the level of modeling details. We demonstrate the scalability of our framework on both high performance clusters and in a cloud environment.

    We then explore how center-based models can be used to study cellular mechanics in biological tissues. We show how modeling and numerical choices can affect the results of the simulation and mislead modelers into incorrect biological conclusions if these errors are not monitored properly. We then propose CBMOS, a Python framework specifically designed for the numerical study of such models.

    Finally, we study how spatial details in intracellular chemical kinetics can be efficiently approximated in a multiscale compartment-based model. We evaluate how this model compares to two other alternatives in terms of accuracy and computational cost. We then propose a computational pipeline to study and compare such models in the context of Bayesian parameter inference and illustrate its usage in three case studies.

  • Essays on the Distribution of Production, Prices and Wealth

    Author: Charlotte Paulie
    Publication date: 2021-06-10 07:50

    This thesis consists of three self-contained essays.

    Essay I: Using detailed Swedish micro data on prices and costs, this paper documents a decrease in the dispersion of changes in prices and markups following the introduction of an official inflation target of 2 percent. Using a structural model to decompose the change in the price-change distribution by potential explanatory factors, about 63 percent of the decrease in the price-change dispersion can be attributed to a decrease in the cross-sectional variance of inflation expectations. The lower dispersion of inflation expectations results in a lower markup dispersion and a welfare gain equivalent to a 0.79 percent increase in consumption.

    Essay II: Does increasing product-market competition from foreign firms affect domestic labor shares? By combining detailed Swedish firm-level data with an instrumental variable design, I show that an increase in import penetration caused by increased global competition results in a decrease in domestic industry-level labor shares. The decrease comes both from a reallocation of firms' market shares and a fall in labor shares at the firm level. The analysis shows that the negative effect of competition on firm-level labor shares is driven by an increase in productivity that is not met by a corresponding increase in compensation to labor. I use these findings to calibrate a heterogeneous-firm model where domestic and foreign firms compete on the domestic product market. The calibrated model predicts that an increase in foreign competition corresponding to a one standard deviation increase in import penetration results in a 1.12 percentage point increase in welfare.

    Essay III (with Markus Ridder and Kerstin Westergren): For the past several decades, wealth inequality has increased in many countries. Do changes in the tax system contribute to these trends? Using a quantitative model, we examine the effect on wealth inequality of changing from a comprehensive to a dual tax system. We start with a standard open-economy incomplete-markets model, to which we add an entrepreneurial sector. The entrepreneurs in the model exploit the duality of the tax system after the reform by declaring income as capital (taxed at a flat rate) rather than labor income (taxed progressively). The model is parameterized to match the characteristics of the Swedish economy under dual taxation. In contrast to previous studies, we estimate the parameters of the stochastic process for entrepreneurial income using micro-data observations. We find that the introduction of a dual tax system increases wealth inequality and that the possibility of the entrepreneurs to declare income as capital plays an important role for this result. We also find that the level of aggregate capital and the share of entrepreneurs is higher in an economy with a dual tax system.

  • The effects of exposure to microplastics and pollutants on the arthropod microbiome

    Author: Javier Edo Varg
    Publication date: 2021-06-08 14:39

    Anthropogenic pollution is widespread across various ecosystems. This disturbance can alter the interaction between a host and its associated microbiome, with repercussions for hosts traits such as health, behavior, and host evolution. The thesis aim is to understand the effects of inert microplastics and other pollutants, as pesticides, detergents, and toxic metals, on the host-microbiota of different freshwater invertebrates. Specifically, this thesis explores the secondary effects of stress factors on the host, trophic interactions, and free-living microbes. Chapter I tested the effects of microplastics and the pesticide esfenvalerate on Chironomus riparius survival, emergence, and its microbiome. Chapter II tested the effects of microplastics and the pesticide deltamethrin on a trophic chain of three organisms:  Daphnia magna, damselfly larva Ischnura elegans, and wild dragonfly larva Aeshna cyanea. Chapter III tested the effects of microplastics and sodium dodecyl sulfate on the microbiome of wild water boatman from the family Corixidae. Chapter IV tested the effects of microplastics and Chromium VI on Daphnia magna mortality and its microbiome. The thesis used metagenomic tools to characterize both the host microbiome and its surrounding microcosms. Our results showed that microplastics interact with additive toxicants to affect the host microbiome, however, these effects depend on the type of toxicant, the size of the microplastic, and the host itself.

  • Upper Secondary Education: Access, Choices and Graduation

    Author: Vivika Halapuu
    Publication date: 2021-06-04 10:19

    Essay I: We study how Swedish high school students match with programs given their skill endowments at the time of choosing. Using detailed administrative data on high school admissions and earlier school achievement, we construct a multidimensional measure of program match quality, reflecting the extent to which students select into programs with skill requirements that align with their skill portfolio. Our results suggest that female students and those from low socioeconomic backgrounds make relatively worse program choices than males and students whose parents have at least some college education. Students with a more appropriate skill set for a given program are more likely to remain in the program, to complete high school on time and they also have higher post-graduation earnings. Better information about how students’ relative strengths and weaknesses comply with the skill requirements of programs could prevent costly educational, and consequently occupational mismatch.

    Essay II: The paper provides the first causal evidence of how access to education affects disability insurance (DI) claims among low-skilled youths. The research design exploits recent changes in high school eligibility criteria among a set of low-performing compulsory school graduates in Sweden. The results show that the immediate inflow into the DI system increased by 5.1 percentage points among the students who were excluded from standard high school programs. The fact that outflow from DI is very low (half of all young claimants remain in the system after 10 years) together with auxiliary findings indicating that the impact remains high during the short follow-up period suggest that the effect is likely to persist over many years. The results highlight that the design of education systems is a crucial determinant of DI claims among young people and that reforms which limit low-skilled youths’ access to education can have lasting detrimental effects on their labor supply.

    Essay III: This paper studies the impact of stricter graduation requirements on vocational high school graduates’ behavioral responses and early career outcomes exploiting an increase in graduation standards in Swedish vocational high schools. An important feature of the reform is that it increased both general and occupation-specific graduation requirements. Using a unique combination of course-specific grades and detailed administrative data on labor market, I study the incentive effects, and compare job finding rates and job match quality of academically similar students just below and above the two different graduation thresholds using difference-in-differences design. I find no impact of higher general skill requirements on youths’ school-to-work transition. Stricter specific skill requirements, on the other hand, come with strong incentive effects, and lead to a separation in job finding rates and job match quality of students at the margin of barely meeting the threshold.

  • Corruption, Distortions and Development

    Author: Sebastian Jävervall
    Publication date: 2021-05-28 10:46

    Essay I: Does increased government transparency make bureaucracies more meritocratic? I study the impact of politician disclosure requirements on the assignment of bureaucrats to public posts. I collect detailed information on bureaucrats' qualifications and construct a novel measure of bureaucratic mismatch—an index measuring the extent to which a bureaucrat is under- or overqualified to perform a specific task. Using the staggered implementation of Indian state elections for identification, I find that information disclosure is associated with a mismatch reduction of 2.5% of a standard deviation. This effect is substantially larger (15–45% of a standard deviation) in posts that are more important for policy implementation and tasks that bureaucrats perceive to be more prestigious. In addition, I find that information disclosure increases returns to bureaucrat skill. Bureaucrats with greater skill are more likely to reach prestigious positions in more transparent states. Taken together, the results show that government transparency promotes meritocracy within public organizations.

    Essay II (with Roza Khoban): Political distortions are prevalent in many developing countries and can imply substantial productivity losses. Theory is ambiguous as to whether greater openness to trade amplifies or reduces the effects of such distortions. This paper shows that trade liberalization in India decreased the value of firms' political connections, suggesting a reduction in political distortions. First, using variation in firm connections stemming from political turnover, we identify that political connections increase firm performance by 10–20%. Second, we evaluate how the value of political connections changed after India's externally imposed tariff reductions, using a triple-difference and difference-in-discontinuities design. We find that political connections became substantially less valuable when tariffs on input goods were reduced. Our findings imply that access to international markets reduces firms' dependence on political connections to source input goods, thus reducing the distortionary effect of such connections. Our results suggest a new margin for gains from trade in the presence of political distortions through a direct effect of trade liberalization on the prevalence of such distortions.

    Essay III: Social unrest is a pervasive problem in the developing world. Yet, the causes of social unrest are not fully understood. This paper studies the impact of electing dominant party representatives on social unrest in South Africa. Since the end of apartheid, the African National Congress (ANC) party has held a hegemonic position in South African politics. At the same time, the party has been criticized for poor implementation of basic service delivery and accused of corruption and government malpractice. Combining geo-referenced data on riots and protests with a regression discontinuity design, I find that the prevalence of violent social unrest is substantially lower in ANC-controlled areas. The findings provide a nuanced perspective on the political determinants of social unrest in a dominant party setting.

  • Synthesis–Structure–Property Relationships in Li- and Mn-rich Layered Oxides

    Author: Ashok S. Menon
    Publication date: 2021-05-24 09:20

    The commercialisation of Li-ion batteries over the last decade has provided additional impetus for the improvement of existing energy storage technologies. Towards this, a major portion of the global efforts includes exploratory research aimed at the development of new material chemistries. Aligning with this theme, this Thesis explores the synthesis–structure–property relationships in Li- and Mn-rich layered oxides, a cost-effective high-capacity material system that shows promise as a positive electrode material for future Li-ion batteries. The compositional and crystallographic diversity of Li- and Mn-rich layered oxides make them particularly susceptible to synthesis-dependent variations and exacerbates structural characterisation. Therefore, understanding how synthetic variations influence their structural and electrochemical properties is a crucial step in realising their potential as positive electrode materials.

    Even for simple compositions like Li2MnO3, dissimilar crystallographic ordering and particle morphologies are produced depending on whether a solid-state or sol-gel synthesis approach was implemented. Subsequently, due to the higher degree of structural disorder and larger surface area, the sol-gel sample exhibited higher initial electrochemical capacities. The structural features present in these compounds such as cation site-mixing and stacking faults, manifest over varying crystallographic regimes. Hence, complementary characterisation techniques that probe different structural length scales are necessary for an accurate structural characterisation of these compounds. This factor, together with their complex crystallography, have led to contradictory single- and multi-phase structure models being reported for complex Li- and Mn-rich layered oxides. By using a combination of diffraction, spectroscopic techniques and magnetic measurements it was discovered that Li1.2Mn0.54Ni0.13Co0.13O2 can exist in both single- and multi-phase structural forms if synthesised through sol-gel and solid-state methods, respectively. Further studies following the same theme revealed that when synthesised under common laboratory conditions these compounds are metastable. Here, the composition and synthesis play a critical role in the thermodynamic and kinetic factors affecting the resultant phase, domain structure and degree of cationic order. Finally, to encompass all the structural features contained in Li- and Mn-rich layered oxides, a supercell-based structure model for Li- and Mn-rich layered oxides, using Li1.2Mn0.6Ni0.2O2 as an example, is presented. Summing all the work together from the thesis, a critical evaluation of commonly used characterisation techniques is also provided as a guideline for future research in this field.

  • Studies of Topological Superconductors via Defects

    Author: Oladunjoye Awoga
    Publication date: 2021-05-21 14:05

    Defects from impurities, edges, junctions or domain walls have local detrimental effects on the superconducting state. Defects are also important in topological superconductors, and useful in studying the properties of the superconducting order parameter. In the former case, gapless edge states appear as a consequence of the bulk-edge correspondence, which relates the edge states to the change in bulk topological invariants across the edge. In the latter case impurity scattering of electrons modifies the density of states locally and may (or not) lead to the appear-ance of subgap states depending on the nature of the impurity and the superconductor. Due to these telltale effects of defects in topological superconductors, this Thesis uses defects to probe topological superconductors. The studies are divided into two parts. In the first part Majo-rana bound states at the ends of one-dimensional topological superconductors are studied. The Majorana bound states at the ends of magnetic chains are found very stable in a disordered su-perconducting medium, as long as the superconducting order parameter does not vanish locally. Also junction formed in a nanowire in proximity to two superconductors is found to give rise spontaneously to trivial zero-energy states that imitate Majorana bound states, due to finite size effect of the superconductors. However, there is a sign reversal in the supercurrent when trivial zero-energy states are present at the junction, as magnetic field is tuned, whereas the supercur-rent does not exhibit such sign reversal when Majorana bound states are present at the junction. Thus, supercurrent serves as a tool for distinguishing between Majorana bound states and trivial zero-energy states. The second part is devoted to unconventional and topological superconduc-tivity in graphene. Domain wall states formed between topological chiral dx2−y2 ± idxy-wave states on the honeycomb lattice are studied. The results find four domain wall states and that domain wall configurations with the lowest width in the order parameter is favorable over other configurations. Finally, by using a single potential impurity spin-singlet gap symmetries of superconducting graphene are explored. Investigation of the subgap states, due to the potential impurity, of each superconducting state and their corresponding quasi-particle interference shows that superconducting states of graphene can be identified by defects.

  • Emotional mental imagery and the reduction of fear within the mind’s eye

    Author: Johanna M. Hoppe
    Publication date: 2021-05-21 13:42

    Mental imagery refers to sensory-perceptual experiences in the absence of external sensory input. Emotional mental imagery (i.e., imagery with emotional content) is a key feature in many mental disorders, such as the image-based intrusive memories of trauma in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, mental imagery can also be a vehicle for emotional change. In imaginal exposure, fear-provoking events are revisited using mental imagery. Imaginal exposure is a core component in evidence-based therapies for anxiety and PTSD. Treatment development is needed, as effects are many times insufficient, accessibility is low, and the treatment is not well-tolerated by some patients. The aim of this thesis was to increase knowledge of underlying mechanisms of imaginal exposure and improve our understanding of emotional mental imagery. The thesis explored the neural underpinnings of imaginal exposure and investigated mechanisms that could enhance its effectiveness, accessibility and tolerability. To further our knowledge of intrusive memories in PTSD (i.e., involuntary mental imagery), the characteristics of trauma memory hotspots (worst moments) collected within the first hours after trauma were explored. Study I demonstrated that imaginal exposure to mental imagery of phobic (vs. neutral) stimuli robustly activated emotion-processing brain areas. Study I also revealed that a brief 10-minute session of imaginal exposure was associated with reduced fear one week later. Study II investigated the link between vividness (clarity and liveliness) of mental imagery during imaginal exposure and reduction of fear using an experimental analogue of imaginal exposure (imaginal extinction). No evidence was found that high imagery vividness during imaginal extinction was associated with better long-term reduction in physiological fear responses than lower vividness. Study III revealed that hotspots collected soon after trauma are expressed as motion-rich sensory-perceptual experiences (mental imagery) with little detail on emotion/cognition. The contributions of this thesis involve demonstrating that mental imagery has the power to elicit emotional responses at subjective, physiological and neural levels and suggesting new avenues for treatment development. Future studies should explore the benefits of briefer imaginal exposure sessions to improve the effectiveness and accessibility of imaginal exposure. Future studies should also examine if fear reduction can be obtained with less vivid imaginal exposure, which could help attenuate distress and thereby make imaginal exposure tolerable for more patients. Lastly, the dynamic and visuospatial nature of newly formed trauma memory hotspots may help elucidate mechanisms through which tasks conducted posttrauma can prevent intrusive memories.

  • Ophthalmological follow-up in young adults born premature and screened for retinopathy of prematurity

    Author: Dýrleif Pétursdóttir
    Publication date: 2021-05-21 11:38

    Prematurely born children have a higher risk of ophthalmological and neurodevelopmental disorders than those born at term. There is a paucity of long-term prospective follow-up studies on the visual function of prematurely born adults. The current study reported the outcome of young adult individuals born after the introduction of treatment for retinopathy of prematurity (ROP).

    The aim of the study was to assess visual function, visual-motor integration, refraction and its development, as well as strabismus, stereoacuity, accommodation and convergence in prematurely born young adults.

    The participants were prematurely born, between 1 November 1988 and 31 October 1990, having a birth weight of ≤1,500 g, in Stockholm County, Sweden. These individuals were initially part of a prospective population-based study on the incidence of ROP in the neonatal period, followed until 3.5 years of age, and examined again at 10 years of age, together with a control group of term born individuals. At 25–29 years of age, 59 of the preterms and 44 controls underwent an extensive ophthalmological examination and a developmental test of visual-motor integration.

    The preterms had lower visual acuity than the controls at distance and near. Mean deviation of the visual field was reduced in preterms, as was contrast sensitivity. A crowding ratio of ≥1.5 was more prevalent in preterms. In a test of visual-motor integration, the preterms had inferior results compared to controls, in which a neurological complication at 2.5 years of age was the strongest risk factor. The preterms had greater values of myopia and hyperopia, as well as anisometropia and astigmatism, where the highest risk was found in preterms who had been treated for ROP. The spherical equivalent decreased around 1 D in both groups from 10 years to 25–29 years of age. Strabismus was found in 7/59 (12%) preterms and 1/44 (2%) controls. More preterms had subnormal stereoacuity, where the strongest risk factor was a neurological complication at 2.5 years of age. Preterms had worse amplitude of accommodation. No differences were found regarding convergence.

    Prematurely born individuals had reduced visual function, worse visual-motor integration, higher prevalence of refractive errors and strabismus, and worse stereoacuity than term born controls in young adulthood. These lifelong effects could be correlated to previous cryotherapy for ROP or neurological complications, but not always, suggesting a role of prematurity per se.