Doctoral student life will have to wait

The plan to study for a doctor’s degree will be dealt with in the future. Mathematician Per Sjögren chose instead to begin working in business. There he has an opportunity to work with optimisation, exactly what he is trained to do.

Sjögren actually considered of going ahead and studying for his doctorate after getting his master’s degree in mathematics. But during a job fair at his department, he came in touch with a representative of the Jeppesen multinational company. He was familiar with the company before, knowing it is one of Sweden’s largest employers when it comes to optimisation.

The contact led to a proposal to do the work on his degree project there, and when it was finished an offer of employment would be waiting. Sjögren postponed his doctoral studies with the idea that it could be good to have some work experience before he went ahead.
‘It’s often easier to study if you have worked before, and that also applies to doctoral students. Especially if you have worked in related industries. I thought it was a good company, and I got to work on what I actually am trained to do.’

Almost everyone in his department has a background in mathematics. Sjögren is working on developing optimisation software for the aviation industry, primarily software that helps companies schedule pilots and cabin crews. The company has most of the major airlines as its clients, and a great deal of modelling software is needed to meet the requirements of each individual customer.
‘All customers have different problems. They have different numbers of aircraft, different numbers of personnel with different qualifications, different trade agreements and different national laws.’

Since childhood, it has been obvious to Per Sjögren that he should devote himself to mathematics.
‘It was the thing that was the most fun and that I was best at. Abstract thinking has always suited me.’

But he’s also a musician and has played the French horn since he was 10 years old, an instrument that he latched onto during a try-it day in the municipal music school, where kids got to go around and try out various instruments.
‘I’ve heard many people say that it is not unusual to combine mathematics or science with music.’

He might have nurtured a dream of becoming a professional musician, but it didn’t materialise. Practising wasn’t fun enough, he says in retrospect. So he plays music in his free time, currently in the Gothenburg Wind Sinfoniette.

Sjögren has now worked at Jeppesen for seven years, and he has no immediate plans to go back to university, even if the clear majority of his classmates have already obtained their doctorates.
‘It is a long educational process, and it’s hard to see what I would get from it. I have gained a great deal of expertise in what I am doing here. As a doctoral student, you get more breadth — but also expertise in what you are researching, of course.’

He’s satisfied with what he is working on. He gets to combine his interests in programming and mathematics. It is also rewarding to meet with customers to some degree.
‘It’s a good symbiosis. It has turned out very well.’

Per Sjögren

Family: Wife.
Education: Master’s degree in theoretical mathematics and master’s degree in applied mathematics with a focus on optimisation.
Music: Plays French horn in various orchestras.
Hobbies: Makes chocolate pralines, for his own consumption and to give as gifts. Now before Christmas he flavours them with saffron and brandy. A combination of passion fruit, mandarin liqueur and white chocolate isn’t bad either.
Reads: Most fantasy and science fiction.