27. October 2022

A Special Honor

Academic Ceremony (Photo: Mälardalens universitet)

Mälardalen University in Sweden has awarded an honorary doctorate to Prof. Dr. Fredrik Ullén, Co-Director of the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics (MPIEA). Ullén, who heads the MPIEA’s Department of Cognitive Neuropsychology, is one of Sweden’s most important brain researchers and a world-renowned concert pianist—two facts that Mälardalen University cited in presenting the award in addition to his being “a bridge between artistic and scientific activities at universities and colleges, both in education and research.”

Biographical Links to Sweden

Fredrik Ullén was born in 1968 in Västerås, where Mälardalen University is located, and grew up there. Many of his early childhood memories are connected to music.

“As a child,” Ullén says, “I would sit at the piano, listen to recordings at home, and I even tried my hand at writing music. My family was very interested in music and we played together frequently. At the same time, I was also developing a strong and broad interest in science.”

After attending Rudbeckianska Gymnasium in Västerås, Ullén studied medicine at Karolinska Institutet, but afterwards switched to neuroscience, writing his doctoral thesis in Sten Grillner’s group in the Department of Neurophysiology there. At the same time, he was studying music (piano performance) at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm. Since completing this double education, Ullén has continued to pursue his two professions in scientific research and music, both independently and in combination. For over 20 years now, he has been particularly concerned with questions about music and the brain, focusing on learning and creativity.

Fredrik Ullén joined the MPIEA in Frankfurt am Main as Co-Director in April, 2021. In his acceptance speech for the honorary doctorate from Mälardalen University, he explicitly highlighted his new research and professional home as “an ideal research environment for a researcher with my interests, and also an environment that offers me excellent opportunities to combine research with my activities as a musician.”

Congratulations to Director Fredrik Ullén on this special honor!


Fredrik Ullén