Svante Pääbo named Alumnus of the Year 2023

11 September 2023

Svante Pääbo.

"In a way, I learned everything here," says Svante Pääbo who studied at Uppsala University from 1975 to 1986.

He opened up a completely new field of research by sequencing the genome of our long-extinct relatives. For his scientific accomplishment, Svante Pääbo was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2022. ​​He has now been named Uppsala University’s Alumnus of the Year 2023.

This was the jury’s justification for choosing Professor Pääbo as the alumnus most worthy of recognition this year:

“Through his groundbreaking research, he has achieved what no one believed possible: sequencing the genome of the Neanderthal, an extinct relative of the humans living today. He also made the sensational discovery of a previously unknown hominin, Denisova. Svante Pääbo has contributed to our understanding of the big questions: Where do we come from and what makes us uniquely human? He is a source of pride for the entire university.”

Pääbo began his studies at Uppsala University in 1975. Having started out studying history, Egyptology and Russian at the Faculty of Humanities, after two years he transferred to medicine. In 1981, he commenced third-cycle studies into the immune system at the Department of Cellular Research and, in 1986, he defended his doctoral thesis on how the E19 protein of adenoviruses modulates the immune system.

“In a way, I learned everything here: Egyptology, human biology in the medicine programme, and the new science of molecular genetics in which the Wallenburg Lab was at the forefront when I took my doctorate and that I’m still working on today,” says Pääbo.

Alumni lecture in February 2024

Pääbo was a visiting professor in Uppsala from 2003 to 2015 and also sat on the University Board.

He has been an honorary member of the student association Stockholms Nation since 2023.

An alumni lecture will be given by Professor Pääbo on 9 February 2024. Updated information on the lecture will be published on the University’s calendar. The award Alumnus of the Year will be presented at a ceremony on 9 October 2023.

The award Alumnus of the Year

  • Each year, Uppsala University awards the title Alumnus of the Year to a former student who has made an outstanding contribution to their professional field, or has accomplished something else worthy of honouring.
  • The award is made possible by a donation from Professor John Frederick Morgan-Jones, an Uppsala alumnus from Canada.
  • Anyone connected to Uppsala University may nominate a candidate for Alumnus of the Year.
  • The decision on who is to receive the award is made by the Vice-Chancellor based on a recommendation from an advisory group.