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Coming dissertations at Uppsala university

  • Teaching Computer Ethics : Steps towards Slow Tech, a Good, Clean, and Fair ICT Author: Norberto Patrignani Link: Publication date: 2020-03-03 13:27

    Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) are critically impacting society and the environment. They are now an integral part of the challenges posed by the current Anthropocene era. To help in facing these enormous challenges, the entire ICT supply chain (from design to development, manufacturing, usage, deployment, and disposal) should take into account the three dimensions of social desirability, environmental sustainability, and ethical acceptability. In this thesis these concepts are proposed as a joint requirement for a new approach to ICT and with a more precise focus: a good, clean, and fair ICT. A good ICT is designed with a human-centred approach, a clean ICT is environmentally sustainable and minimizes the impact on the planet, and a fair ICT takes into account the working conditions of people along the entire supply-chain. These characteristics represent a triple condition that in this thesis is called Slow Tech (inspired by the Slow Food movement that uses good, clean, and fair with reference to food).

    Among the many stakeholders of the ICT world, this thesis concentrates on the engineers, the designers of the complex systems (hardware, software, networks) that are shaping our society: in short, computer professionals. They usually work inside organizations and companies, but their skills, competencies, and professional code of ethics are the sources of fundamental design choices. In particular, this thesis identifies ethics as one of the new competencies needed by the next generation of computer professionals and, strongly related to it, complementing their university education with a subject that, for simplicity, will be referred as "Computer Ethics". Two fundamental questions are: how can this requirement for an ethical competence be fulfilled? How can universities prepare the next generation of computer professionals so that they are "ethically grounded"? This grounding in teaching and training is the main reason for the overall title of this thesis: "Teaching Computer Ethics". The main point of this thesis is that the reflections stimulated by the analysis of the ICT stakeholders' network and the use of the three Slow Tech questions are two important tools for improving the ethical skills and competencies of computer professionals. The methodology and my empirical experience of teaching Computer Ethics at the Politecnico of Torino described in this thesis provides interesting results in this direction.

  • Targeting and driving somatosensory neurons Author: Fabio Freitag Link: Publication date: 2020-03-02 08:44

    Pain and itch are two distinct sensations, but the fundamental question of how our nervous system distinguishes the processing and encoding of their related information is still far to be clearly delineated. At the spinal cord level, evidences have pointed out specific groups of neurons expressing the gastrin releasing peptide (Grp) and its receptor (Grpr) as responsible for carrying specifically itch-related information. Such important findings suggest a labeled line for itch and hypothesize the existence of separate pathways transmitting different sensory modalities already at this stage. Aiming at digging further on the pain/itch dualism, the present thesis focused first in addressing the GRPR-expressing dorsal horn interneurons and its roles in itch transmission. In the paper I, we observed that this population is composed mainly by excitatory interneurons, transmits itch through glutamate, and is at least partly downstream to the natriuretic peptide b (NPPB) signaling. Interestingly, increasing amount of behavior evidences have suggested that itch-related information is under local inhibition in the dorsal horn, since decrease of the local inhibitory tone by the peptide somatostatin is able to potentiate itch sensation in mice. In the paper II we complement these findings by showing in vitro that the itch-related GRPR-expressing dorsal horn neurons are under local tonic and phasic inhibition, besides being partly activated by somatostatin, corroborating that this population is indeed part of the disinhibition-induced itch circuitry. In order to confirm the itch-specific phenotype related to GRPR-expressing neurons and extend this theory to the rodent orofacial area, in the paper III we showed a new method developed to target and manipulate the orofacial-related trigeminal neurons. By using this method, we unexpectedly observed a functional switch in the GRPR population, from itch-related in the spinal cord to pain-related in the trigeminal nucleus caudalis, suggesting a labeled line of orofacial pain in this brainstem nucleus. As in the trigeminal nuclei, neuronal circuitry formed by defined cell types transmitting pain- and itch-related information has not been addressed yet in the somatosensory cortex. In the paper IV, we offer a mouse genetic tool that enables the target of barrel field spiny stellate cells, opening for more detailed knowledge of cortical circuitry encoding somatosensory information. In summary, the present thesis brings both complementary findings and new intriguing insights on how our nervous system transmits somatosensory stimuli from different modalities, paving basic knowledge on the mechanisms that build pain and itch as distinct percepts. 

  • Past demography and local adaptation in forest trees : Insights from natural populations and breeding programs of Norway spruce Author: Lili Li Link: Publication date: 2020-02-27 12:57

    Spatial changes in natural selection patterns can give rise to local adaptation and genetic differentiation between populations. Local adaptation for phenological traits is pronounced in many forest tree species. The Swedish breeding program was established from ‘plus’ trees selected across the country and can therefore be a very good source of information on local adaptation. In the present thesis, we estimated the genetic basis of local adaptation in two Eurasian spruce species Norway spruce (P. abies) and Siberian species (P. obovata) using large-scale whole-exome data and Sanger sequences from samples taken from the Swedish breeding program and from natural populations.

    To detect signals of local adaptation in Norway spruce (P. abies), we started by studying population genetic clustering and inferring the demographic history of the species. In addition to the already known three main domains in Norway spruce, we also found four genetic clusters created by admixture events between the aforementioned three main clusters. Demographic inferences indicated two recolonizations directions in Scandinavia: east to west (from central Russia and Siberia) and south to north (from Alpine and Carpathian), but also revealed repeated hybridization between P. abies and P. obovata and gene flow among clusters. We next estimated the genetic basis of local adaptation of three phenotypic traits (height, diameter and bud-burst) by multivariate analyses and genome-wide association studies. The results showed that geographical origin is a strong predictor of growth and phenology and trees of southern origins outcompeted local provenances. We further revealed that growth traits were highly polygenic and bud-burst somewhat less.

    Population genetic structure largely affects the detection of local adaptation. Therefore we further visualized the fine-scale map of population genetic structure through dense sampling of trees from the Swedish breeding program. Trees of Swedish origins were assigned into two main clusters with an admixture zone in central Sweden and the genetic contribution from P. obovata was detected in northern Sweden. A large number of SNPs were found to be associated with environmental variables and exhibited a stronger pattern of isolation-by-distance than random SNPs.

    Finally we tested for local adaptation in two well-defined candidate genes (FTL2 and GI) of phenology in P. obovata. Clinal variation in FTL2 gene expression, growth cessation, and allele frequency of FLT2 and GI were revealed in populations along Ob River, paralleling the ones in Norway spruce populations in Scandinavia and in Siberian spruce populations along the Yenisei River.