Rikard Unelius

Rikard Unelius

Faculty of Health and Life Sciences
43031, Hus Vita, Kalmar
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Biography, degrees, and positions:

1. 1977-1983  Undergraduate studies in chemistry and biology, University of Sussex, England. Biology 2 years.  Interrupted by mandatory military service).        1983.  Graduate degree (main subject chemistry) from the University of Stockholm (Högskoleexamen). 

2. 1983-1989 PhD student in Prof. Torbjörn Norin's pheromone group at the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm.  Dissertation (PhD, Organic Chemistry) from the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm.  April 27, 1989

3. 1990-91 Post-doctoral stay with Prof. G.D. Prestwich at the State University of New York at Stony Brook (Pheromone biochemistry).                                      1990-91Supervisor / researcher in Prof. Norin's bioorganic synthesis group at the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm.                                                     1992-99 Independent research position in the field of “Stereospecific Synthesis of Biologically Active Compounds for Insect Pests” at the Royal Institute of Technology founded by SJFR (forskarassistent Research Assistant).               1995 Founded the Ecological Chemistry Group at the Royal Institute of Technology, together with Dr A. K. Borg-Karlson. 

4. 1996 Appointed Docent (Associate Professor) at the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm.   

5. 2000-2010 Permanent position as University Lecturer (Universitetslektor i organisk kemi) at the School of Natural Sciences, Linneus University, Kalmar/Växjö. (in RL >50%-80% research) 

6. Appointed as Professor of Organic Chemistry at the School of Natural Sciences, Linneus University, Kalmar/Växjö. (50% research)

2008-2010 Employed as Scientist at The Horticulture and Food Research Institute of New Zealand Limited, New Zealand, fixed-term contract for 10 months 

2008-2010 Honorary Associate with HortResearch (now merged with another institute to become The New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research Limited, and part-time consultant for this institute as Senior Scientist 

2011-2014 Honorary Associate with The New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research Limited, and part-time consultant for this institute as Senior Scientist    ( 3-4 months per year).

2022-2024 Catalyst Leader in Agresearch Ltd Lincoln, NZ, (2 months /year)

Publications: 105 peer-reviewed publications and patents


Rikard Unelius teaching experience includes general chemistry, organic chemistry, physical chemistry and drug chemistry at KTH, Kalmar University and Linnaeus University; everything from lab supervisor in general chemistry to course coordinators at the 10-point course at doctoral level.


My PhD-work between 1983-1989 was about the synthesis of pheromones. My post-doctoral work together with Prof. G.D. Prestwich at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, Long Island, in 1990 was about pheromone biochemistry. I studied pheromone binding proteins and how the chemical message moved from the surface of the antennae to the dendrite. When I returned from my post-doc work, I engaged in the Biocatalysis Group run by Professors K. Hult and T. Norin and worked as a senior scientist. There I used lipases to obtain stereochemically pure chiral pheromone components. Later on, when I received my own grants for pheromone research, I gradually pulled out of the Biocatalysis Group. In 1994 I started my own group but soon merged it with the group of the analytical organic chemist, A-K Borg-Karlson. From 1995 until 2000, we lead of a research group working in the field of Ecological Chemistry at Organic Chemistry, KTH. At the turn of the millennium I moved from KTH to the University of Kalmar. At Kalmar I have continued my research on semiochemicals while also focusing on the development of new ways to prepare stereochemically pure compounds. Semiochemicals are compounds that transmit messages between organisms. These signals have found an application in the monitoring and control of insect pest populations (to replace or complement conventional pesticides) and this field is growing rapidly. The goal of my research in the field of ecological chemistry has been to develop efficient syntheses for behaviourally active semiochemicals, useful for controlling populations of economically or medically important pest insects. Project examples are: prevention of bark beetles from killing weakened spruce trees; identification pheromones of the vectors that spread Chagas disease; an overall goal to develop of a monitoring trapping device to prevent human fatalities in Brazil and Latin America.

In 2007 I was “head-hunted” and since September 2007 I have been partly contracted to a Crown Research Institute in New Zealand, Plant and Food Research Ltd and I am now an Honorary Associate with them. I have acted as the senior chemist and improved the chemistry competence of the group while also working with the identification of semiochemicals from established or invasive insect pests. As an example of a project executed in New Zealand I can mention the identification of a terpenoid pheromone of a mealy bug.

In some projects I have led the investigations (e.g. in pheromone identifications and in the search for the best antifeedants for pine weevils) but the research is almost always collaboration projects where both the chemist and the biologist take intellectual responsibility. Over the years we have identified and synthesized a considerable number of pheromones and other molecules. Whenever needed, we use top of the art organic chemistry methods to solve the problems we encounter in applied chemical ecology. Sometimes this work leads to findings that are of interest for more mid-stream organic chemists and we publish papers about it in general organic chemistry journals.

My projects have mainly been sponsored by FORMAS, the Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning (earlier SJFR = Swedish Research Council for Agriculture and Forestry), the University of Kalmar and, more recently, research foundations in New Zealand. Many of the results are now applied in integrated insect pest management. I have published 93 peer-reviewed papers and patents.

In the last 15 year I have executed my research in research institutes in New Zealand (PFR and Agresearch Ltd). In all spent 50 months over there.


Article in journal (Refereed)

Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)