Alumna Christina Lilliehöök

How is it possible to immerse yourself in exciting research work without being a researcher yourself?  Christina Lilliehöök has the answer – since 2007, she is the editor of the high-status scientific journal Cell Stem Cell in Boston, USA.


Christina Lilliehöök’s interest in research started in the middle of the 1990’s when she was studying pharmacology and neuroscience at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm. This interest was further cemented during her studies for a doctoral degree in neuroscience under the direction of Researcher Krister Nordstedt at Karolinska Institutet. When, after a short period, Krister Nordstedt was offered a new job in Switzerland, he helped Christina, who now had an American boyfriend, to secure a placement for her doctoral studies in the USA. Christina Lilliehöök ended up on Manhattan in New York where she submitted her doctoral thesis at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and completed her post-doctoral research at the University of Rochester. However, towards the end of the first decade of the 21 century, the economic situation in the USA took a turn for the worse.

‘As a result, funding agencies began focusing more on clinically applied projects. My project was only at a very basic level of research and it was difficult to obtain funding.’ 

In conjunction with Cell Press launching a new scientific journal called Cell Stem Cell, Christina Lilliehök had the good fortune of being offered the position of Scientific Editor.

‘I have been working as Scientific Editor for six years now and hope that I will stay for at least another six years,’ says Christina Lilliehöök. 

Her work requires a high degree of accuracy and it is not unusual for Christina to read and review up to forty different manuscripts in one single month. Around 800 manuscripts are sent to the journal every year but only 10 – 15 percent of these are published. The rest are rejected, either immediately or subsequent to being read and reviewed by a number of research referees. As the editor, Christina Lilliehöök has had to get used to saying ’No’ on a frequent basis. 

’Unfortunately, it is part of my job and although it is impossible for us to publish every article received, I would like to think that our work adds quality to research on more than one level,’ says Christina Lillehöök.   

Her work duties include keeping track of research activities and suitable research referees by visiting universities and participating in conferences. Monitoring the publications of other journals and communicating research in the press and social media is another important part of Christina Lilliehöök’s work. A key criterion for getting published in a Cell Press journal is to have something scientifically new to tell about. Christina’s advice to researchers wishing to have their work published in her journal resembles very much traditional journalism skills for getting a message across.

‘Emphasise the new. Be clear and concise.’