Ulf Nilsson obtained his PhD at Lund University 1995 working with oligosaccharide synthesis under the supervision of professor Göran Magnusson. He did post-doctoral studies 1995-1997 at University of Alberta, Canada, with professor Ole Hindsgaul developing methods for combinatorial carbohydrate chemistry. He initiated his independent research career at Lund University 1998 as an assistant professor. Nilsson was promoted to associate professor/senior lecturer in 2001 and full professor in 2009. Research interests are focused on molecular recognition studies in biological systems and in artificial model systems, biology and medicinal chemistry of galectins, bacterial symporter proteins, and DHODH enzymes, as well as the chemistry at brain-machine interfaces.

Twelve postdoctoral students have been trained, ten students have obtained their PhD degree, and fifteen students have obtained their MSc degree under the supervision of professor Nilsson. He is the author of >100 original research publications in peer-reviewed journals, several reviews and book chapters, one course book, and 19 patent families encompassing 27 patents and 33 pending patent applications. He has given numerous invited lectures at universities, conferences, and in industry. In 2017 he was awarded the Wallmarkska prize from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the Engenstromska Gold Medal by the The Royal Physiographic Society. The Wallmarkska prize rewards progress or invention in any remarkable extent promotes the sciences and industry's progress and the Engenströmska Gold Medal rewards for outstanding work within the applied sciences. He was elected  a member of the Royal Physiographic Society, Sweden, in 2018. Four companies have been co-founded by professor Nilsson. One company, Galecto Biotech AB, has taken a compound discovered in professor Nilsson's group to clinical trials.

Professor Nilsson teaches organic chemistry, medicinal chemistry, environmental chemistry, and toxicology at undergraduate and graduate level. He was awarded "Excellent teaching practitioner" by the Technical Faculty (LTH) of Lund University in 2009 and The Students’ Pedagogic Prize “Best lecturer” 2012 from students at the MSc program Environmental engineering at the Technical Faculty (LTH) of Lund University. He was 2009-2016 the assistant coordinator of the MSc program Environmental engineering at the Technical Faculty (LTH) of Lund University.

He enjoys spending free time with his family at their houses. Outdoor activities such as fly fishing, hiking, XC running, nordic skiing, mountain biking, road biking, and sea kayaking are favorites of professor Nilsson.