Eva Olsson was appointed associate professor at Chalmers in 1996. She was then appointed full professor at Uppsala University a year later, where she worked for four years before returning to Chalmers as a full professor. At Chalmers, Olsson has served as Director of Material Analysis, Leader of The Soft Microscopy Centre, Head of Microscopy and Head of Nano and Biophysics.
Olsson develops novel characterisation techniques for materials. She is mainly interested in materials for emerging technologies, including catalysis, photovoltaic and quantum devices. In particular, Olsson works with electron microscopy. In 2013, Olsson was awarded 33 million SEK from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation and Chalmers University matched with another 33 million SEK, with which she developed soft microscopy. Soft microscopy involves developing ways to use electron microscopes to study soft and semi-hard materials, creating new avenues for advances in material science. Together with Niklas Lorén at the Swedish Research Institute (RISE) she has established a Soft Microscopy Network for industrial scientists, specialists, research managers and academic scientists with an interest in applied science and soft microscopy.
One example of an unexpected discovery occurred when characterising gold using an electron microscope at the highest level of magnification. It was found that they controllably could force gold into a melt structure at room temperature when exposed to an extremely high electric field. The initial discovery was made by Ludvig de Knoop who was a researcher in her group. He noticed that the surface of gold lost its bonds under the influence of the extreme electric field when studied in the electron microscope at atomic resolution. Knoop and Olsson were first and last authors of the paper published in Physical Review Materials in 2018. Olsson could see applications of this phenomenon for sensors and transistors. In 2018, she was awarded a further 25 million SEK from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation to study plasmon-exciton coupling.
Olsson is a member and the chair of the Nobel Committee for Physics that is responsible for selection of candidates for the physics prize. When men won all of the science Nobel prizes in 2021, Olsson said "We want to have more women nominated".