Incoming chemists' first flirt with potential employer – University of Copenhagen

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27 August 2013

Incoming chemists' first flirt with potential employer

Bachelors intro Chemistry

Just two days into their chemistry programmes, hearing about the job market probably wasn't the first thing on students' minds. However, the University of Copenhagen wants its new chemists to consider where their studies might lead. Therefore, introductory week student guides, "rusvejledere", at CHEM arranged for a visit with Haldor Topsøe, a global catalysis giant, on the second day of the intro-week.

Chemical solutions and activists

The incoming chemistry students heard about the company – which supplies some of the largest chemical manufacturers in the world – as well as meet chemistry graduates who now work with their passion. 

Full throttle for a critical process

A catalyst can coax a chemical process along millions and even billions of times faster. Haldor Topsøe is a company whose job it is to provide catalysts for the chemical industry. Topsøe serves a wide range of industries that includes:

  • Oil refining, in which sulphur, metals and nitrogen must be eliminated from crude oil.
  • Ammonia producers that deliver chemicals necessary in fertilizer production.
  • Sulphur manufacturers who also deliver for fertilizer production.
  • Hydrogen producers who provide crucial ingredients for everything from ammonia to margarine. 

Massive growth

Topsøe has promised itself tenfold growth in the coming twelve years. Realizing this aim necessitates the hiring of personnel with natural science backgrounds. And that includes a slew of chemists to develop areas with commercial potential, areas such as battery technologies and diesel engine catalysts. Kim Johansen, head of research and development at the firm, says that naturally, chemists will be hired within R&D, but that they will also be brought aboard to mediate the sale of industrial plants.

“It is difficult to teach a salesperson chemistry. It is much easier to teach a chemist to sell,” explained Johansen to the assembly of 70 chemistry students. Johansen went on to say that, “our research staff should be capable of two things. They should be able to perform research and they should be effective at disseminating their research – to colleagues and leadership within the firm, as well as to our clients.”

Interest-driven studies lead to dream job

Uffe Vie Mentzel, a researcher in new catalysts, spoke to the audience about the path and detours that led him to his research position at Topsøe, a job that he describes as “one in which I save the world a little bit every  passing day”.

His most important message to students was that they ought to select chemistry courses and specialties according to what they find exciting, as opposed to what they think they will be working with, because as a chemist, one can always change course.

“If someone thinks it’s fun, they can succeed. Remember, you are educating yourself for your own sake, not anyone else's. And remember that everything you learn today as a matter of academic necessity will be something you need down the road, when you begin at your job.”