Chemistry employers promise golden future – University of Copenhagen

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26 August 2014

Chemistry employers promise golden future

Studies introduction '14

With a chemistry diploma in hand, one would have to bend over backwards to wind up unemployed. That was the main message when 79 new UCPH chemistry bachelor students spent the second day of their introduction to studies on a visit to two of Denmark’s largest employers of natural sciences graduates, Novo Nordisk and Haldor Topsøe. Both companies are experiencing tremendous growth, and combined, they expect to hire thousands of new scientific staff over the next few years.

Gigantic science emplyer

With its 40,000 employees, pharmaceutical powerhouse Novo Nordisk is one of Denmark’s largest employers. And with 6000 scientific personnel, it was definitely a worthy meeting for the freshly minted chemistry students. Thomas Høeg-Jensen, a development chemist at Novo, explained that the company’s greatest strength is its ability to chemically modify proteins and thereby endow them with new properties. It is a skill that diabetes patients in particular benefit from. With its production of insulin and patented insulin injection pen, “Novopen”, the company helps alleviate the condition of hundreds of thousands of patients worldwide.

Frustration filter neccesary

Insulin is a relatively large molecule that Novo Nordisk produces using biotechnological methods, as opposed to traditional chemistry. However, chemistry is needed to develop the modifications that transform these proteins into better medications. It is a job that Jensen holds in high regard. But there is also a great deal of frustration, as only one out of 10,000 ideas makes its way from the laboratory to patients. “If one wants to conduct research in the pharmaceuticals industry, the first thing you need to learn is to be patient. But it is also vital that one doesn’t lose motivation due to setbacks. Luckily, I am equally motivated by the fact that chemistry is exciting, as by the fact that we are creating a product,” asserts Thomas Høeg-Jensen.

Huge differences in hiring policies

Novo Nordisk has roughly 6000 researchers on staff, almost all equipped with a PhD. At Haldor Topsøe, a catalysis company, the profiles of the 600 researchers are a considerably different. Here, only 16 per-cent of research staff have PhDs, while 46 per-cent have MSc’s or the equivalent. Finally, an entire 38 per-cent of the Topsøe research staff are BSc’s.

Pedal to the metal

Catalysts are able to increase the speed of a chemical process by millions and even a billion times. Haldor Topsøe has been involved in the delivery of catalysts to the entire chemical industry. They have done so in areas as varied as:

  • Oil refineries, that remove sulphur, metals and nitrogen from crude oil.
  • Ammonia producers, that provide ingredients for fertilizer production.
  • Sulfuric acid producers, that also provide ingredients for fertilizers.
  • Hydrogen producers, that provide essential raw materials for everything from ammonia to margarine.

Reach your dream job by choosing with your heart

At Topsøe, the most important message to the new students and future co-workers, was that they should try to choose their courses and chemistry spezialisations according to what excites them – not according to what they expect to end up working on. Because as a chemist, one can always shift directions.

“If you think it's fun, you can pull it off. Remember. You are educating yourself for your own sake, not for anyone else’s. And remember. Whatever you learn today because you are obliged to, you will deploy tomorrow when your career begins.