Professor, Head of Centre of Excellence, DTU Nanotech, Technical University of Denmark
Country of birth: Denmark
Educational background: MS Physics, University of Roskilde, Denmark; PhD Technical University of Denmark
Who or what inspired you to work in science/engineering?
As a master’s student, I was supervised by some very good and enthusiastic PhD students. Their joy really convinced me that I wanted to do a PhD. At that time my interest was in "pure" scientific understanding. Now I am much more inspired by application-driven research and team performance.
Primary responsibilities of your current job
I work with nanotechnology (most people have heard of it, although many think it has to do with small robots, etc.). I develop sensors for explosives and fast diagnostics. Recently, we initiated activities in oral drug delivery—how to get important medication to the right location in the digestive system. In my job I am responsible for 15 to 20 researchers and I am coordinating two large research projects. I supervise students and sometimes I teach. I am a member of many boards in Scandinavia. I write papers, research proposals, etc., and travel a lot to meet collaborators and attend conferences.
Biggest obstacle or challenge that you have faced in your career
After my PhD, I realized that I only wanted to stay in academia if I could secure some of my own funding in order to pursue my ideas. Luckily, in 1998, Denmark had a special program for women in science and I applied—even though it was only about one year after receiving my PhD. I was extremely lucky to get funding (the success rate is about 3.5%) and then I could initiate my own small activity with two PhD students. Today I am very grateful for that. Had I not received this funding, I would have left academia.
Advice you wish you had received when you were first starting out
Today I would advise young people to find good mentors early in their careers and to secure a good balance between the important things in life. For me, these are family, work, and staying mentally/physically fit.