Mathias Brinch-Larsen works at Haldor Topsøe as Catalyst Engineer

You learn that there is rarely just one correct way of approaching a problem

A Masters from DTU Energy led Mathias Brinch-Larsen to a job as Catalyst Engineer at Haldor Topsøe. Now he travels around the world to help customers in the oil refinery industry.

Mathias Brinch-Larsen took a bachelor degree in Physics and Nanotechnology at DTU, which was very theoretical, but he started looking for a more concrete or practical application of his knowledge while seeking challenges within a broader variety of natural sciences.

“I had touched the research going on at DTU Energy in a 5 ECTS point course during my bachelor degree and I found that the department dealt with challenging tasks within a large number of interesting fields,” says Mathias and lists a number of fields of research: Modelling of microscopic and macroscopic systems, materials science, chemical synthesis, storage of hydrogen, optimization of complex production processes, magnetic cooling and density functional theory.

Mathias found these areas very interesting, so he chose to follow the master program Hydrogen and Fuel Cells - elite at DTU Energy.

“The elite master program offered both large flexibility and the possibility of going to conferences around the world, and I directed it towards studying solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC), a field of study which is a complex blend of chemistry, physics and electrochemistry”.

Around the world

Mathias addressed development of electrodes for SOFC in his master thesis, using a new material and modeling of the physics, chemistry and electrochemistry in SOFC. He also had access to Risø's large database of test results. After graduation he got a job as Catalyst Engineer at Haldor Topsøe.

Best experiences from Risø

For my current career, the most important achievements from the thesis were an improved understanding of the reactions and physical processes in complex physicochemical systems and how to work focused and determined within an entirely new field of study.

I also learned that with my fundamental basis in physics, chemistry and math, I could work within almost any field of engineering and natural sciences, since it is all a matter of understanding the concepts and way of thinking within a new field.

Mathias works in a technical support section for the Refinery Business Unit at Haldor Topsøe. The unit sells catalysts and technology for oil refineries and his job is to do the technical part of catalyst offers for the clients and utilize his understanding of physicochemical systems and ability to analyze test results and large amounts of data from Haldor Topsøe’s R&D department.

Another part of the job is to travel to clients around the world and supervise installation of Haldor Topsøe’s catalysts while providing a good service to the client.

“I knew nothing about oil when I started my current job, so I went through an extensive training program to prepare for the tasks within this new field. And I am constantly developed and learn something new every day,” says Mathias. His experiences are that you have to learn a lot of things that are not written in books, when you start a new job in the industry.  

Many ways to the solution

“You work less with theoretical science and more with applied engineering. You learn that there is rarely just one correct way of approaching a problem and there is rarely just one correct result. But I felt prepared for the job, because I had similar experiences at Risø.”

Mathias explains, how he had good tutors and good supervisors at Risø, and he really recommends other students to do their master thesis at DTU Energy. He gives many reasons, among those the accessibility of experimental equipment and the many hours that several supervisors are used to spend on their students.

“The access to advanced experimental equipment is much better than at most research institutes, since the many fields of study require a large variety of characterization techniques. Besides, Risø generally has fewer students and less course teaching, therefore many supervisors have more time to spend on each student,” explains Mathias, who was considered more of a colleague than a student.

I have a lot of opportunities

“With all the time that I spent with my four supervisors, of which one was from the industry, I learned a lot about how they work and how they address scientific challenges, and this knowledge has proven very valuable in my new job”, says Mathias.

He feels that he has many different career opportunities from his current position.

“In five years I could be improving our technical tools and training new employees at our regional offices around the globe or I could work with developing new, upcoming technologies and business ideas. The combination of working at Haldor Topsøe and having done my master at Risø has given me many opportunities.”