Mogens Mogensen is appointed Fellow by the Electrochemical Society 2015

The grandfather of Danish research in electrochemistry celebrates his 40th work anniversary

Tuesday 27 Oct 15

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Mogens Bjerg Mogensen
Professor Emeritus
DTU Energy
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Curriculum Vitae

Mogens Mogensen Bjerg will 3 November 2015 be able to celebrate his 40th anniversary as a researcher. He was a graduate engineer (chemistry) at the Technical University of Denmark where he also did his PhD and was a postdoc for two years. Then he worked at the Danish battery producer Hellesen for a year before he in 1980 turned down a job as a factory manager to become a researcher in batteries and nuclear processes at Risø National Laboratory. In time he started researching high-temperature electrochemistry. Mogens Bjerg Mogensen was one of the main initiators of the Danish research in reversible oxide fuel cells (SOFC) and enjoys broad international recognition for his work.

Professor Mogens Bjerg Mogensen at DTU Energy is the sixth child of a small farmer. He overcame poverty and prejudice to become the Grandfather of Danish research in high temperature electrochemistry and an internationally recognized researcher, but Mogens Bjerg Mogensen has also stepped on many scientific toes along the way as he does not tolerate half-hearted efforts.

In 40 years Professor Mogens Bjerg Mogensen has been employed as Government supported researcher at Risø National Laboratory and the Technical University of Denmark, DTU. He helped Danish research in electrolytes, high pressure electrolysis and reversible fuel cells into the world elite, and he has left distinct marks along the way. Not least among those who have felt his sharp wit and pointed comments, because the workaholic Mogens Bjerg Mogensen does not tolerate half-hearted effort from himself nor others.

He is an internationally recognized researcher who has been an invited speaker at more than 40 scientific conferences. He has co-authored more than 350 scientific articles, of which 250+ have been published in high-ranking international journals. And he is well-known and slightly feared as a very competent but also very strict reviewer for many of those journals.

Tough, but professional

"I'm not afraid to criticize, even publicly, and some may be offended by that, but it's never personal. It is always meant professionally. I am used as a reviewer by many journals, and I know that I'm a pretty tough reviewer who criticizes and says no to many articles, but it's never personal and is always academically well-founded”, says Mogens, who has always placed good science above everything. He is not afraid to step on the sore toes of researchers, if the research or the scientific theses behind their articles are unfounded.

"Most successful researchers burn with an inner fire. Yes, it sounds nicer to say that you are passionate about something. That you have an inner fire for what you do, but in fact it is for many of the successful researchers a kind of mania. "
Professor Mogens Bjerg Mogensen, DTU Energy

"I know of quite a few people who may perhaps not fear him, but they sure don’t look forward to see him raise his hand and ask questions, when they put forward their projects and research at conferences or the like. Mogens is widely recognized for his vast knowledge and his unique ability to always pinpoint the weak spots where the research is a little lacking or not fully substantiated", says Head of Department Søren Linderoth, DTU Energy, who has known Mogens for decades, first as a colleague, now as his superior.

He continues: "Ultimately it is a huge bonus. Although it can be really annoying to be rebuked publicly, everybody knows that Mogens is very knowledgeable when he pinpoints the weak parts. I have even heard jokes about it. That if you are able to respond properly, you have been given the seal of approval. In fact some find it disconcerting if he does not ask critical questions about their research. Does a missing question mean that their research is inconsequential? "

Several of Mogens' colleagues over the years tell almost identical stories of a well-liked, but also very tough professor, who knows his material and does not give his approval lightly. Several have experienced ideas getting blown out of the water by Mogens claiming that he has already thought those ideas through and dropped them again. Which can be discouraging at first, says a colleague, but;

"It's not a lie! The vast majority of times Mogens did conceive the idea and has already moved on to the next level. And even though he seems like having difficulties listening to you at times, you can easily get through with your idea if you argue well for the idea using good and professional arguments. I like that, because it sharpens the discussion and leads to good results, "says a colleague and briefly touches another facet of the many facetted Mogens Bjerg Mogensen, because the professor does not only get ideas.

Industrious workhorse

Everyone is good at something, but Mogens Bjerg Mogensen is good at everything. He gets ideas, obtains funding, put projects into action. He writes reports and publications, and he has widely acclaimed abilities to lead an idea all the way from the concept of the project into a finished product.

"He can do that because he is incredibly industrious. He has read countless articles and he is really good at learning from mistakes and come again. Errors don’t scare him, he just work harder", says Søren Linderoth.

"This is a 40th anniversary, but if you add up all the working hours, it is perhaps closer to a 60th years anniversary, for he is a ‘workhorse’ who works like no other I have known. He has done that during all the years, I have known him, for he is very focused in his research and before Wikipedia came out, Mogens was our local and omniscient encyclopedia. He leaves very little room for error. "

Mogens dedicates his work ethics, this focused ability to work almost nonstop to his humble upbringing as sixth child of a poor farmer at Western Jutland. That, and an enormous curiosity as well as a deep interest in science in general and chemistry and physics in particular.

"I come from a very poor background and grew up as the youngest of six children in a family of farmers. It was not always that we could afford new clothes, but there was always enough food and love, and as the youngest I was a little spoiled. My family and my parents have always supported me, even if they had little or no money, and they supported me wholeheartedly when I got the chance to go to school in the fine city school, even when some asked why the son of a poor farmer should be allowed to go there?”, says Mogens.

That was 55 years ago at a time where rural children only went three or four hours to school every second day, and many from the local community did not believe that the young Mogens would be able to follow the pace and standards of the fine city school. He could, and he proved himself so skilled that he went on to the Technical University of Denmark and ended up becoming a civil engineer in chemistry.

"I was bitten by chemistry and physics by the age of 14, and I wanted to be a civil engineer, because I wanted to use it for something. That’s the farmer's son in me. Research in itself is not enough, it has to have a practical use and lead to something, and electrochemistry that uses both physics and chemistry suited me perfectly."

The driving force

After four decades in the world of science Mogens is just as profoundly bitten by the interaction between chemistry and physics as before: "You can compare it to having some sort of mania”, says the professor and think a little before continuing: “Most successful researchers burn with an inner fire. Yes, it sounds nicer to say that you are passionate about something. That you have an inner fire for what you do, but in fact it is for many of the successful researchers a kind of mania. You have to have ambitions on behalf of your work, but it is not enough to have professional ambitions, you also have to have this driving force inside you."

This burning desire to always provide his best and his ability to work harder than most to reach his goal has made Mogens one of the biggest capacities within high-temperature fuel cells. He has been at the forefront of Danish research in the development of high-temperature electrochemistry and grandfathered many of the analytical methods and the understanding of materials that is common practice today in both Denmark and internationally. He has also helped train many of the top scientists and technicians who today lead the field of electrochemistry.

"Some may claim that I have improved my ability to make room for other researchers and perhaps I haven’t always been good at that. But now the young generation has to lead the way and I have helped train many of the new researchers by motivating and encouraging them and also by having great expectations to their abilities. I believe them really capable to take over and you always have to remember, that all research is a team effort. I wouldn’t have been able to do anything without them”, says Mogens, who have only allowed his closest family to come between him and his beloved science.

He allows it, because his wife Gurli as a dedicated researcher herself knows what science demands from its dedicated followers. Thus she has always allowed Mogens to study and research without interference, but once in a while she has dragged him out of his labs and out into the real world to clear his head. Mogens loves travelling, but she takes the initiative by dragging him out and away for a journey with the family.

"I have never experienced stress. I have been busy yes, sometimes very busy but never stressed, and that is probably because I've always had backing from my family", says Mogens, who loves his family very dearly.

Especially his two daughters, his two sons in law and his four grandchildren.

"In fact, his grandchildren are perhaps the only ones more valuable to Mogens than winning an argument. No matter how vehemently he may be discussing, and no matter what the topic is, he leaves on time and on the minute if he is to visit the grandkids. He is a very loving grandfather", says several colleagues.

Recognized by ECS

Mogens Bjerg Mogensen is many things. He is a loving grandfather, a tough but fair leader and a brilliantly skilled scientist with great enthusiasm who has led Danish research to the world’s elite within ceramic fuel cells, electrolysis cells and electrochemistry. A feat that is widely recognized by his peers and the American Electrochemical Society (ECS) has recently appointed Professor Mogensen as ECS Fellow 2015

“This is a mark of high distinction conferred by your peers in recognition of your scientific achievement and service to the Society. We look forward to celebrating this honor with you in Phoenix later this year”, writes Roque J. Calvo, Executive Director & CEO of the Electrochemical Society.

Professor Mogens Mogensen attended the 228th ECS Meeting in Phoenix, USA, in October 2015, where he met ECS President Dan Scherson and was celebrated by his peers for his contributions. He also received a framed scroll and an ECS Fellow lapel pin.

The 40th anniversary of Mogens Bjerg Mogensen will be celebrated at DTU Energy November 3, 2015.

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