The scientific trailblazer from Sicily is new professor at DTU

Wednesday 20 Dec 17


Vincenzo Esposito
DTU Energy
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Curiosity has always defined the newly appointed professor at DTU Energy, Vincenzo Esposito. Many other researchers specialize in a single topic and are content with that, but Vincenzo Esposito has always wanted to push the boundaries of known science just a little bit further.

If Vincenzo Esposito had lived in the Wild West he would have been the outrider, the scout in front of an army or caravan finding water holes and new trails, pushing the known frontiers ever forward.

As a present day researcher he does exactly the same, except his new world consists of energy materials, of atoms and interfaces between molecules. And the new trails he blazes are not for wagons of the Wild West but for electrons to follow, ensuring ever faster, ever more efficient transfers of energy in materials.

“I was born with a natural curiosity and that has defined my entire career. I have always tried to not only do as everybody else does, but actively look beyond the frontiers of science to stimulate new ways of thinking, to push the boundaries and see if we can do it differently or in new ways”, says 44yr. old Vincenzo Esposito.

This willingness to think new thoughts has now landed him a professorship at DTU Energy and he held his inaugural speech Friday 15 December at DTU Lyngby Campus.

"I have always tried to not only do as everybody else does, but actively look beyond the frontiers of science to stimulate new ways of thinking"
Professor Vincenzo Esposito, DTU Energy

Inspired by Galileo

A Sicilian by birth Vincenzo Esposito took his master in Materials at the famous University of Padova, Italy, where Galileo Galilei revolutionized science. In his own way Vincenzo Esposito was inspired by Galileo to dare to think differently than many other researchers and risk his professional reputation once in a while.

“I like to generate new ideas. It is not easy, but when you look beyond the boundaries of science you also have the chance to make big achievements. Once in a while you also fail, sometimes you fail big, but high risks also mean high gains, and if you don’t dare, you don’t gain.”

After taking his master thesis in Padova, Vincenzo Esposito continued his career studying energy materials, focusing on solid oxide fuel cells in a joint PhD project between the University of Rome and the University of Florida. It gave him a lot of international contacts and access to many different research cultures.

 “We collaborated with research groups in Japan and Brazil, so it was four different research philosophies working together and I liked it. I have never wanted to embrace a single way of thinking. I thrive to learn from everybody, as all philosophies approach science in different ways and you can learn a lot from that.”

The Roman group was good at making excellent research and members of the group soon spread all over the world to spread this knowledge. In 2008 Vincenzo Esposito arrived to DTU Energy at Risø.

Chose the excellent research

“I chose Risø as DTU Energy was and still is very well-known in scientific community for excellent research in materials. I got here in 2008 and I have worked primarily in materials processing of solid oxide fuel cells since, with an occasional foray into new fields like looking for new nanostructures for flue gas purification.”

Vincenzo Esposito has now been appointed professor in ceramic science and engineering materials at DTU Energy, and asked what kind of advice he would like to give upcoming researchers, he promotes diversity and engagement in science, but most of all the will to follow through even if the political trends changes.

“It is very easy to follow the scientific and political trends and do like everybody else, but I advocate that you should dare think for yourself and try not to do the same all the time. Diversify, engage yourself and try to learn a lot of different things, not only because different views often lead to better solutions, but also to counter the political trends”, says Vincenzo Esposito. He is aware, that money and grants tends to flow in the direction of current political trends, but science matters too much to be a subject of political flimsies.

Always forward

“Sometimes it is very hard to decode what we scientists do, because we are not always able to present the results here and now. We set long term goals and we have to continue doing that and promote new ideas”, says Vincenzo Esposito, who has made both great breakthroughs with huge impact and many failures, but he has always moved science forward and is very respected for his innovative views by his peers.

“Research institutions need different kinds of skills. You need some, who can communicate, others that can attract and teach students, and then you need someone with creativity to move the frontiers and get new ideas. Some professors know a lot about certain specific areas. I like to see myself as a frontiers man!”

Vincenzo´s advice for future researchers

1.       Try to be enthusiastic about what you do, because sometimes it take a long time to get results

2.       Science is complicated with very few easy results, so adopt and be flexible if your results are not exactly what you thought.

3.       Finalize your projects and assignments. Good researchers make some research and many papers, but the best researchers make a lot of experiments and allow the leads and results to lead to even more experiments. You make fewer papers, but the end results are better and you move science.

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