Sven Frøkjær: “I’ve been paid to work with my hobby” – University of Copenhagen

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30 August 2016

Sven Frøkjær: “I’ve been paid to work with my hobby”

PORTRAIT

Friday 26 August is Sven Frøkjær’s last day as Associate Dean for Business and International Relations at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, UCPH.

Sven Frøkjær’s impressive career took its point of departure in the industry before bringing him into the world of academia. In time, he would be in charge of implementing the biggest change to the pharmaceutical field.

The removal boxes are patiently waiting outside the door, ready to be filled with an entire lifetime of professional achievements. A highly content Sven Frøkjær sits at the table. In the space that framed his years as Associate Dean, he thoughtfully recounts the most important moments of a long career.

“I’ve had numerous great experiences throughout my career. I’ve witnessed PhD students creating results that changed the way we perceived a given scientific problem. And that is probably the most exciting aspect, when all is said and done,” says Sven Frøkjær.

On Friday 26 August, Sven Frøkjær retires as Associate Dean for Business and International Relations. His career started back in 1970, when at the age of 23, he finished his training as a pharmacist and three years later completed a PhD in physical chemistry. His education led him to what almost amounted to 20 years at Novo Nordisk, where among other things, he conducted research on nanomedicine, long before it became a general trend.

“Following the developments at Novo Nordisk through close to 20 years was very exciting. When I started, we were only 1,200 employees. Today the number is close to 43,000. And there is a quite unique Novo-spirit of professional excellence and high ethics, which I brought with me,” Sven Frøkjær explains.

And the many years at Novo Nordisk were of great use to Sven Frøkjær when he returned to the world of research in 1993 as Professor of Drug Delivery and Formulation Design. The leap was based on a decision to return to independent research and conveying his knowledge to the world of academia. Students were able to draw on Sven Frøkjær’s extensive knowledge of the industry and both his professional and personal experience would help his MA students’ transition to the industry. In 2003, Sven Frøkjær’s career took another step up the ladder, when he became Rector of The Royal Danish School of Pharmacy.
“Becoming rector, was not in any way part of my plans. But I thought it would be exciting and regarded it as yet another challenge, even if it also meant more administrative work. As rector, you’re able to draw-up long-term visions for your institution. That this included bringing the pharmaceutical sciences to the University of Copenhagen were not on the horizon at the time. However, developments over time meant that together with the board we decided, in 2007, that merging with the University of Copenhagen would secure the continued development of the pharmaceutical field.”

The merger is one of the decisions most vividly remembered.

“Today, I have absolutely no doubts that we did the right thing. The merger with the University of Copenhagen and later the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences has brought the pharmaceutical field in touch with an environment of significant professional diversity and an environment with plenty of legroom. This has greatly improved future prospects for the entire pharmaceutical field,” Sven Frøkjær elaborates proudly.

Even though Sven Frøkjær steps down as Associate Dean, he is not retiring from working life all together. He will continue in the position of Professor of Drug Delivery and Formulation Design, only this new part-time position will also give him more free time, which is something he looks forward to.

“Working has, more or less consistently, been fun, because it’s also been my hobby. But there are other things in life. And now I get to spend time with family and friends, and I’ve just bought the vintage car I’ve been dreaming of for the last 30 years. And I have to use it, before I get too old to even climb in,” Sven Frøkjær concludes with a smile.