Nature Chemistry | The Sceptical Chymist

Reactions – Anders Østergaard Madsen

Anders Østergaard Madsen is in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Copenhagen, and works on crystal engineering using crystallographic techniques and computational approaches in the study of polymorphic molecular crystals.

1. What made you want to be a chemist?

It was not until my final high school year that I realized science was more interesting than art and literature. In fact, I did not fully understand chemistry in high school, and this annoyed me so much that I fought courageously to understand it. Do I understand chemistry today? Only vaguely – there are, fortunately, still vast amounts of uncharted territory to explore.

2. If you weren’t a chemist and could do any other job, what would it be – and why?

I would be physician; I admire these people who every day take responsibility for the health and life of other people.

3. What are you working on now, and where do you hope it will lead?

I am studying the stability and formation of polymorphic molecular crystals. Understanding the mechanisms behind the self-assembly and stability of solid-state materials at the molecular level is fundamental research – but with wide applications for design and manufacture of materials.

4. Which historical figure would you most like to have dinner with – and why?

There are so many! To mention one, I would like to have dinner with Tycho Brahe (1546-1601) – a Danish astronomer, and a leading figure of the scientific revolution. Tycho Brahe is credited with the most accurate astronomical observations of his time, and his data were used by Johannes Kepler, to derive the laws of planetary motion, one of the foundations for Isaac Newton’s theory of universal gravitation.

I have spent many holidays on the island Hven, where Tycho Brahe made his famous astronomical observations. Tycho was a very colorful person himself, and lived in a very important flourishing period of Danish history.

5. When was the last time you did an experiment in the lab – and what was it?

The last thing I did in the lab was to perform a very meticulous X-ray diffraction single crystal measurement. I like to do very precise and redundant measurements. A saying goes that “Theory is a good thing, but a good experiment lasts forever!”

6. If exiled on a desert island, what one book and one music album would you take with you?

I might stay for a long time on that desert island, so I have to bring something that will keep me thinking …. The collected works of Søren Kirkegaard would do. And a Bob Dylan music album… Blonde on Blonde (1966), thank you!

7. Which chemist would you like to see interviewed on Reactions – and why?

I have had the opportunity to collaborate with Professor David Eisenberg from UCLA. He is a very inspiring person with a knowledge that reaches far beyond chemistry. I am sure he would give some very interesting answers.

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