John Villadsen

Obituary: John Villadsen

Tuesday 27 Jul 21
We have lost a great and inspiring chemical engineer, and a good friend.

John Villadsen passed away in the early hours of 22 July 2021, marking the end of a long and distinguished career at DTU.

John Villadsen was born on 12 June 1936. Having completed his MSc degree in Chemical Engineering at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) in 1959, he served for two years in the Danish army, before returning to DTU forto his PhD degree, which he was awarded in 1963.

Following a period as a postdoc at the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Wisconsin (Madison), where he worked with Professor Warren E. Stewart on the development of the method of orthogonal collocation for solving boundary-value problems., Hhe returned to DTU Chemical Engineering in 1966. After a few years of leave working for NIRO Atomizer in Brazil, he returned to DTU Chemical Engineering, where he worked with chemical reaction techniqutechniquese and catalysis until 1984. From 1976 to 1984 he was also a professor at the Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Houston.

In 1984, John Villadsen’s career took another significant leap when he was named one of ten Danish so-called ‘Super Professors’. John Villadsen was tasked with strengthening Danish research and education in the field of biotechnology, which he had already started to integrate into his teaching of chemical reaction techniques. Over the next 15 years, John Villadsen was responsible for the Danish Centre for Process Biotechnology (CPB) at DTU. In 2001, Jens Nielsen took over as head of the centre.

From 2001 to 2003, DTU Chemical Engineering worked with Novozymes to establish a Novozymes Bioprocess Academy at DTU. The centre was established in conjunction with the then BioCentrum, and with a significant number of PhD students funded by Novozymes. The following year, DTU Chemical Engineering received a donation from the Novo Nordisk Foundation to fund a professorship in Biochemical Engineering. John Villadsen took on the task of getting the venture off to a good start before his official retirement in 2006. Based on the great efforts of John Villadsen, the field of research has since grown to such an extent that in 2008 the department took the official English name Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering.

Since officially retiring, John Villadsen remained a fixture at the department, making significant contributions to the academic and social life of the department as a ‘Senior Professor’ for 15 years. Right up until the end, he remained a great source of inspiration to all of us, and most recently he was working on a summary of the 150-year history of the department.
Personally, I have known John since 1982/83, when he supervised my exam project. He was a wonderful supervisor, who went on to become a good friend, always ready to share his considerable knowledge and insights.
May he rest in peace.

Head of Department Kim Dam-Johansen.

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