Researcher into the most frequent cause of death in the West
A mixture of inclination and need was what led Lars Bo Nielsen towards a career in research while studying medicine at the University of Copenhagen back in the 1980s.
"When I began studying medicine, it was a case of them saying already on the intro course: ‘You might as well get ready to be unemployed. If you want to find a job, you should change to the law or engineering degree programmes.' Many people were forced to move to Sweden to find work, and if you wanted to stay in Copenhagen, you had to write a doctoral dissertation. But I also thought it could be interesting to find out of something in research," says Nielsen.
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He contacted several research groups, and after two refusals he got a place in a group led by Professor Steen Stender, which conducted research into the causes of cardiovascular diseases.
It was a bit of a coincidence that Nielsen was offered a place in a research group within precisely that field, but it is no coincidence that he has remained in the field ever since, as he emphasises.
"When you work with cardiovascular disease, you’re working on the most frequent cause of death in the Western world. It’s meaningful to work in basic research within a disease that affects so many people."
Today we know that increased blood cholesterol is the cause of cardiovascular diseases such as arteriosclerosis, and that the cholesterol level of the patients should therefore be lowered. But that was not the case when Lars Bo Nielsen began to research within the field.
"The studies we did consistently supported the hypothesis that cholesterol was the cause of cardiovascular diseases. It has since turned out that this was a correct hypothesis, and it was fun to be involved in creating the scientific foundation for the clinical studies that came in 1994 and for the first time said that there was evidence for the hypothesis."
Facts: Lars Bo Nielsen
52-years-old and professor of functional genomics.
Comes from a position as head of the Department of Clinical Medicine at the Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen.
Has conducted 30 years of research into cholesterol and hardening of the arteries.
Married to Lise Leth Jeppesen, who is a neurologist. They have two sons aged 24 and 20.
Played basketball in his leisure time until recently and still an active sailor.
Lars Bo Nielsen takes up the position on 1 April.
Translated by Peter Lambourne