The Value of International Experiences – University of Copenhagen

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International Education > Newsletter > Morten Johnsen

21 May 2016

The Value of International Experiences

“Students not only gain an academically rigorous international experience,” Morten Johnsen, Associate Professor in Molecular Biomedicine, points out, “They connect with other students within their field, which will surely prove valuable for them in the long run”. 

This summer, the highly successful summer school in Molecular Biomedicine offered jointly by National University of Singapore and University of Copenhagen will run for its fourth year. On the occasion of his retirement later this year, we have spoken to one of its founding fathers, Morten Johnsen, Associate Professor, about what motivated his international outlook.

Challenge your beliefs!
In 1980, Morten Johnsen went to China with his young daughter to teach a 3-month course at Wuhan University. “It changed my life”, he recalls, “The cultural differences were huge. I was teaching through an interpreter.”

Learning from other cultures turns out to be a recurring theme in our conversation with the professor. “You learn so much from seeing how people in other parts of the world approach the same issues. You have to challenge your own presumptions.” Morten Johnsen says with force.

Associate Professor Morten Johnsen  Photo: Aske Stick

Bridging professional cultures at home
Morten Johnsen’s eye for cultural differences also manifested itself at the Department of Biology at UCPH.  While cooperating on cancer research with doctors at one of the biggest hospitals in Denmark, Rigshospitalet, he noticed that doctors and molecular biologists seemed to be from two different worlds; speaking different languages.  

The resourceful professor set his mind to offer students a programme, which incorporated elements from both professional fields in the study of human diseases. In 2004, the cross-disciplinary Bachelor’s degree in Molecular Biomedicine was introduced, followed in 2007 by an English-language Master’s degree.

Cooperation with the National University of Singapore
Students in Molecular Biomedicine felt the professor’s insistence on the academic and personal value of international experiences. “I kept on pushing my students to NUS”, Morten Johnsen says with a smile.  His love for Singapore is unmistakable: “Excellent research in natural science, big cultural differences – and everyone speaks English! It’s perfect for the students.”

In 2013, a joint summer school between National University of Singapore and University of Copenhagen was created within Molecular Biomedicine, and it continues to be a great success now running for the fourth time in the summer of 2016. This year, the course will be in Singapore. 4 professors, 15 Danish and 15 Singaporean students will focus on diseases of muscles and the nervous system and their links to general metabolism.