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Martin Kjær - From car mechanic to PhD at AAU Energy

Martin Kjær - From car mechanic to PhD at AAU Energy

After working as a car mechanic for more than three years, Martin Kjær was looking for different challenges. His discovery of a talent for and interest in mathematics led him to the foundation course at AAU Energy, and now, several years later and without it being the plan from the beginning, he is finishing his PhD on reliability analysis of power systems with a large share of renewable based generation units with main focus on grid interfacing power electronics.

Who are you and what do you do here at AAU Energy?

Here at AAU Energy, I have studied for my bachelor’s degree in Energy with specialisation in Electrical Engineering and my master’s degree with specialisation in Power Electronics and Drives. During my 8th semester, job offers on PhD positions started opening, and I started my PhD during my 9th semester. I am writing my thesis at the moment, and I finish it at the end of August.

Your journey to a PhD was a little different: what did you do before?

When I was younger, I never knew what I wanted to do. I liked cars so I took an apprenticeship as a car mechanic and worked there for 3,5 years. Eventually I got bored and began searching for new challenges. I started the foundation course for the Bachelor of Technology Management and Marine Engineering in Frederikshavn, where I developed an interest in electrical engineering. This became the path I intended to follow, so I transferred to the foundation course here at AAU Energy.

What were your plans before you started your education?

I didn’t have much of a plan, and when I started at AAU, I never considered a PhD. My original plan was a bachelor’s in engineering, but more wants more and I liked it so much that I decided to do my master’s degree as well, before finally applying for the PhD. Everything happened step by step and almost coincidentally, but considering the growing focus on the green transition, it makes a lot of sense to me. 

How was the transition between your previous job and life at AAU?

It was a radical change, and the differences are profound. The first semesters were relatively difficult, and I felt different from the other students because of my background and my age. The group work in the semester projects was challenging at first, but I have learned a lot since then.

What implications did your background have for your transition to AAU?

My background as a car mechanic provided me with a technical and practical understanding of electronics. The education at AAU is theoretically based, and I feel that my previous practical experience gave me a head start and made the theory more understandable and intuitive.

Which benefits do you have that are different from others, and are you lacking skills in other areas?

There are some major differences in what I bring with me compared to the other students. The foundation course only contains the subjects necessary for your bachelor’s degree, and as a result, I felt that I was lacking general education. My practical experience and head start in the technical aspect enables me to contribute to certain areas, but the other students in my groups were initially better at structuring the written projects. The communication and presentation of scientific work is very important, and that is something I had to learn. But that happened fast with our big projects each semester. 

What were your expectations before starting at AAU?

I had no idea what to expect. I remember the first lectures being great, and everything here was way more interesting than anything I had done before. I enjoyed finally being able to use my talent for mathematics. I always had that; I was just too full of energy to use it before.

What is the biggest difference from what you used to do and what you do now?

It is two completely different worlds. University is demanding in an entirely different way, and there is so much to learn during your education here. I love that I am always learning new things and constantly being challenged. As a car mechanic, the work was becoming monotonous, and I no longer felt stimulated through my work; although I do sometimes miss being able to shut off my head and let my hands do the work.

What are your plans for the future? 

I finish my PhD thesis in the end of August, and I have already received several job offers from big companies and major players in the field of green transition here in Denmark but also in Germany and Sweden. I have experienced a lot of interest from the companies I have applied for jobs in, and I look forward to working with a company that makes a difference in the field. I want to get back into reality and work somewhere with many different opportunities, so that I can keep learning.

Do you recommend this career paht?

Yes definitely! It is a different way to go, but I have something to offer that the others don’t. My age provided me with the ability of being more serious about and committed to my studies, and my background as a car mechanic gave me technical experience that has been very beneficial.

Just because you have made a certain choice in your life, it doesn’t mean that you can never do something else. If you find yourself dreaming of new challenges, you should go for it; I don’t regret making a different choice a little later in my life.