Nils Axel Andersen smiling and standing in front of a row of colleagues

40 years of research and education with Nils Axel Andersen

tirsdag 09 aug 22


Nils Axel Andersen
DTU Electro
45 25 35 83
Associate professor Nils Axel Andersen has spent 40 years working at DTU, helping solve societal challenges in health, transportation and robotics, all while educating tomorrow's leaders within the field of automation and control.

Nils started working at DTU, as soon as he ended his studies, and has been with us ever since. Getting his ph.d., becoming assistant professor and since associate professor.

People have asked him “isn’t it boring staying at the same place for 40 years?” but Nils doesn’t think so, “automation and control is interdisciplinary work, and the techniques we use can be applied regardless of whether we need to control a ship, the temperature in a building, or a robot, so you get a chance to get acquainted with a multitude of application fields”, thus Nils has yet to get bored with his work.

Amongst several career achievements, Nils recalls developing the control system for the Danish navy’s plastic ships, analyzing brake problems in DSB’s IC4 trains, and developing an oxygen control unit for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients.

Nils has worked with mobile robots for years and is passionate about making robots more intelligent - or as Nils says “making them more than just a stupid arm”. This is evident in Nils’ multiple state of the art mobile robots for educational use, of which 10 were built for 40 students, whereas other universities at the same point in time were only able to offer 4 robots for the same amount of students - and Nils and his colleagues were able to build these for a fraction of the market price. Nils remembers spending time with a colleague over his Christmas break to finish the last bit of wiring on these robots, so they would be ready for the January courses.

With that type of work ethic, Nils’ passion for his work is not difficult to spot.

"If you buy a finished robot, you will often spend a large amount of time figuring out how it works, and then finding out that there are things, you can’t get information about, so you can’t do what you really want."
Nils Axel Andersen

The associate professor likes building his robots himself, instead of just buying them, as this offers an invaluable insight as to how the robot works. This mindset follows Nils into his classrooms, as he finds it extremely important for students to get hands-on experience as early as possible, so they realize the difference between theory and practice. So for a course about regulating a system, Nils replaced the simulator students were testing their work with, with an actual sorting machine, which he built. Mind you, this was in 1987, and the machine still runs to this day.

Nils has participated in the biannual robotics competition MBZIRC held in Abu Dhabi, UAE, twice and has won several medals at these occasions. When asked about what the future holds for Nils, he simply says that he is preparing for a third run.

Nils would tell you, that people ask him and his colleagues, why they can’t just stick to one thing, and when you’ve read this piece, I’m sure you can understand why. Nils' response? “But that is what we’re doing. We are sticking to what we’re good at: creating automation and control systems”.

Join us August 10th in celebrating Nils and his 40 years of research and education at DTU.