Lipid enthusiast with huge legacy

Thursday 08 Jun 17

As a researcher at Technical University of Denmark—DTU, Lars Hellgren specialized in the complex interrelationships between lipid chemistry and the impact of lipids on the organism in early childhood and in the development of lifestyle diseases. He was also Head of Studies and an exceptionally hard-working and highly popular lecturer who sadly lost the fight to cancer at the age of just 54.

Obituary of Lars Hellgren

The Swede who became our treasured colleague and friend
Lars Ingvar Hellgren, who we all knew as Lasse, started his career in his home country Sweden where he got his MSc in 1992 and since then his PhD in 1996 from the University of Gothenburg. In 1997, he became assistant professor at DTU, where he has been working as associate professor since 2001. From the beginning of his career, he had a burning interest in lipid metabolism, and particularly the metabolism of ceramides and sphingomyelin in the cell membrane became the focus of his scientific work. Later on, he became interested in the impact of lipids on the regulation of metabolism in connection with metabolic disorders. Throughout all the years, Lasse was a vibrant, knowledgeable, and committed researcher and lecturer, whom we all valued highly as a colleague and friend. He stood out as an extraordinarily fine person with an abundance of humour, laughter, and empathy, which benefited everyone in his immediate environment. In his spare time, he enjoyed hiking and photographing nature, where especially birds were a much-loved motif.

Anchorman of teaching
For two decades, Lasse was a committed and popular lecturer at DTU within biochemistry, nutrition, nutrigenomics, and lipidomics. He played a key role in the establishment of the BSc programme in Human Life Science Engineering in 2005, a programme he was head of studies on from 2005 to 2010, and introductory course teacher on until 2015. In parallel with this, he held the post as Head of Studies for the department in the period 2008-2011, in addition to being a treasured member of the department's assistant professor supervisor team. Characteristically, he always led the way when joint tasks were to be solved, without any thought as to whether this would directly further his personal career. Lasse loved his role as the anchorman of teaching, and he will be sorely missed as the students' friend and source of inspiration.

Lipid enthusiast to the end
Throughout his career, Lasse was passionate about lipid chemistry and lipids' biological mechanisms of action. A passion that produced close to 100 publications in recognized international journals. In recent years, he excelled in particular with his extensive knowledge of the complex interrelationships between lipid absorption and metabolism as well as the impact of lipids as signalling molecules; a knowledge which was utilized in various projects within the Danish Dairy Research Foundation and the then Danish Council for Strategic Research, including the Centre for Fetal Programming, and the Center for Gut, Grain, and Greens (3G) to which he also contributed as member of the steering committee. In 2015, he was the instigator behind the InfantBrain project, which is supported by both Innovation Fund Denmark and the Danish Dairy Research Foundation. He was also project manager for the InfantBrain project and actively committed to the project to the end. Lasse was also an asset to the European research environment within lipid research, as a member of the Board of the Nordic Forum for Lipid Research and Technology, which he chaired from 2007 to 2009, and as a member of the Board of the European Federation of Lipid Science and Technology from 2008 to 2010. Under these auspices, he co-organized the organization's conferences.

There is no doubt that Lasse's legacy and excellent example will remain with all of us and the next generation of talented researchers, who will carry on Lasse's favourite saying: Fat matters!

Our thoughts go to his son August, his good friend Marie, and to the rest of his family in this very difficult period.

Susanne Brix Pedersen, Kristian Fog Nielsen, Hanne Frøkiær, Ulf Thrane, Mogens Kilstrup, Tine Rask Licht, and Lotte Lauritzen

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