PI Profiles: Athanassia Athanassiou

Camilla Dalla Bona

Interview with Athanassia Athanassiou, coordinator of the IIT Smart Materials research line

Name: Athanassia

Surname: Athanassiou

Place of birth: Athens

Position: PI, Smart Materials Lab

What does your research team do? We develop novel, functional, hi-tech, smart, green and sustainable materials to serve demanding human needs, without negative environmental effects.

When you were younger, was this the job you had in mind? Yes, most of the times…

If this wasn’t your current job, what would you have liked to do? Athletics speed runner.

That time you would have wanted to drop everything and do something else: The moments I felt like dropping everything, I was trying to paint. I needed to focus on that and this was taking everything else out of my mind. It is a pity I have no talent…

“Publish or perish”. How does the pressure to publish influence your days and your professional choices? I do not feel it as a pressure but as a need and an important accomplishment.

When did you realise you were going in the right direction? When I was coming home at nights satisfied by the scientific findings and their perspectives.

What is your next goal? Bring to the market biocomposites made using circular economy concepts, with minimal environmental impact to contribute to a cleaner planet.

What is the toughest aspect of your job? Having to train people that show no real interest in their research and seeing great research results, which can make the difference in the “real world”, staying in the labs.

Senior researchers necessarily have to deal with many bureaucratic aspects. Apparently, this aspect does not fit well with the research activity. How is that for you? Whatever has to do this bureaucracy makes me sad since I would love to avoid it. On the other hand, I have accepted this necessary evil needed to boost the research activity of the people that make part of my team, and I try to make it as efficient as possible.

Who would have to invest more in research compared to what it is done today? The governments and manufacturing industries.

Do people talk about science outside the labs and the academic world? I believe so; it is an intriguing subject.

Who gave you the most important advice during your journey? My parents: To do whatever I feel right, because I need to have faith in my choices, as they have faith in me.

What would you say to the younger you finishing his PhD? Do not leave a day pass inactive.

Is working in different countries essential for a researcher? Absolutely, it is essential and very nice also!

You can improve one aspect of research in general. Which one would you choose? Turn it more to a social mission than a personal satisfaction.