You have many awards, innovations and collaborations to your credit. Do you feel that your Greek origin has been directly or indirectly a factor in your success so far?
I’m proud of my Greek descent, I love my country, I admire Greeks and respect the teachers who gave me the basis for my future development. I wouldn’t connect this directly with my career though, because from the academic point of view there are no boundaries. The scientific field and the individual performance of each person is an area without discrimination. If you want to take a step further in your science, you must become the "driver" behind this and I believe that Greeks from their nature are people with concerns, ingenuity, perseverance, and have been deservedly distinguished in many areas worldwide.
Tell us about ties with Greece. On a professional level, is there co-operation with Greeks who live here in the country?
We do joint research with the Aristotle University and for the last few years I have been a visiting professor of the Civil Engineering and Architecture department, while I also lecture on Smart Design of Tall Buildings. In addition, I systematically work with a number of Greek scientists who live in other countries.
Is an active presence in Greece (talks, conferences, co-operation with universities and professionals etc) something which comes naturally for a Greek abroad or something which must be systematically pursued?
Fortunately, there are remarkable professors in Greece who maintain close relations with Greeks abroad and everything else-talks, conferences etc, comes as a result of this co-operation. From my personal experience, however, I wouldn’t say that this is true for the industrial and private sectors. I think that there is greater introversion when it comes to anything connected with knowledge production, while Greek entrepreneurs look extensively to sell abroad before they have become internationally competitive. Dialogue with companies and mainly with researchers abroad is now essential for the creation of a product which can compete in international markets and offer high standards for Greek consumers.
Have you considered further developing such collaborations in the future and if so how?
I want to strengthen academic co-operation with Greek universities but also with research centres through programmes supporting mobility and networking, benefiting both sides and making productive co-operation possible on all levels, from theory to implementation. I’d like to have a chance to work with Greek industry (eg production of metal components) sharing my knowledge and innovative ideas ( patents) for the prosperity of my country and the good of the Greek economy. I have helped international companies which specialise in tall buildings, metal bridges, and shipbuilding as a consultant and think that it would be very interesting to do the same for Greece.
What do you think are the benefits for Greeks abroad when networking with Greece generally? Is such interaction now well developed?
I think that co-operation is essential for both. Greeks abroad want to contribute to their country. A country to which they may someday return, but definitely do not want to lose touch with. Nevertheless, it is a fact that countries more developed and wealthier than our own invest a greater amount in research and technology. Consequently, these countries lead in expertise, products and applications. If a Greek working in Greece wants to be competitive, they must be familiar with other cultures of knowledge production. Greek scientists abroad who love their country will transfer that expertise to universities and industry, knowledge will be 'born’ based on their knowing the right way, contributing substantially to the country’s growth and the solution of many problems.
In your opinion, to what extent can initiatives like ‘Knowledge and Partnership Bridges’ which aim to connect Greeks around the world help?
I consider such initiatives to be crucial, not only to get Greeks in Greece talking to those abroad but also to combat inward-looking attitudes and the create opportunities in support of Greeks abroad who have valuable years of experience which can be used depending on their interaction with Greek society, and why not, even their return to Greece if they so desire. Interconnection and maintenance of relationships require the support of society and the state. As with other countries, scientific and business collaboration efforts should be intensified between Greece and countries where the presence of Greeks is significantly high. It’s essential for society and its citizens to understand the benefits of science and innovation in practice.
Can you briefly outline your activities in research and professionally and some of the basic stages in your career?
A major stepping stone in my career was when, at only 26 years old, I was appointed to work at the headquarters of the internationally renowned company, Pell Frischmann, to improve the design of one of the largest nuclear power plants in France. The position was very important as I was the leader of a team of 5 people managing the most demanding simulation analyses (such as aeroplane impact, multiple explosions, large-scale fires and high intensity earthquakes). Becoming a Fellow at the Institute of Civil Engineering was also an important step for me. Recently, the International Team investigating the Twin Towers and the WTC 7 incidents have invited me to be part of the project due to my research work into tall buildings under threat of fire and earthquake.
I have also been invited several times by the international media (BBC World News, CNN Breaking News, Sky News, ITV News, BBC Future, the Times, the Telegraph etc) to comment on major events/incidents as a structural expert, the most recent occasion being the Grenfell Tower fire in London in the summer of 2017, as well as the much-discussed English Channel bridge proposed by Boris Johnson in January 2018. I’m particularly happy to have been invited to give my advice to the British state several times on important matters related to safety or the documenting of events. After ten years of research in perforated metals, having debunked many prejudices about their effectiveness and safety, the New Steel Construction (NSC) journal and the German Kloeckneer Metals giant estimate that the use of this specific data has increased significantly: from below 40% of steel beams on the UK market to 92%. Our goal is to achieve a similar increase at a global level after understanding the diversity and needs of other countries.
Do you have any thoughts about returning to Greece and, if so, under what conditions?
Until recently, I hadn’t considered it because I’m devoted to my science and the creation of my research group, and having the opportunity to create close ties with international giants in my field. However, returning to Greece never stops to interest me, especially maintaining my status in the various universities of the country enabling me to keep my network of partners abroad, and thus giving me the chance to continue my research work