Scholars' Association News
Issue 43
August 2017


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Innovative British university alumni

A one-day event dedicated to alumni of British universities who made a name for themselves and innovated in their field was organised by the Scholars’ Association in partnership with the British Council and the British Embassy on 13 June at the Upper Stage at the Onassis Cultural Centre. 9 alumni from British universities including 4 members of the Scholars’ Association (Thodoris Anagnostopoulos, Zoe Zeniodi, Hariton Korizis and Marilita Moschou) told their tale of studying in the United Kingdom, and the heights they have managed to climb to in the scientific, artist and social realms. Their academic careers have allowed them to acquire important tools, valuable experiences and an innovative way of thinking; elements they used when they returned to Greece to implement innovative methods and succeed in their field by presenting works with a social impact.

The UK University Alumni Innovation Showcase is part of Innovation Week, hosted this year by the British Council and British Embassy. According to data presented at the event, more than 11,000 Greek students are currently studying at British universities and a similar number of students are attending courses run by British universities in Greece.

The one-day event was addressed by the UK’s Ambassador to Athens, H.E. Kate Smith, the Director of the British Council, Tony Buckby, and the Deputy Minister for Research & Technology, Kostas Fotakis as well as the Onassis Foundation’s Director, Effie Tsiotsiou. The meeting was chaired by the president of the Scholars’ Association, Thodoris Anagnostopoulos, who is involved in social entrepreneurship, who spoke about the importance of the public being familiar with scientific issues that affect our day-to-day lives.

Zoe Zeniodi, conductor and 1st Vice President of the Scholars’ Association, spoke about the fact that a woman’s presence at the podium continues to be a ‘strange phenomenon’. She spoke about her early piano studies in Athens and then later in London at the Royal College of Music, where she met a female conductor for the first time. Her subsequent studies in conducting in the USA paved the way for a brilliant career; she’s even ascended the podium at the famed Carnegie Hall, where she appeared just a short while ago.

As Zoe Zeniodi said, “I want to be able to pave the way for younger women, but not only. I believe everyone should do what they do well, and what they love, and that nothing should stand in their way. The same goes for men and women: determination, sensitivity, love of their topic, frankness and honesty towards their art and towards themselves”.

A love of applied sciences is what lead Hariton Korizis to Imperial College for his undergraduate studies in Electrical and Electronic Engineering. He was soon captivated by the immense complexity of global money markets and using a scholarship from the Onassis Foundation, Hariton Korizis commenced doctoral research into innovative mechanical methods for forecasting how money markets behave. Talking about his academic years, he noted how he had been impressed by the close partnership between businesses and universities which bolstered innovation. He contributed to the growth of that ‘ecosystem’ by helping set up a research lab at Imperial College which explores how to use engineering tools to find new ways to solve economic problems.

“Innovation is all around us, and this is the best time to be part of it!” added Hariton Korizis and he went on to conclude that, “Unlike artificial intelligence, human intelligence is the most precious capital a country has: its citizens, their education and their ideas. That holds out a lot of hope for Greece because human intelligence bolsters creativity, which leads to innovation and growth”.

Marilita Moschou (2nd Vice President of the Scholars’ Association) is Asst. Professor of Ophthalmology at the Athens Medical School. She has worked at the University Ophthalmology Clinic at the G. Gennimatas Hospital since 2006 and is jointly in charge of the Dept. of the Electrophysiology of Vision and the Glaucoma Dept. She also teaches on the molecular and applied physiological postgraduate studies programme at the Athens Medical School (Physiology Workshop). During her talk at the one-day event held at the British Council, she spoke of her experience from the University of Cambridge where she specialised in glaucoma in 2009 at Addenbrookes Hospital (which is Cambridge’s University Ophthalmology Clinic). She has also worked as honorary lecturer at the same university teaching on the specialisation course for trainees in the UK.

Marilita Moschou’s research into the causes of glaucoma is considered to be ground-breaking. As she put it, glaucoma is one of the key factors causing permanent blindness and entails a gradual weakening of the optic nerve. In the prevailing mechanistic theory, increased pressure inside the eye is the most important factor which results in the onset of glaucoma, so controlling pressure is the only means available to treat the disease. Vascular theory, though, asserts that glaucoma is the result of inadequate blood supply to the eye due to vascular malfunction, which can be attributed to poor endothelium function.

“The innovative hypothesis which we examined for the first time”, explains the scholar, “ was whether the properties of the arterial walls and endothelium function cause harm to patients with glaucoma. Our study confirmed that sufferers have reduced vascular function. Treatments for the disease need to focus on improving the condition of the blood vessels and not just be limited to reduce pressure in the eye, in order to avoid irreversible damage to eyesight”.

Other participants in the one-day event covered various academic disciplines in their presentations: Antigoni Dima, a scientist who has won numerous awards for her research in genetics and DNA; Angeliki Pappa, a teacher who founded I Love Dyslexia (ILD), the world’s only experiential and holistic method for learning English for dyslexic students; Nikolaos Tsokanos, who applies innovative methods to livestock farming; Myrto Tsima, jurist and founder of instalaw, an online platform which gives citizens easy, rapid access to specialist lawyers; Fred Featham founder of the first school anti-bullying volunteer group in Greece, and Ioanna Theodorou, a founding member of Reload Greece, which provides support to young entrepreneurs. The keynote speech at the event was given by Maria Xytaki, banker and honorary President of the LSE’s Greek Students Association.

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