Bodossaki Excellence Award goes to two distinguished scientists

Bodossaki Excellence Award goes to two distinguished scientists

Even the pure white marble statues of Konstantinos and Evangelis Zappas on either side of the grand entrance were glowing in the afternoon June sun. Surprisingly, however, the temperature was pleasantly mild within the Zappeion colonnade, where the Bodossaki Excellence Award ceremony was again held this year, presided over by the president of the Republic, Katerina Sakellaropoulou.

The ceremony, held late last month, was beautiful, with both awardees and audience clearly equally moved. The former saw their immense contributions recognized by the Bodossaki Foundation, a Greek organization with a global reputation. The attendees in turn felt genuine pride in their compatriots, in an era of decline in which sensationalism generally trumps hard work. It felt as if the merits of these individuals acted as a balm for what we are so often presented with in the news or in reality TV shows.

The talking point this year was the fact that the Bodossaki Excellence Award, first instituted in 2002, had now returned revived, 13 years since the last award ceremony. It now boasts a new committee, consisting of eight overseas scientists who have themselves been recognized with some of the highest global distinctions in their fields, including the Nobel and Spinoza prizes and the ACM A.M. Turing Award.

Distinguished members of international scientific academies are also taking part. This fact was highlighted by Athina Dessypri, president of the foundation, who rightly recognized that the judges always confer distinction on those they are judging.

The two co-chairs of the committee, who were invited to deliver tributes to the winners, not only spoke of them as stars in the research firmament, but also acknowledged the general brilliance of Greek science. These were Daan Frenkel, honorary professor of chemistry at Cambridge University, and Frank Grosveld, professor and former head of the Department of Cell Biology at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, who both praised the passion, dedication, and above all the achievements, of the two awardees.

In the area of physical sciences, the award was presented to Chryssa Kouveliotou, professor of astrophysics in the Physics Department of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences at the George Washington University, and in the area of biomedical sciences to Nektarios Tavernarakis, professor of molecular systems biology at the Medical School of the University of Crete, president of the Foundation for Research and Technology – Hellas (FORTH), and president of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology.

Approachable and down-to-earth, having both begun their careers at Greek state universities, the two winners spoke movingly about the recognition they had received as well as the support they had consistently enjoyed. “I was not alone on this journey. Parents, teachers, colleagues, friends and loved ones have supported me throughout,” stated Kouveliotou, the discoverer of magnetars, neutron stars with extreme magnetic fields. Her research on gamma-ray bursts still fascinates astronomers today as much as it did 25 years ago, when she presented the first results of her studies.

Tavernarakis, who has dedicated himself to studying the mechanics of aging, cell death and neurodegeneration, in turn drew attention to the fact that scientific research is the most globalized of activities, which gives Greece a brilliant field in which its great minds can excel. “In our own time, the value of fundamental scientific inquiry needs to be recognized more than ever. Investing in cutting-edge research is key to overcoming the great challenges and existential threats faced by humanity. Can the Greek research ecosystem play a critical role in this universal undertaking? We can, and indeed we have registered major successes.”

The award is accompanied by a cash prize of €100,000.

Subscribe to our Newsletters

Enter your information below to receive our weekly newsletters with the latest insights, opinion pieces and current events straight to your inbox.

By signing up you are agreeing to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.