“Information technology changes so fast that it’s more important for students to learn how to learn. My students learn programming languages, of course, but I want them in two years’ time when they will have to learn a new language or framework… to be able to do the research… and teach themselves.”
Perhaps it’s not surprising that the Director of the University’s Information Technology and Engineering programs brews his own beer. Or that he’s a marathon runner. Like the research he’s engaged in, long-distance running and brewing beer require dedication and passion—and patience. Dr. George Bravos, who joined the Hellenic American University faculty in Fall 2014 after serving as adjunct lecturer and researcher at the Harokopion University of Athens, has an abundance of all three.
While his teaching and administrative responsibilities have increased with his appointment to the University, George’s passion for research has continued undiminished. In recent years, George’s research has focused on communications within networks, big data analytics and embedded intelligence. One area of application is in smart buildings, structures in which conditions such as temperature, light and humidity are automatically adjusted on the basis of who is in the room—without the person needing to interact with a device. His specific research deals with the communication between sensors and other devices and the algorithms used in such energy-aware systems. Another, more recent area of investigation is mobility as a service, in which users can travel on a single ticket using any combination of supported transportation services such as a rented car, a bicycle, and public transport.
Given his passion--illustrated in a track record of publications in international journals—you might think George would happily give up teaching to focus exclusively on research. But no. “I love teaching as well,” he says. “Every new class is a new challenge, even if I’ve taught it before. And then every couple of years, I have an entirely new course that I need to develop material for.”
In fields such as Information Technology and Electrical Engineering, changes in curriculum are to be expected, of course. All the topics in the “IT Management and Strategy Course”, which MSIT students take towards the end of their program, are based on actual R&D projects that are happening now. (Mobility as a service is one of the topics). Arguably the most important change George introduced in the IT programs was to restructure the MSIT program into three specializations: Big Data Analytics, Security and Networks, and Applications Development—three of the fastest growing sectors in the field.
The ability to adapt to changing situations is at the heart of the IT curricula and George’s own approach to teaching. “The programming languages I learned when I was student at the National Technical University of Athens don’t even exist now,” he says. “Information technology changes so fast that it’s more important for students to learn how to learn. My students learn programming languages, of course, but I want them in two years’ time when they will have to learn a new language or framework, to be able to do the research, get the resources they need and teach themselves.”
“I never ask my students to memorize things.” he says (which is why his students are able to use laptops and books during exams). “What’s the point? It’s more important to be able to extract and apply appropriate information from different sources in a limited period of time.”
George recognizes that this approach to teaching, with its focus on critical thinking, hypothesis-testing and creative problem-solving, fits well in a setting like Hellenic American College’s. “It’s much easier to apply this approach if you have classes of 10 students than if you’re in a class with 200,” he says. He would know. After earning his Ph.D. from the University of Piraeus, he taught at the Chalkida Technical Educational Institute as well as the Harokopion University of Athens.
“One of the things I most like about teaching at Hellenic American University,” George says, “is the contact I have with my students. Since classes are small, I can get to know all my students well, and the quality of the interaction in class is excellent. It’s very different from the lecture-style classes I taught at public universities.”