“It’s incredibly important that students acquire the habits of thinking that come from the scientific method. The importance of posing the right kinds of questions when they come across information or explanations. Questions like: Is this true? Why is it true? How do I know it’s true? Can I test it?”.
Dr. Panayotis Kalozoumis is the academic equivalent of the switch hitter in baseball, who can bat either right- or left-handed. He has two roles at the University—one as Director of the Research Institute and the other as Coordinator of the B.S. in Engineering program. The dual appointment reflects his twofold passion and talent for research and teaching.
Panayotis comes to the University in the wake of an impressive research career in theoretical physics. His scientific path has covered appointments as a research associate in the Department of Material Science at the University of Patras and another in the Physics Department at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, where he earned a B.Sc., M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Physics. He has also held year-long post-doctoral appointments at the Center of Quantum and Optical Technologies in Hamburg, Germany and the Laboratoire d’Acoustique de l’Université du Maine in Le Mans, France.
Teaching came a little later, but it quickly became a passion as well. It gives him the opportunity to introduce students to what he calls the “fascinating world of science”. But he also sees teaching as an excellent fit with his research work. “As a researcher,” he explains, “you usually deal with other experts in the field, who speak the same scientific language, one where you take a lot of knowledge for granted. But when you are teaching students, you can’t use this; you need to be very clear and explicit. If you can do this successfully then you understand that you’ve really understood!”
A part of Panayotis’s instructional workload involves teaching science and math courses in the undergraduate General Education program, where most of his students are majoring in non-scientific disciplines. He sees this mixed background as both a challenge and an opportunity. A challenge because at the start of the course not all his students are convinced of the rationale for doing science as an English or Psychology major. He claims, half in jest, that it’s only fair since the Engineering students have to take English. But it’s more than that for him. “It’s incredibly important that students acquire the habits of thinking that come from the scientific method. The importance of posing the right kinds of questions when they come across information or explanations. Questions like: Is this true? Why is it true? How do I know it’s true? Can I test it?”.
For Panayotis, acquiring fluency in this way of thinking is crucial in an age where access to information but also disinformation and pseudoscience has never been easier and where not being able to distinguish between the two—he points to the case of the anti-vaccination movement—can be dangerous.
He’s eager to see students become a part of the Research Institute he is responsible for coordinating. “Some of the capstone research projects our seniors and graduate students do are excellent,” he notes, “and we could showcase them through the Institute.”
One of his priorities as Director is to foster more interdisciplinary research, for example, projects that draw on faculty from both Applied Linguistics and Psychology or IT and Business. Another is to heighten awareness of the research that faculty members are already doing. As he points out, “we’ve got terrific scientific talent here and their work deserves more exposure. Besides, getting that visibility will also help the University’s ranking.”