As a small child in a village in southern Greece, Dr. Asimina Arvanitaki spent her time calculating things like how long it takes light to travel from the sun to the earth. The daughter of two teachers, young Asimina— or Mina, as her friends know her— had a thirst for learning.
Today, she’s one of the world’s top emerging theoretical particle physicists and heads a new research chair at the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, Canada, world’s largest research hub devoted to theoretical physics.
The Greek heritage associated with almost every aspect of this important announcement in the world of science today speaks volumes for what comes— from a nation in crisis today, but with a lasting legacy from its past and present.
The institute announced on April 28, 2016 a new partnership with the Stavros Niarchos Foundation to inaugurate a research chair that Dr. Arvanitaki will chair. Dr. Arvanitaki becomes the first female chair holder at the high-profile institute and the first to be supported by a funding source from outside Canada.
The Aristarchus Chair in Theoretical Physics is named after the ancient Greek philosopher from who famously suggested that the Earth revolves around the sun, almost two thousand years before Nicolaus Copernicus.
The Stavros Niarchos Foundation, an Athens-based philanthropic foundation that has donated more than $1 billion in gifts to non-profits in over 100 nations throughout the world, will cover half the cost of the chair with the remaining support coming from the Perimeter Institute.
In addition to creating such an important research chair, the partnership between Niarchos and Perimeter will foster research and training between Greece and Canada.
Andreas Dracopoulos, co-President of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation called the new chair “a beacon for Greek science students caught in the current economic crisis affecting his country.”
Perimeter itself, today a global epicenter of research, was founded by Mike Lazarides, a Greek Canadian, who launched the institute in 1999 with more than $150 million of his own money. Lazarides is best known as the founder of Blackberry corporation, once a global leader in mobile telephony.
Arvanitaki joined Perimeter Institute in 2014, after earning an undergraduate degree from the University of Athens and a PhD from Stanford University. Before starting at Perimeter, she was a research associate at the Stanford Institute for Theoretical Physics and did postdoctoral work at Stanford under Savas Dimopoulos, a widely respected theorist who also hails from Greece.