Dr. Christos Panagiotopoulos

Can you say a few words about yourself?
I was born in Athens (Greece) and I was lucky to attend a French school (elementary & high) located next door of our house. I studied chemistry in the Univ. of the Athens and then moved in France, Marseille, where I obtained my M.Sc and Ph.D degrees. After a short break at the US where I performed 2 post-docs, the first one at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the second one at the UC Irvine, I occupy since 2007 a research position at the CNRS in France and more particularly in Mediterranean Institute of Oceanography (MIO).

Did you choose your profession or did it choose you?
Hard to say. One thing was certain in my mind; I loved chemistry and all its aspects, particularly analytical, organic and environmental chemistry with a special mention to quantum mechanics.   

What attracted you to join LAPI?
A brand-new Lab created by Pr. Nenes that I had the chance to meet while at Georgia Tech is always an attraction and a very nice place to be at. Moreover, the understanding of functioning of the atmospheric ecosystem is something very exciting especially when someone is trying to approach it having a marine biogeochemical background.

Can you speak about the projects you are currently working on and other ones in the past? What have been some of your biggest challenges?
Most of my previous projects were focused on the study of the interactions of marine dissolved organic matter and marine organisms (composition, degradation, assimilation) including bacteria and more recently I started to work on terrestrial tracers related to fire events entering the seawater. My current project “FIRETRAC” aims to reply in the following question:  What happens to fire emitted particles in the Ocean? This question clearly links the marine and atmospheric ecosystems therefore an expertise in the latter domain is necessary.  

Another aspect of my current research is related to the emerging contaminants and plastics including their associated additives.

Although a researcher faces new challenges all over his career my most memorable (from one I would never forget) was when I had to synthetize chemically some marine substances in order to identify them by GC-MS because no standards were available in market. In fact, and despite having a degree in chemistry, it was hard to put in place a protocol that I just read on a publication and for which I had no previous experience. After two weeks of messing up with chemicals, amounts, conditions, I finally accomplished the goal… giving me a great feeling that I can achieve everything. Finally, the interpretation of MS and NMR spectra that include unknown compounds -whatever the environmental matrix- is quite a challenge and shapes in a regular basis my way of thinking.  

What have been some of your biggest successes?
Although successes are like children to scientists, each being unique and hard to choose from, I would say the most important one was the very prestigious post-doc scholarship that I obtained from WHOI and the further collaboration that I had with D. Repeta. It marked my career and laid the ground for my future successes, which include, the CNRS position that I got three years later.

What do you enjoy to do, outside of science and research?
Spend most of my time when possible with my family in Switzerland. However, when the situation permits I play chess (participating in regional competitions) or watch old (black and white) movies.

Where is the most interesting place you’ve been?
Undoubtfully Crozet Islands, in the middle of nowhere in the Southern Indian Ocean.

A free thought for the end?
Be tough but fair when judging your own work and take the criticism/remarks from other people always in good faith.