Dr. Kalliopi Violaki

Can you say a few words about yourself ?

I was born in Greece in a small village in central Crete about 20 Km from Heraklion. My village is a beautiful typical Cretan village with amazing places for hiking and contrasted landscapes. I obtained my BSc degree in chemistry at the Univ. of Thessaloniki and then I followed my studies (MSc and PhD degree) in environmental Sciences at the University of Crete. Having for more than 14 years main station of my career the university of Crete, I managed to perform high level research and travel in many places around the world including South Africa, South America, USA and China, meeting interesting people.


Did you choose your profession or did it choose you?

I chose chemistry as my basic science field because it offers a vast range of opportunities for research. I chose to work in environmental chemistry because it was (and still is) exciting to understand the dynamics of molecules within the various ecosystems.


What attracted you to join LAPI? 

I had the opportunity to work in a newly founded promising laboratory (LAPI) as its research objectives matched completely with my more than 16 years’ experience in atmospheric research. LAPI is very active in the field of atmospheric chemistry and human health with worldwide collaborations, while Prof. Nenes has a long-standing experience in modeling and experimental processes in the atmosphere. I believe that my implication as an analytical environmental chemist at LAPI will be an added value to this research proceedings. Beyond this, LAPI is part of the EPFL school which is an ideal place to work with people from a wide variety of fields, promoting interdisciplinary projects.


Can you speak about the projects you are currently working on and other ones in the past?

Most of my past research projects were related to the role of atmosphere as nutrient path to marine ecosystems, the role of human-driven changes in the atmospheric composition, and the understanding of macronutrients (N&P) biogeochemical cycles and trace metals. The development of a novel automated technology to rapidly and accurately detect reactive phosphorous in atmospheric aerosol was another challenging project. The last five years my research was focused on the role of organic P compounds in the Mediterranean atmosphere by characterizing them chemically using modern analytical techniques with very low detection limits e.g. electrospray ionization high-resolution mass spectrometry. The obtained results lead to new scientific questions and new challenges for the ecosystems.


What have been some of your biggest successes?

One of the important milestones in my career was the Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellowship that funded research on organic P speciation over Mediterranean Sea (PHOSPHOTRAC project). My appointment was set at the Mediterranean Institute of Oceanography where I had the opportunity to collaborate with researchers working in oceanography and marine biology.


You split your time between teaching and research. How do you view these two roles?

Currently, my position focuses mainly on research but teaching is something that I would like to carry out. I used to teach chemistry in Greek high school while I gave several seminars for adults in environmental education for more than five years during my research career. At the beginning, I thought it was lost time from my research project and then, I realized that sharing your knowledge is part of my role as a scientist. It is an interactive process, and a different way to learn new thinks by just answering “simple” questions. Sometimes simplifying the science is so difficult that it is a real challenge.


What do you enjoy to do, outside of science and research?

In the last three years, I spent my limited spare time with my three-year-old son. Usually, we enjoy outdoor activities e.g. walking across the lake and hiking. Watching him learning the world is really adorable.


Where is the most interesting place you’ve been?

On the research vessel Marion Dufresne in the middle of South Atlantic Ocean staring the stars.


A free thought for the end?

Understanding the diversity of people can teach you so many things about yourself.