Heidelberg University
Heidelberg Alumni International
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Heidelberg Alumni International


“Heidelberg has been both a prolific and a highly rewarding academic experience”

Kevrekidis Panayotis 160x200

Prof. Dr. Panayotis Kevrekidis, Physicist at University of Massachusetts, Amherst/USA
2007/2008 Research Stay at Kirchhoff-Institute for Physics at Heidelberg University

When, how long and in what position did you stay at Heidelberg University?
It is amusing, but the answer to this simple question is rather complicated. I first visited Heidelberg in November 2005, visiting the Institute for Physical Chemistry and the Kirchhoff-Institute for Physics and the groups of Prof. Dr. Peter Schmelcher and Prof. Dr. Markus Oberthaler, respectively. Ever since that first visit I became extremely fond of the University and the town. In that light, in 2007-2008 when I had my first sabbatical from the University of Massachusetts (where I have been a tenure-track faculty member since 2001), I sought the opportunity to return to Heidelberg with my family to show it to them and strengthen my research ties with these groups. I was fortunate enough to receive a research fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (AvH), which supported my return to Heidelberg for that academic year. But also something magical happened as my wife and two daughters grew equally (or even more!) fond of the location and hence we have basically been back to Heidelberg every summer since. Thankfully, the kind support of the AvH-Foundation has made it possible for us to spend about 17 months in Heidelberg over the past four years and we are looking forward to spending one more month this coming summer. In the meantime, I continue to be a Faculty member at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, but Heidelberg is, in a sense, my summer academic home and I always make an effort to visit there.

Why did you decide to come to Heidelberg University?
As I said above, it was an easy choice, after that first visit. The first visit was motivated by an opportunity to collaborate with the two very strong research groups mentioned above. In fact, that collaboration has extended well beyond my original expectations and is still extremely active today. The overall reputation of the University, the wonderful things that I had heard about the city and the opportunities of this collaboration were the deciding factors. And they all more than fulfilled their respective expectations!

What were your experiences in Heidelberg?
My experience was wonderful all along. I have had tremendous academic freedom, yet extremely profitable, valuable and beneficial research interactions. I have enjoyed tremendously the quality of life and the beauty of Heidelberg and my family has warmly appreciated the hospitality, the excellent organization and the friendly environment there. Overall, if we had a choice to move somewhere in Europe (and combine the quality of life with academic strength), Heidelberg would be our choice without a second thought!

How did your career continue after your time in Heidelberg?
In a funny sense, I don't somehow think of my time in Heidelberg as being "over". I am somehow hoping (and have been relatively successful so far) to continue to attract funding for return visits at the University there for summers to come. Heidelberg has been both a prolific and a highly rewarding academic experience. I published my first book during the time I was there (with an editor, Claus Ascheron of Springer-Verlag, who is local there as well!). I subsequently completed my second book during my sabbatical visit and published it with the same publishing house the following year (2009). In 2010, I was promoted to Full Professor at my university (UMass, Amherst) and hence I continue to enjoy my interactions with the University of Heidelberg and to be grateful for the opportunities that I had there and looking forward to more to come in the future!

Do you recommend a research visit to Heidelberg University to your students or to colleagues in your scientific network?
From the above, I am sure it is abundantly clear that I would recommend Heidelberg most wholeheartedly to any of my students or colleagues! In fact, not only have I repeatedly done that, but also repeatedly had colleagues from other Universities/Institutes (such as Athens, Varese and Porto) and even post-doctoral research fellows from my own institution visit me there. Heidelberg has been a “scientific Ithaca” for me, so I am hoping, in Cavafy's words (to remember something from my homeland of Greece) that the journey will last for many more years...

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Latest Revision: 2013-05-06
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