From driving a bulldozer, to climbing K2 and working on stone sculptures

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Interview by Selvaggia Santin

Let’s get to know better Panos Athanasiadis, from environmental physics to K2 expedition and stone sculpture.

What’s your job at the CMCC Foundation?

I’m part of the Climate Simulations and Predictions division of the CMCC branch in Bologna. My research interests embrace climate dynamics and predictability. In particular, I focus on low-frequency atmospheric variability in the extratropics (such as those associated with the North Atlantic Oscillation and the occurrence of blocking), evaluating the respective predictability in seasonal and decadal timescales and understanding the respective forcing mechanisms.

What brought you to CMCC?

I have lived abroad almost continuously since 2003. I did my PhD in the UK, then my first post-doc in the USA and in 2008 I returned to my native country to work at the University of Athens. However, academically speaking prospects were not bright there, especially after Greece was hit hard by the financial crisis of 2009. It was during this period that I saw a job position, which suited my research interests perfectly, being advertised by the CMCC. I applied and when I came to Bologna for an interview I fell in love with the city. I feel very much at home here.

Is your current job the one you used to dream of as a child?

No, when I was a kid I wanted to drive a bulldozer! Then, as an adolescent I gained an interest in physics. As an undergraduate in the university, I chose to continue my studies in environmental physics and meteorology because I found theoretical physics to be too abstract, astrophysics too remote, and nuclear physics too dangerous.

Tell us about a special moment during your time at CMCC

Something special, yet not linked to my work, was when I came back from K2 and shared my passion for the mountains with my CMCC colleagues, showing them a short film I made during the expedition. Extreme alpinism has been an important part of my life for many years. That was a two-person, non-commercial expedition without high-altitude porters and without supplementary oxygen. It was an incredible adventure. [See the movie here]

What do you keep at your workstation?

It is quite a mess, lots of printed articles and some plants. I am also surrounded by beautiful pictures from past adventures. One from a highlining festival in the Dolomites and another from high up on K2 with a sea of mountains in the background.

What ritual is never missing from your workday?

I do not have any specific ritual at work. To give an answer, I would say going through emails in the morning.

How do you travel to work?

Generally, on two wheels, either by bike, or with my motorcycle.

What do you do in your spare time?

This season I spent most of my vacations renovating our family house in Greece. In my free time I used to do a lot of sports, cycling, mountaineering and running, yet recently I have developed an interest in stone sculpture. I make various objects using a very hard rock that comes from my area. This material is called Lapis Lacedaemonius and has been used by Neanderthals, Minoans, Mycenaeans, and Romans all the way to the medieval ages as a luxury decorative stone.

Movies or literature: give me a title and explain your choice

I spent a lot of time reading novels and philosophy as a student. Now I do not have much time for reading. I like classic cinema and I hate Netflix. If I must list two favorite authors and directors these would be Jack London, Albert Camus, Andrei Tarkovsky and Theodoros Angelopoulos.


Watch the K2 short movie “La Montagna Assoluta” (subtitled in Italian)



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