Bodossaki Excellence Award Ceremony 2024: Two Inspiring Scientists

At a glittering evening dedicated to the celebration of outstanding scientific achievement, the Professor of Astrophysics, Chryssa Kouveliotou, and the Professor of Molecular Systems Biology, Nektarios Tavernarakis, were honoured for the entirety of their lifetime’s groundbreaking work.

On Tuesday, June 25, at a ceremony at the Zappeion Megaron dedicated to Science, the President of the Republic, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, presented the 2024 Bodossaki Excellence Award in the field of Physical Sciences to Chryssa Kouveliotou, Professor of Astrophysics in the Department of Physics at George Washington University, and the 2024 Bodossaki Excellence Award in the field of Biomedical Sciences to Nektarios Tavernarakis, Professor of Molecular Systems Biology at the University of Crete Medical School, President of the Foundation for Research and Technology–Hellas (FORTH), and President of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology. Each award includes a monetary prize of €100,000. During the ceremony a presentation was given of the two laureates inspiring scientific realms, highlighting their significant contribution to the advancement of their fields of study and demonstrating the limitless potential of human ingenuity and the power of scientific research and outstanding achievement.

The long careers of these distinguished scientists, their passion, determination and pioneering ideas have led to new discoveries: about the universe in the field of High-Energy Astrophysics from Chryssa Kouveliotou and about the mechanics of ageing, cell death and neurodegeneration from Nektarios Tavernarakis.

The two scientists were introduced by the co-chairs of the Excellence Award Committee, Professor Daan Frenkel, Honorary Professor of Chemistry at the University of Cambridge, ForMemRS, Member KNAW, AAAS, TWAS, NAS, Academia Europaea, Spinoza Prize winner, and Professor Frank Grosveld, Professor and former Head of the Department of Cell Biology at the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam, FRS, Member of KNAW, Spinoza Prize winner, and Louis Jeantet Prize winner.

“Chryssa Kouveliotou is without doubt among the top scientists in her field globally,” stated Professor Daan Frenkel, noting that “her discovery of magnetars, neutron stars with extreme magnetic fields, and her research into gamma-ray bursts continue to fascinate astronomers as much today as they did 25 years ago, when she first presented her findings. Additionally, Chryssa Kouveliotou serves as an outstanding role model,” said Professor Frenkel, emphasising “how difficult yet easy it was to select the winner of the Bodossaki Award for the Natural Sciences, simply because there are so many truly excellent Greek scientists active in this field.”

Similarly, the world-renowned Professor Frank Grosveld, co-chair of the Excellence Award Committee, stated:

“It was an honour for me to participate in the challenging selection process, as the number of outstanding Greek scientists is much larger than one might expect, given the size of the Greek population. This is a remarkable fact which deserves to be celebrated.” Referring to the award for Professor Tavernarakis, he noted: “Nektarios Tavernarakis is at the forefront of modern biomedical research. He is a scientist who ceaselessly continues to carry out scientific research while teaching medical students at the University of Crete and playing a crucial role in promoting the Greek scientific community and their achievements, both as President of the Foundation for Research and Technology–Hellas and as President of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology.”

Reaction from the Laureates

For Chryssa Kouveliotou:

“The Bodossaki Excellence Award represents the quality and importance of research and technology in Greece. It is an honour which has filled me with pride, emotion and joy!” As she observes, “it stands as an epitome of my career, recognising my journey from high school student in Athens, unwavering in my passion for studying the universe to its farthest reaches, to the mature and experienced researcher I am today.”

Nektarios Tavernarakis responded as follows to the award:

“In our time, more than ever, it is necessary to recognise the value of fundamental scientific inquiry. Investing in cutting-edge research is key to overcoming the great challenges and existential threats that humanity faces. There can be no applied research if there is no research to apply. Can the Greek research ecosystem also play a crucial role in this global endeavour? The fact is that we can, and we have registered significant successes. This is evidenced by scientists who are carrying out internationally competitive research in Greece. I believe the Bodossaki Award generally highlights the extensive research activity, and the competence and achievements of the scientific community in this country, essentially showcasing the ‘Other Greece’ which we all want and can attain!”

The Bodossaki Excellence Award

According to the President of the Bodossaki Foundation’s Board of Directors, Athina Dessypri:

“The institution of the Bodossaki Excellence Awards aims to draw attention to internationally acclaimed Greek scientists who serve as genuine role models and as sources of particular national pride. The selection process by the Excellence Award Committee, which is comprised of significant foreign scientists of international repute, has reaffirmed our faith in the value of the work of Greek scientists, highlighting once again its richness and breadth.”

The institution of the Bodossaki Excellence Awards was first established in 2002 and has now been reinstituted 13 years since the last awards, with a new Excellence Award Committee consisting of eight scientists with the highest distinctions in their fields globally, winners of Nobel and Spinoza Prizes and ACM Turing Awards, and prominent members of scientific academies internationally. These are Professors Sir Richard Blundell, Arup Chakraborty, Daan Frenkel, Shaffi Goldwasser, Frank Grosveld, Paola Ricciardi-Castagnoli, Daniela Rus, and Jean Tirole. The President of the Board of Directors of the Bodossaki Foundation, Athina Dessypri, and the Vice-President of the Board of Directors, Theodoros Theodorou, Professor at the School of Chemical Engineering at the National Technical University of Athens (NAE), were ex officio members of the Awards Committee.

As well as the two recipients of the Bodossaki Excellence Awards of 2024, seven other outstanding personalities from the international scientific community have also been awarded the Bodossaki Excellence Award for their outstanding work: Professors Georgios Chrousos (2011), Charalambos Moutsopoulos (2011), Evangelos Moudrianakis (2009), Dimitris Christodoulou (2006), Athanasios Fokas (2006), Kyriakos Nicolaou (2004), and Ioannis Iliopoulos (2002).

The Bodossaki Foundation remains committed to the continuous and comprehensive support of scientific work, in line with the deep belief of its founder, Prodromos Bodossakis Athanasiadis, in the important and essential benefits that scientific excellence offers to society as a whole.