Grad Spotlight: Tasos Mazis
This is a continuation of our "IANR is Global" series, which highlights the many ways internationalization is woven through the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources: through research collaboration, government and private industry partnerships, extension work, student educational experiences and the IANR community from around the world.
This edition is specifically focused on the diverse array of individuals with experience from around the world who are graduating this year and last year. Anastasios “Tasos” Mazis, a native of Greece, will receive his doctoral degree in natural resource sciences during this month's ceremonies. We appreciate the community we are fortunate to have from all over the world, as shown by their many and varied contributions to the work of the university and our continued mission to create a globally engaged institution. To this end, we want to help our campus community get to know each other (and the world) more, starting with these individuals.
How did your first get interested in your field? What was your previous education?
Since I was a young kid, I was always interested in science, finding answers to questions. I was particularly interested in the natural world, plants, animals, how they interact and how we can study them. Growing up in a rural village in Greece and being around nature only grew my curiosity. When I finished high school, I chose to study agronomy and ecology in Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece, where I had the chance to work with great professors and mentors, that helped my love for plants and ecology grow.
Tell me about your path to Nebraska.
I knew from early on during my bachelor’s that I wanted to continue my studies after I graduate. Before starting my fourth year, I got to meet Dr. Awada, we discussed about my interests and academic goals, the potential of continuing my studies in UNL, and she described to me what she was researching here. Immediately after that discussion I decided to apply and here we are, 5 years after that.
What have been some challenges you’ve faced here? Opportunities? Things that surprised you?
Fortunately, I can say I didn’t face many challenges. Having travelled around, I can say people in Nebraska are among the kindest people I have met, they have always been friendly and eager to make me feel part of the country and state. The university community played a big role to my adjustment here. Also, there is a small but great Greek community in Lincoln, full of lovely people, that made me feel like home from the moment I arrived. I met my wife while I was here so I would say this has been the biggest opportunity I have had during my time in Nebraska, haha. The winter was definitely the biggest surprise! Coming from Greece, I don’t think I will soon forget my first winter blizzard!
Who was your advisor? Anything you’d like to share about them? Or say to them?
Dr. Tala Awada was my advisor. I would like to take the opportunity and thank her for all the advice, support and guidance she offered, as well as all the knowledge she shared. I was lucky to have her not only as my academic advisor, but as also as a mentor, that helped me become a better member of the scientific community. Working next to her also helped me define the kind of researcher I aspire to be. I also want to take the chance and thank Mr. Jeremy Hiller, member of our lab, that helped me throughout my program and offered valuable advice.
What do you plan to do now? What are your future goals/plans?
I will continue my academic path as a postdoctoral scholar in University of California-Merced, applying my current research in different ecosystems. My goal is to become a professor. I think my experience working with Dr. Awada definitely influenced me towards this decision and gave me the necessary skills to pursue that goal.
How has your time at Nebraska impacted you in what you will go on to do?
Living in Nebraska I learned the value of “good life” as the motto goes. Having travelled all around Nebraska, I saw landscapes I hadn’t had the chance to see in my life until then, talked to people that live a fulfilling life in rural areas of the state, and realized the importance of what I am doing in our efforts to better study natural ecosystems.
Are you or someone you know graduating this year (or the future) and have an international element to your work, studies or experiences you'd like to see highlighted? Contact Brianne at firstname.lastname@example.org.