Professor Markos Klonizakis

Tell us about your contribution that has been recognised through the professorship.Prof. Markos Klonizakis

My contribution to Research and Innovation (R&I) (in addition to Academic Citizenship and Leadership (AC&L)) was recognised as being outstanding, while my contribution to External and Professional Engagement (E&PE) was considered as significant.

It is quite difficult to single out specific elements of my contribution, I’m proud of every little step that I have made to get here: The work that I have led, has assisted the preventative, monitoring and therapeutic journey of clinical and pre-clinical populations, creating knowledge along the way.

Nevertheless, my biggest achievement was forming and leading the Lifestyle, Exercise and Nutrition Improvement (LENI) Research Group. Our group explores the increasing role of lifestyle interventions as a means to prevent and treat non-communicable diseases in clinical and high-risk populations. LENI has a notable record of completing studies on lifestyle rehabilitation (such as for people with Systemic Sclerosis and Venous Leg Ulcers), smoking cessation (exploring the potential role of vaping) and the use of regional diets (like the Mediterranean diet) as a preventative tool for Cardiovascular disease. Quite importantly, through external funding, we have created a number of fractional and full posts and given students and graduates opportunities for postgraduate projects and internships. LENI members also had a notable (>10 papers) contribution (assessed internally as either “internationally excellent” or “world leading”), in Sheffield Hallam’s REF2021 submissions for UoA 3 and UoA 24. Many came from Early Career Researchers (ECRs), who I have mentored and developed.

My roles in leading the mentoring scheme for the Health Research Institute (HRI) and the health-research strand in Sheffield Hallam’s partnership with La Trobe University are also quite important for the University, and thus they should also be noted: Through these roles I aspire to support the development of the next generation of Hallam researchers and help establish strong international research partnerships. With the support of HRI colleagues and the other research area research leaders, we have done quite well, having survived the pandemic. The best is yet to come.

What does it mean personally to you to be a professor at Sheffield Hallam?

Becoming a Professor of Vascular and Clinical Physiology is a recognition of my contribution to the University and to my field. It is a great achievement, which makes me happy, and gives me strength to continue.

Tell us a bit about your career story so far.

Although I never wanted to be a doctor, I always wanted to have a career in a field that would help people in preventing or solving their health problems. So, after completing my undergraduate course and my MSc, I grasped the opportunity to register for a doctorate at the Medical School of the University of Nottingham, in a topic that combined many of the areas that I found that I liked during my studies – blood flow, pathological conditions and small veins. I was very lucky there: my department (Division of Vascular Medicine) was within a hospital ward, which meant that I was able to see first-hand what matters to people with vascular diseases, while I also learned how to best work with them.

Then I had to turn down a job offer at the University of Cardiff, to go back to Greece to do my national service. I made good friends there, time flew quickly but it did hinder my career, as I learned the hard way, when I started looking for a job in academia. I never looked for a job elsewhere, as I always thought that the academic environment gives you more freedom to pursue your interests. I am glad that I turned out to be right!

I then had post-doc jobs at the Universities of Hertfordshire and Lincoln: In the first one, I made a salary sacrifice, working less days, while collaborating with researchers at Hallam to develop my doctoral work further. Then I returned to Hertfordshire to support their doctoral programme and when the opportunity came, I officially joined Hallam for the first time in 2013, where I have stayed ever since. I made friends here, and found people like Professors Simon Shibli and Rob Copeland, who helped get where I am now.

If you could go back in time and give yourself some career advice, what would it be?

I am lucky as I am having a career in the field that I always wanted. I was supported a lot by my family (primarily by my late father, my mother and my wife), as they encouraged me to chase my dreams. This meant that despite the fact that I had that two-year career break, completing my national service, I only had to make small compromises, and was able to turn down academic jobs, which I thought wouldn’t help me in my career path.

So, my advice to my younger self would be to work hard towards a plan (but not too hard, as I have learned the hard way that this can severely affect your health) and avoid rushing into jobs that would not help you achieve your dreams.

What’s next? Tell us about how you want to further develop your contribution.

A Chair can only be the beginning of something exciting – so my plan is to continue growing my research group, expand my collaborations (both nationally and internationally) and continue supporting students to make the right career choices and teach them those skills that will allow them to unravel their potential. All these, while carrying out high quality research that will transform people’s lives and help them enjoy better quality of life.