UT professor elected into native country’s research academy

Justin Atkinson

The Academy of Athens, a research academy established in 1926, announced the election of a native Greek UT professor to its list of members Thursday night.

Nicholas Peppas, born in Athens, Greece, moved to Boston in August 1971 and earned his doctorate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in biomedical and chemical engineering, receiving the degree in two years. Peppas said he appreciated the recognition from his home country.

“I was humbled and at the same time very happy for the election,” Peppas said. “It is a dream of all Greeks to be recognized by the highest recognition of the country where they were born.”

The Academy of Athens attributes Peppas’ multidisciplinary work with biomaterials, drug delivery and pharmaceutical bioengineering as well as his 37 medical product patents to his nomination. Peppas said around 760 students, visiting scientists and postdoctoral students have passed through his lab in his 11 years working at the University, including 150 graduate students. Peppas has spent a total of 38 years in research, including a stint at Purdue University.

William Liechty, a former graduate student who worked with the professor, said Peppas’ commitment put him above others in his field. Liechty, who now works in research and development at Dow Pharmaceutical Sciences, said he appreciated the individual attention from Peppas.

“What sets him above nearly every professor I’ve known — what makes him a cut above — is the time and dedication he has to make sure that we can personally succeed in our own careers,” Liechty said. “I think that’s really uncommon and rare for a professor of his stature. I just wonder if there are any awards left to give this guy.”

Peppas, the chair of the biomedical engineering department and a professor in chemical and biomedical engineering, has been elected into several research academies including the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, the National Academy of Engineering and the French Academy of Pharmacy.

Surya Mallapragada, also a former graduate student who worked with Peppas and now a biological engineering professor at Iowa State University, said she has always been impressed by the hours Peppas spent in his office working on his research.

“He was always one of the first to arrive at work and one of the last to leave, despite the fact that he lived 60 miles from campus, and we lived a few miles away from campus,” Mallapragada said. “He is still a wonderful mentor and friend to me, after all these years.”

Correction: This article has been corrected since its original posting. Because of a reporting error, an earlier version of this story misstated the people who have passed through Nicholas Peppas' lab. It includes students, postdoctoral students and visiting scientists. The story also misstated Peppas' position at UT. He is the chair of the biomedical engineering department.