Athanasios (Thanos) Kritharis, BASc '18, Chemical and Biological Engineering
“Join design teams early, enter as many competitions as possible, and make the most of your time here.”
Thanos originally entered chemical engineering after taking a biology course in his second year of an arts degree. From that point he became heavily involved in extra-curricular activities, running the Chem-E-Car design team for three years and engaging in numerous competitions ranging from medical devices to sustainable energy. In his final years of studies, he co-founded the entrepreneurship program Innovation OnBoard as a result of a failed start-up from the year before. In addition to running the program he is also involved in re-designing the fourth-year reactor design course, and working on a start-up in the medical device sector which is currently going through the e@UBC lean launch pad program.
Why did you choose engineering?
Engineering chose me rather than the other way around. I originally took a gap year after high school and then studied general courses in arts for two years. I felt uninspired and desired to transfer into a program that would allow me to develop knowledge that I could use to make a true difference in the world, in my own humble way. I took a biology course and learned about gene therapy and from that point onward, I knew that I wanted to work in the field of biological and chemical engineering.
What have you learned in engineering that is most valuable?
Besides the fundamentals of thermodynamics and mass transfer, the mindset that I developed in engineering is the most valuable lesson from my degree. The ability to overcome any obstacle on a tight deadline, despite the overwhelming feeling of doom and gloom is something that all survivors of engineering can truly appreciate. As for my experience in classes (much to my professors’ displeasure), I wasn’t the most physically present student, but made up for it by engaging in building various organizations focused on topics from entrepreneurship to clean technologies!
What has been your most memorable/valuable non-academic experience studying engineering at UBC?
One of my most rewarding experiences was building the Chem-E-Car engineering design team from five members and a single project to a member organization of more than 50 students working on everything from batteries to an automated beer brewing system. I remember reluctantly joining Chem-E-Car in my second year of chemical engineering (I was convinced that I had to study all the time and get good grades!) on the insistence of a friend, and then becoming the team’s captain within the first year. The team started taking on more side projects and competitions and our first taste of success was competing in the BC Liquefied Natural Gas competition where we won second place. We then eagerly entered every competition possible, leading to the creation of the beer and battery projects. From there, everything snowballed and before we knew it, we were travelling around the world to compete, from San Francisco to Barcelona and had won over 10 awards. The side projects also took a life of their own and our membership swelled, leading to the creation of the engineering design group: Envision. The design team was the highlight of UBC for me as I was able to pursue my passion, see the world and surround myself with amazing friends and colleagues.
What advice would you give a student considering engineering?
Prepare to dedicate the next four to five years of your life to endless late nights studying, stress from malfunctioning projects and soul crushing exams; however, it will be the best four to five years of your life! Get to know your seniors and professors and ask them for advice, they are there to help and will make your life in engineering 1000% easier. Develop your network: don’t be afraid to ask for help or an introduction, especially when it comes to writing an application, looking for a job, or for life advice. It is because of things such as this that I was able to co-found the start-up organization Innovation OnBoard. Without connections and supporters you will get nowhere in your endeavours. Join design teams early, enter as many competitions as possible, and make the most of your time here. Remember: the opportunities you have at UBC only occur once in a lifetime, so make the most of them. Most importantly give back to your community! I still try to help out and give advice to people from Envision.
Where do you find your inspiration?
My sole source of inspiration is the support and love of my family. Without my father and my grandparents I would have never had the opportunities that I do or be in the position that I am. Even in my darkest moments they have been with me and are the foundation on which I built my degree and career. Without their sacrifices in raising and supporting me I could never have achieved even half of my accomplishments. I would also like to thank my fellow team members: Vasilii Triandafilidi, Siang Lim, Shams Elnawawi Josh Donaldson, Hugo Dignoes, Caitlin Lee, Ngai To Lo, Said Zaid, Felicia Crozier, Victor Chiew, Kyle Como, Ray Bi, Abhishek Lekhi, the Envision (Chem-E-Car) team, Innovation OnBoard team; the CHBE faculty specifically: Mike Schoen, Dr. Vikram Yadav, Marlene Chow and everyone else that I forgot to mention. I am grateful for all of your help and support.
What are your plans for the future?
This summer is dedicated to rest and work. I am currently developing a prototype for a start-up in the medical technology health space with my colleague Vasilii Triandafilidi in addition to going through the lean launch pad entrepreneurship program hosted by e@ubc! My long-term plans involve doing a master’s at UBC in the field of vaccine manufacturing and developing my own medical device start-up company.
How will you go on to make a difference in our world?
The best way to create a difference is to start locally and grow globally. By fostering organizations dedicated to creating a community of entrepreneurs and motivated engineering students such as Innovation OnBoard and the Envision design team, my hope is to inspire students to take the future into their own hands and to live by UBCs motto: Tuum Est [translated as “it is yours” or “it is up to you”]. I will also be researching and developing technologies in the medical and pharmaceutical space to directly impact world and local health.