Athina Zampara – Part 1 – From Physics to the E-Learning Industry

In this week’s episode, you’ll be hearing about gender bias in academia, about the experience of being a first-generation graduate student, and about the daunting question of “is it OK to quit your PhD?” This week’s guest will also talk about her career journey leading to a Project Officer position in the European Commission.

Athina Zampara comes from Greece and has lived and worked in Brussels, Belgium, for 10 years. Athina has an interdisciplinary educational background having studied Physics, History and Philosophy of Science, Italian language and Education. She has worked as Project Manager and now holds a position as Project Officer in the European Public Administration.

Note: The views expressed in this interview are purely those of my guest and may not in any circumstances be regarded as stating an official position of the European Commission.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • It is ok to stop your degree if it’s not a good fit for you
  • What it was like to be a first-generation woman in graduate school in the 1990s
  • The challenges of being a first-generation graduate student
  • The importance of choosing a path that meets your personal needs
  • The ressources and communities that exist today at your university, but also online communities like academic Twitter
  • Why your graduate school experience is a great springboard towards a career in project management
  • The importance of giving priority to your mental health whenever you feel it’s being negatively affected by your work

This episode’s pearls of wisdom:

“You can be whatever. Independently of your studies you can always do project management. And also, I find it very fulfilling because I can use my analytical skills there. You know, putting pieces at their place and making a jigsaw – it’s something that soothes my mind, I would say.”

“To tell you the truth, I do have something that eats me inside, that I didn’t finish my PhD. I have to say that because I like to finish what I start, there is a feeling of failure, this feeling that something was left and was not accomplished. It will always be there. But the thing is that one has to do what is good for him at the specific moments of choice. That was the good thing that I had to do for myself at the time, also taking into account my mental state, which is also another thing that is very important and is something that people look at in academia, right now – the mental health of people, which is very important.”

Athina’s links: LinkedIn –; Twitter – @LifeOfaPOinEU; Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions, European Commission –

You might also like the following episodes:

Adriana Bankston – Science Policy:

Jonathan Weitzman – Professorship and Industry:

Rob Hutcheson – Health Economics:

Simon Moore – Postdoc to Industry:

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