Meet the Award Presenters

Professor Costas Synolakis

Professor Costas Synolakis

Prof. of Civil Environmental and Aerospace Engineering, University of Southern California, Member of the Academy of Athens

Academician Costas Emmanuel Synolakis graduated from Athens College in 1975. He went on to earn the following degrees from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech): a B.Sc. in Engineering and Applied Science in 1978, an M.Sc. in Civil Engineering in 1979, and a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering in 1986. In 2016 he was elected a regular member of the Academy of Athens and serves currently as Secretary of the Division of Natural Sciences.

In 1985 he was appointed Professor of Civil, Environmental and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Southern California (U.S.C.) Viterbi School of Engineering where, in 1996, he founded the USC Tsunami Center.  Following his appointment as Professor of Natural Hazards and Environmental Hydraulics at the Technical University of Crete and election by the National Research and Technology Council, he served as President of the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research. In 2019 he was elected Chairman of the newly established Special Scientific Committee on Climate Change in Greece, where he serves pro bono. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Hellenic Space Center.  From 2020 t0 2023, he served as President of Athens College.

His broad research interests are reflected in the variety of topics on which he has written. He has authored a large number of publications, studies, and articles in scientific journals and has conducted dozens of field missions around the world. Among the numerous academic accolades and other distinctions he has received both in Greece and abroad is the Presidential Young Investigator Award bestowed upon him in 1989 by U.S. President George Bush and the prestigious 2019 International Coastal Engineering Award bestowed by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). In 2020 he received the Hamaguchi Award bestowed upon individuals or organizations that have made significant scientific or pragmatic contributions to the enhancement of coastal resilience against tsunami, storm surge and other coastal disasters, thus raising people’s awareness of disaster resilience.  

An internationally renowned pioneer in the field of tsunami research and other natural hazards, Professor Synolakis has edited five books, has mentored over 50 PhD and MSc students, has conducted over 220 conference presentations and has helped produce several documentaries on world-acclaimed networks such as Discovery Channel, BBC, National Geographic, History Channel and ZDF. He is best known for his ground-breaking theories on wave physics and his insights on the complexity of major global tsunamis.