Prof. Sergios Theodoridis: discover and believe more in yourself
Professer Sergios Theodoridis once served as a member of the Greek National Council for Research and Technology and is now Professor at the University of Athens and Fractional Professor at CUHK-Shenzhen.
Sergios Theodoridis is the author of Machine Learning：A Bayesian and Optimization Approach, which has been favorably reviewed and highly rated by Amazon and Elsevier and is currently in its second edtion. He has also co-authored several influential books such as Pattern Recognition, Introduction to Pattern Recognition: A MATLAB Approach, and Efficient Algorithms for Signal Processing and System Identification.
Five years ago, Prof. Zhi Quan Luo approached Prof. Theodoridis at an academic conference. From Prof. Luo, he learned about CUHK-Shenzhen and its remarkable goal to engage leading faculty members and researchers. “I know Prof. Luo and his research achievements very well. He is one of the top scientists world-wide. He invited me to come and visit CUHK-Shenzhen. He also invited me to join the WeChat group used by him and his coworkers from SSE. I was quite familiar with what they discussed and did for research.”Prof. Theodoridis recalls. He also expressed his interest in learning about the research system in China. He was excited about Shenzhen as the Silicon Valley of China, where the future of the world is built. He added, “I always admired the Chinese civilization because of the extended length of its history. I wanted to learn more about Chinese culture. Being a friend of Prof. Luo, desiring a research experience in China, and my admiration of the Chinese culture encouraged me to finalize my decision to come to CUHK-Shenzhen.”
Prof. Theodoridis thinks that teaching at CUHK-Shenzhen is excellent. In his classes, he finds that the top 10 to 15 percent of the students are exceptionally outstanding. He was impressed with how respectful students here are towards Professors. He explained，“It is a respect in a positive and natural way that the students are eager to learn. This is special and a bit different than in Europe.”During the coronavirus outbreak, Prof. Theodoridis is staying in Greece, and his actual teaching schedule was at 3 AM in his place. He records his lecture videos and uploads them to BlackBoard. Each week he conducts an extra Q&A session and receives more questions of good quality. He feels that technology has facilitated the learning process. “The students can pause and rewind the lecture videos to ensure that they catch all the essential explanations.” When things get back to normal, Prof. Theodoridis might consider continuing teaching in this way by conducting smaller classes for Q&A.
Prof. Theodoridis is no more interested in “counting”the number of his publications For him, research is always about the curiosity to answer questions that he likes to pose to himself. Even though he has achieved the career that he wanted, he will not stop conducting research. On the other hand, he is more concerned about his younger colleagues and his studenes’ successes than his own. He emphasized that he is working with humans, not robots. He added, “When I supervise my students, what I care more about are their heart and soul. They are already good with their brains. My part is to motivate and support them when they feel down.”
When asked to give students some advice, Prof. Theodoridis remarked, “discover and believe more in yourself.” Every now and then in life, everyone has to make concessions. For example, we have to follow the regulations and the “demands” of the society. Prof. Theodoridis acknowledges this. In the meantime, he encourages students to discover what they like and he believes it essential for them. He further adds, “discovering yourself is a learning process, to listen to your talent, soul, and know yourself more and more. The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates said: Know yourself. This needs “homework” and perseverance that the society, often, does not help you to achieve”. However, the students should believe in what it is of value to them and make an effort to achieve it. After all, what is most important in life is the “trip” towards the goal and not so much the goal itself. When Prof. Theodoridis started as a researcher, he felt that he was not good enough. He said he was not a bright pupil. He felt somewhat insecure and often asked himself the question, “Will I be able to do this?” However, by putting much effort into discovering and building up his skill set, he gradually became who he is today.
Luckily, according to Prof. Theodoridis, it is easy for students to identify whether they are interested in research. He suggested that if a student has not tried research, then he or she should give it a try. Students can then try to answer these questions: Do I like it or I do it because my parents said so? Is this my choice or does the society forced me to do this? Finally, when they encounter any of the problems in research, do they often take breaks and leave them for another time? Or do they find it hard to sleep because they keep thinking about ways to solve the problems? If your answer is the latter, then you like research.