“It’s my way of giving something back”
7 June 2018
Thanks to a donation of USD 100,000, a new scholarship fund has been established for doctoral students at the Department of Physics and Astronomy. The fund will award one scholarship per year to a research student, preferably of Greek origin.
The Colonias–Jansson Foundation was launched with a donation from John Colonias, who took a PhD in physics at Uppsala University in 1980. Through the scholarship fund, he wants to help students of Greek origin like himself to complete their doctoral education at Uppsala University.
“But if there are no Greek students, any doctoral student can apply,” he says.
“It’s my way of giving something back to the University. I feel that I’ve been given so much throughout my life and it’s now time to give something back,” he adds.
Colonias visited Uppsala in late May for the Spring Conferment Ceremony. He was here to meet his friend Bengt Olsen, on whom (50 years after getting his PhD) the title of ‘Jubilee Doctor’ was conferred. Olsen was among those who helped Colonias gain his doctoral education at Uppsala University.
“It was purely by chance, in fact, that I ended up in Uppsala.”
In his country of origin, Greece, thanks to a Fulbright scholarship, Colonias was given the opportunity to study electrical engineering at Oregon State University. This led him to doctoral studies in nuclear physics at University of California, Berkeley.
“There, I met Professor Kai Siegbahn in the mid-1970s. One of his students, Bengt Olsen, came to Berkeley to work on electrical engineering experiments. He asked who the local expert in the field was, and it happened to be me.”
Colonias helped Olsen develop the experiments and they wrote a scientific paper together. A year later, Colonias was invited to Uppsala.
“That was an invitation I couldn’t turn down. So I went to Sweden and met the research group. I liked the country and the people enormously.”
A year later, he saw Kai Siegbahn again at UC Berkeley.
“We worked together on some experiments and he asked me when I’d got my PhD. I told him I hadn’t yet done one, and that I probably wouldn’t because I didn’t have time to do research. He couldn’t believe his ears, and soon afterwards I got an offer to carry out my doctoral studies at Uppsala University.”
After three years at the University, Colonias obtained his PhD. During those years in Uppsala, he also met his wife Irene Jansson.
“We’d planned to move back to Sweden when we retired, but she passed away from cancer. That’s why I want to name the scholarship fund after her too.”
Colonias had been thinking of making a donation to the University for some time. His initial idea had been to leave a bequest in his will.
“But when I talked to Bengt Olsen, he asked: ‘Why should you wait? Isn’t it better to give while you’re still alive?’ I thought a bit and decided he was right. And it felt obvious that the donation should go to Uppsala University. This place has given me so much – not only my PhD, which has helped me professionally, but also my wife and part of my family. I hope the scholarship will benefit many doctoral students in the future.”
The Colonias–Jansson Foundation
The Foundation awards one annual scholarship to an Uppsala University doctoral student of physics, preferentially from Greece.