students in caps and gowns at commencement

All in the Gamecock family

Dimitri Amiridis discusses family's many ties to UofSC

When computer engineering major Dimitri Amiridis crosses the stage at commencement this spring, the South Carolina Honors College graduate will become the third member of his family with a degree from the University of South Carolina. The only member of his immediate family not to hold a degree from his new alma mater? Dimitri’s father, President-elect Michael Amiridis. But no worries there. The youngest Gamecock in this decidedly Gamecock family has plenty of faith in the university’s 30th president and even a little advice.

You grew up in Columbia and went to school in Columbia and your parents obviously have deep connections to the university. Was it always your plan to attend the University of South Carolina?

Actually, it was not always the plan. When I was deciding where to go to college, I had many options, including Georgia Tech, University of Wisconsin Madison and the University of Illinois. That last one was actually ranked second in the U.S. for computer engineering the year I applied.

But I came to UofSC because I was both familiar with the school and because I saw advantages in going to the Honors College, which offered smaller class sizes and great professors. Because I knew many of the professors, I was also able to get research opportunities I couldn’t get anywhere else. Having that familiarity with Columbia also helped, of course. I think there is something comforting about going to school in the city where you grew up.

What’s your earliest memory of the USC campus?

I would say it was taking walks on the Horseshoe as a child. My parents and I would come there a lot, especially when I was an elementary school kid. I specifically remember the beautiful floral bridge that leads into Colloquium Cafe and Gambrell. It has kind of become the landmark that I closely associate with UofSC.

Your sister also went here. Was her college experience also a factor in your decision?

Absolutely. Hearing my sister talk about all the research opportunities, honors classes and professional connections made me want to come here. She also helped me get familiar with UofSC’s campus my first year, which helped immensely. 

How would you characterize your own undergraduate experience —academically, socially or otherwise?

Academically, it was rigorous and fulfilling. Because Computer Engineering is such an interdisciplinary field, I feel like these past four years I’ve been exposed to so many different topics — be it robotics, embedded systems, digital logic design, circuit design, you name it. I loved professors like Dr. Jason O’Kane and Dr. Jason Bakos, who were really good at simplifying complex topics and gave us these thought-provoking coding assignments. I also got to work in Dr. Herbert Ginn’s lab, which taught me all about power electronics.

It was a wonderful experience socially, too. I met many like-minded people through the Board Game Club, the Magic: The Gathering club that I started and at parties hosted by friends. I felt the professors were also sociable, too. Whenever I went for extra help, we would always end up just talking about our day and getting to know each other better.

What drew you to your major? Was it a lifelong interest or something that developed during college?

Actually, it was a UofSC professor who sparked my interest. When I was 12, I took a UofSC summer camp course on video game design offered by CSCE’s Dr. Jeremiah Shepherd (at the time he was just J.J.). It gave me a look into the magic that computers are capable of, and because I had an affinity for math and science, I realized I wanted to do something related to technology, and over time, I decide that would be computer engineering. But I still had a lifelong interest in technology as well. Even as a kid, I was fascinated by things like circuitry and software. 

Tell us about your plans post-graduation.

Once I graduate, I will be attending graduate school as a computer engineering Ph.D. student with a research focus in robotics. I’m still waiting to hear from some colleges, but right now I’m deciding between Ohio State and the University of Maryland - College Park. After that, I would like to work in R&D to develop robots for the public and improve the quality of life. 

When you first heard your father was going to be the next president of your soon-to-be alma mater, what were your thoughts?

At first, I was definitely surprised. We were notified about his candidacy only a few weeks before he became president-elect, and because it is a competitive position that had other qualified candidates, I didn’t know if they would reach out to him. I know a lot of people get uneasy when they have their parent work at their school. I told one of my friends and they said, “Wow, I can’t even imagine my dad being a professor for my class, let alone the president.” For me, though, it’s admittedly a point of pride. I am so excited to see him take the position! 

Speaking as their son, what is the university getting in Michael and Ero Amiridis as president and first lady? In other words, what qualities can we look forward to as we get to know them in their new roles?

Bias aside, I truly believe that my father is the most qualified person for the presidency. He’s been working at the university for many years, he is an accomplished academic and he has experienced every level of the university hierarchy from professor to provost. With my father, our university is getting someone who values academia and cares deeply about all students, including our minority students and first-generation students. I think my mother will also make an excellent first lady. When she was first lady at UIC, she helped develop a cookbook for low-income students to make healthy meals on a budget, so I think our school can expect someone who is very active with the community and is eager to make change. 

Any wisdom you can impart to your father as a member of the Class of 2022?

I would urge my father to make sure he listens to his students. When I talk to my classmates about the changes we would like to see at UofSC, it’s usually a similar list of things, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. I am confident my father will be aware of these needed changes and will do what he can to better our university.