CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR ACADEMIC CAREER?
I received my bachelor’s degree from Bolu Abant Izzet Baysal University’s Department of Chemistry in 2002. I completed my university education at the top of my faculty and third in the university. I applied to the Teaching Staff Training Program (OYP) the same year, as part of the collaboration between the State Planning Organization (DPT) and Middle East Technical University (ODTU). I was appointed as an assistant in ODTU’s Department of Chemistry on behalf of Van Yuzuncu Yil University in 2003. I completed my master’s degree in 2005 and doctoral degree in 2010 with high academic distinction. I then worked as visiting scholar at Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) in Japan and Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in France with a fellowship from the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK) and DPT during my postgraduate education. I applied via an announcement in the scientific journal Nature to become an associate researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in their Department of Chemical Engineering at the end of 2010. I was appointed associate researcher after many Skype meetings and interviews. As part of this project, I carried out my post-doctoral research between 2010-2011 at MIT. I returned to Turkey in 2011 and was appointed as assistant professor in Van Yuzuncu Yil University’s Department of Chemistry. I received the associate professor title in 2013 and the professor title in 2018. I was also included in Stanford University’s Most Influential Scientists list.
WHAT KIND OF RESEARCH DID YOU CARRY OUT?
My doctoral studies focus on metal nanoparticles and their catalytical applications. With regards to catalytic application, I studied hydrogen storage and release reactions of boron-based chemical materials that are important for Turkey. As part of different projects during my doctoral studies, I was involved in many scientific articles. But the most significant studies among them were articles that were published on Turkey in the Journal of American Chemical Society and Inorganic Chemistry, which are considered as the most prestigious journals in our field. My research at MIT focused on the preparation of catalytical materials within the scope of atomic layer deposition. We published one of these studies in the scientific journal Langmuir.
CAN YOU COMPARE THE RESEARCH ENVIRONMENT OF UNIVERSITIES IN THE U.S. AND TURKEY?
Excluding the leading universities in the U.S., Turkey isn’t that far behind most U.S. universities in terms of teaching staff quality and research infrastructure. But there are basic advantages of being there. For example, in my research, I could receive the chemical I asked for within two business days at the latest. The fact that the majority of chemical manufacturers are in the U.S. is a great convenience in terms of material and chemical supplies. Since the U.S. is attractive for young researchers from different countries, it facilitates organizing a team of qualified researchers. The structure in the U.S. enables the formation of collaborative structures between researchers and lecturers. This helps universities to make progress in all fields. The government provides serious support to the research environment in Turkey, compared to the past. For example, with the projects I was given from TUBITAK and different institutions, I managed to develop the research laboratory at Van Yuzuncu Yil University from scratch to the technological level that it can now compete with many universities in the West. But the recent fluctuations in foreign exchange rates has strained our researcher and teaching staffs.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR RESEARCH TEAM?
I do research with a team consisting of master’s and doctoral degree students. Our research is financed by TUBITAK and Bartin University’s Scientific Research Projects Coordination Unit. We include new, young researchers in our team by bringing some of my students into the team to pursue their own research.
WHAT KIND OF PROJECTS ARE YOU WORKING ON NOW?
We continue to study antibacterial materials and nanofluid systems. Antibacterial materials have increased in importance especially during the pandemic. At this point, we’ve observed the antibacterial effect of silver nanoparticle materials confined in a metal-organic cage structure, which have high stability and a long shelf life. We also study nanofluid systems, which have long shelf lives and minimize heat loss in fluid heat transfer systems. Our studies on this field are ongoing.
HOW DO YOU SEE THE STATE OF UNIVERSITY-INDUSTRY COLLABORATION IN TURKEY?
The primary problem in Turkey’s research ecosystem is that university-industry collaboration (UIC) hasn’t reached the desired level. Undeniably, steps have been taken in this field recently, and we reap the fruits of them, especially in the defense industry, at this point. But that isn’t enough. More initiatives should be developed in this field. Each university should periodically organize workshops with regional manufacturing companies as part of the UIC program, and the main problems faced by the manufacturing industry should be expressed. On the university side, committees consisting of specialists in their fields should be formed to develop solutions to these problems. Such work should be included in the scope of master’s thesis studies and young researchers should train themselves in the field. The Industry Thesis Support Program (SanTez), which was kicked off by the Ministry of Industry and Technology and transferred to TUBITAK, sets a good example for this.