Sabancı University Mechatronics Engineering Doctorate Program 2013 alumni Zeynep Temel was chosen to the World Economic Forum - WEF 2020 Cohort of Young Scientists.
World Economic Forum is a platform that brings together leaders from business, academics, politics and art to create synergies which will build a better future. The Cohort of Young Scientists aims to bring an evidence-based and scientific perspective to these efforts. Every year, 25 young scientists are chosen among nominees submitted by academic institutions around the world for a three-year term.
The interview with graduate Zeynep Temel on her selection to the 2020 Cohort of Young Scientists and her work is below.
Can you tell us about yourself? We know you are a Mechatronics Engineering Doctorate Program 2013 graduate. What led you to pursue a PhD in this field? How did your paths cross with Sabancı University?
Z.T.: I am a graduate of Istanbul Technical University Mechanical Engineering. In my last undergraduate year, I chose the System Dynamics and Control branch when we split. I then completed a master's in mechatronic engineering, and decided to continue onwards to a PhD. I found dealing with the mechanical design, electronic design, and control aspects of a system interesting. I still do.
My sibling had just begun an undergraduate program at Sabancı University when I was looking into PhD programs, and sent me the ad for the Mechatronic Engineering PhD program. Although I had the chance to study in Germany, I wanted to be in Turkey, so I applied to Sabancı University. For four years after that, the two of us took different courses from the same professors like Prof. Serhat Yeşilyurt, Prof. Asıf Şabanoviç, Prof. Berrin Yanıkoğlu, Prof. İbrahim Tekin, Prof. Güllü Kızıltaş Şendur, and worked on different projects at the same time :) My doctoral advisor was Prof. Serhat Yeşilyurt, and I worked on the behavior of bacteria-inspired swimmer microrobots.
What did you do after graduating from the Sabancı University PhD program?
Z.T.: After graduation, I continued to work at Sabancı University as a postdoctoral researcher with my advisor Prof. Serhat Yeşilyurt. In 2014, I received a postdoctoral fellowship from TÜBİTAK and went to Brown University for one year, where I was with Prof. Kenny Breuer, studying the swimming behavior of micro-organisms in different environments.
Towards the end of my project, my good friend and fellow Sabancı University Mechatronic Engineering PhD graduate Dr. Merve Acer introduced me to Prof. Rob Wood. As we spoke about our research and areas of interest, he mentioned a postdoctoral position. So I began working on the design and production of new actuators for microrobots at the Harvard University Microrobotics Lab in 2015. The project involved collaboration between six teams from different universities to understand extraordinary movements in nature, and analyze them using engineering platforms. This enabled me to work with a large team composed of individuals specialized in robotics, biology, physics and materials science for three years. As an outcome of my project at Harvard University, I developed a high-speed delta manipulator capable of millimetric precision, and a mechanism inspired by leaping ants that is able to leap up to 100 times its height.
Encouraged by my professors, I started looking into assistant professorships at the end of my second year in Harvard. I was especially excited by the facilities of Carnegie Mellon University and the attitude of the academic community. So I have been in Pittsburgh for a year and a half; I started building my team and lab a year ago with my first PhD students.
Can you talk about your current projects at Carnegie Mellon University?
Z.T.: I now have a team that consists of four PhD and one master's candidate, and we focus on the dynamic behavior of small-scale robots. All of my PhD students have projects on subjects that I have worked on before. We work on four main subjects: Precision manipulator systems, swarm robots for search and rescue, dynamic Origami, and shapeshifting robots. We answer questions related to fundamental sciences and develop application-focused systems.
You are among the 25 members of the World Economic Forum - 2020 Cohort of Young Scientists. What work or criteria were considered for your inclusion among these 25 people, and what does this mean to you?
Z.T.: World Economic Forum is a platform that brings together leaders from business, academics, politics and art to create synergies which will build a better future. The Cohort of Young Scientists aims to bring an evidence-based and scientific perspective to these efforts. Every year, 25 young scientists are chosen among nominees submitted by academic institutions around the world for a three-year term. Selection criteria includes the scientific work we do as well as our interaction with our surroundings and community. Being chosen as a member of the Cohort of Young Scientists to represent my country and university is a great pride and responsibility.
What are your goals for your career and life in the years to come?
Z.T.: My first goal is to ensure that my colleagues and teammates experience a pleasant education and research process, and that they have the chance to do effective academic research like I had. Another important and ongoing purpose to my life is to explain our work and achievements on different platforms, encouraging the youth to science, curiosity, to question and to learn.
Finally, what advice do you have for students or graduates just beginning their career?
Z.T.: I'm also just beginning my career; I hope we always are. Being a good person, being curious, paying attention to my surroundings, chasing my dreams and never tiring of experimenting opened many a door to me - I hope they help to guide you into the path that is right for you.
Is there anything you wish to add?
Z.T.: Thank you for contacting me. I would like to thank everyone, first and foremost Prof. Serhat Yeşilyurt, for guiding me during my years at Sabancı University, and send them my warmest regards.