Fifteen alumni have received their PhD degrees from UNAM’s Materials Science and Nanotechnology (MSN) program this year, and the institution is happy to announce that many of its graduates now continue their careers on the world’s highest-ranked universities. UNAM alumni have been accepted for postdoctoral studies in top-class institutions such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), University of California Berkeley, Princeton University and Max Planck Institute. We have interviewed five such alumni; Safacan Kölemen (UC Berkeley), Mehmet Kanık (MIT), Tural Khudiyev (MIT), Ongun Özçelik (Princeton) and Hakan Ceylan (Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems) to inquire about what awaits UNAM graduates in higher echelons of scientific research.
All five of our interviewees highly valued the training they have received in UNAM: Dr. Kölemen, who received his Master’s Degree from Chemistry Department of Bilkent and did his PhD studies at UNAM, commented that “Dr. Akkaya’s research group at UNAM offered me the latest in technological and equipment infrastructure, providing us with the means to test all our ideas and greatly increasing the quality of our work. Collaborations that we carried out with other research groups at UNAM have also helped my ability to see the problems from different perspectives.”
Dr. Ceylan also thanked UNAM for fostering a multidisciplinary research environment, saying that “UNAM has successfully established a tradition of innovative and interdisciplinary research, which inspired me greatly during my PhD studies. Collaboration with researchers from diverse scientific backgrounds helped me pursue interesting questions where no one has ever considered before. We greatly benefited from this productive research environment, which resulted in publications in highly respected top journals. In that sense, UNAM is truly a center of excellence for frontier materials and nanotechnology research in Turkey and Europe”.
Dr. Khudiyev, who is to continue his postdoctoral studies at MIT, praised the institute’s ability to combine theoretical expertise with practical applications, saying that “Lectures that I took from experienced researchers contributed to both my theoretical and experimental background. UNAM is one of the best places for multidisciplinary work.” He also thanked UNAM researchers’ devotion to the pursuit of scientific knowledge, stating that both Dr. Mehmet Bayındır (Dr. Khudiyev’s doctoral supervisor) and other academic staff at UNAM “[were] highly motivated and dedicated to their research”. Dr. Khudiyev also believes that UNAM has the capacity to be a leading institute in its field, saying that “UNAM and MIT, in principle, are not so different from each other – that is to say, they have similar infrastructures and very experienced people in their own fields. Considering the success that UNAM achieved so far, I can easily say that it will be one of best institutes in the world in the near future”.
Dr. Özçelik, who has been accepted for postdoctoral studies at Princeton University, especially praised the research environment of UNAM, commenting that “During my PhD studies under the supervision of Prof. Salim Çıracı, I had the chance to benefit from the world-class research environment that UNAM provides to its graduate students. I believe that the diversity of research fields and friendly environment between professors and students always keep UNAM members highly motivated in their research and provide them with lots of research options and ideas. This enables students to get involved in research projects of their interest, publish in top journals, present their results at international conferences, make connections and get known in their field during their PhD years. I feel lucky for being a member of this community”.
Lastly, Dr. Kanık remarked on the academic success of the institute, saying that “It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that I lived and worked in UNAM for 7 years. My life was so overwhelmed by research and focused entirely on catching up with other high reputation institutions all around the world. When I came to MIT, I realized that people working here have been actually following my studies and trying to obtain the same results. In my first presentation here, people were writing down the process parameters, asking detailed questions, and trying to capture slides for their benefit. That of course doesn’t prove that Bilkent University or UNAM is superior to MIT, but it definitely proves that we can be on their level if we work hard and constantly question the scientific literature.” Dr. Kanık was also critical of UNAM’s shortcomings, however, saying that “We didn’t care much about safety and training at UNAM, or about the maintenance of the devices and helping the users. This is because we do not have enough human resources to take care of devices. Here in MIT, things are more formal and serious.”
Like the successful young scientists above, many UNAM graduates have benefited greatly from the quality of education, state-of-the-art infrastructure and world-renowned scientists at UNAM, and continue their careers in the best universities and companies all around the world. We as hope that the next generation of UNAM graduates will follow up on their footsteps and enjoy successful and productive scientific careers in top-class institutes.