Outreach in Izmir, Turkey

BMSIS ​Young Scientist ​Gökçe Senger engaged a group of over twenty students at the Izmir Institute of Technology in Turkey​. ​

Gökçe’s engagement was part of h​er​ Communications requirements for the BMSIS Young Scientist Program. BMSIS is continuously committed to engaging the public in the wonders of Space Exploration and the Earth System. Our ​Young Scientist Program continues this tradition by engaging local communities around the world.

Read Gökçe’s impressions below:

First of all, let me introduce myself. My name is Gökçe Senger, one of the undergraduate students at the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, at Izmir Institute of Technology, located in Izmir, Turkey. I participated in the BMSIS Young Scientist Program (YSP) while working with Dr. Betül Kacar at BMSIS and the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University during the Summer of 2015. Together, we worked on comparative analysis of modern and ancient homolog proteins.
Outreach, in the form of teaching young minds, and sharing knowledge with younger students is one of the key requirements levied on participants of the BMSIS YSP. I carried out my requirements at the Izmir Institute of Technology and reached out to first and second year undergraduate students, adding up to twenty undergraduates, as well as four Master’s students.

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My presentation had two main parts. In the first part, I focused on my internship experience at Harvard University, whereas the second part was about how bioinformatics tools are applied on biological studies like the one I performed. During the first part, I also informed the students about how they can apply to internship programs like the YSP and what the essential elements in the application process are.

Most of the students indicated that they were afraid of doing an internship in other countries because they were considering the idea of being accepted from a prominent university as impossible. In truth, that is why most of the undergraduate students in Turkey do not apply to international internships. I strongly believe that the main reason behind this problem is based on the prejudiced thoughts on students, who think high grades are more important and not the ideas. I recommended them to apply to different programs and to experience scientific atmospheres in other countries.

The second part of my presentation was dedicated to understanding the fundamentals of computational biology. Most of the students seemed to be reluctant because of their limited prior knowledge on the subject. Before opening the topic, I made an assessment in order to measure their level of interest on this particular subject. Results surprised me: just a few undergraduate students had laboratory experience in the area, despite being familiar with the computational methods. We discussed that computational biology is progressing with various collaborations between computational techniques and laboratory methods. Students gained a basic knowledge on the Ancestral Gene Reconstruction technique during the presentation.

I strongly believe that at the end of my BMSIS YSP presentation, the undergraduate attendees were more motivated than before; in that most of them understood that taking little or big steps do not mean anything unless the direction of the steps is headed forward.

The students all agreed that science we are exposed to in our daily lives is a reflection of nature filtered by our thoughts, ideas and projects. In other words, our job gives us the required motivation to think about new theories and produce marvelous materials by simply observing the world around us. One of the best outcome of this experience is that one of the undergraduate attendee of my presentation is now working with me on a new outreach project, which made me proud of myself more than ever. On this path, The BMSIS Young Scientist program was a wonderful experience for me because it motivated me to communicate my science and my experiences with my peers. Additionally, I would like to thank my advisor Dr. Betül Kacar, because her guidance has been a key factor for me since the beginning; the road she put me in has made me walk emphatically.

The obtacles on the road of being successful in science will undoubtfully multiply. In such moments, pushing our limits will give us valuable experiences. After my presentation, I was more confident and willing. Furthermore, I gained the wonderful experience of teaching and I decided that I should absolutely continue to teach, in addition to my research activities.

Bird’s eye-view from Boston, MA to Izmir, Turkey. Izmir is where I did my presentation.

Bird’s eye-view from Boston, MA to Izmir, Turkey. Izmir is where I did my presentation.