Turkey’s Science Ambassador in the World: Bilge Demirköz

Written by TR Dergisi

We held an interview with Prof. Dr. Bilge Demirköz who was deemed worthy of “International Rising Talent Award”, on TABIP and its projects.

Your have a life full of achievements from your high school days to date, and lastly you were deemed worthy of the UNESCO-L’ORÉAL “International Rising Talent Award”. We sincerely congratulate you on the award. How does it feel to make Turkey proud?

It’s a very good feeling. UNESCO is the most important science, arts and educational institution in the world. The institution awards young researchers who both have broken new grounds in science and educated the future generations. In short, the aim of the award is to encourage women to make science. Very few women take interest in science around the world . Especially today, the ratio of women in the field of physics is 10 percent, which is very low. If we can make science attractive for women; we will actually reach a far greater brain power. This is why I participated in the competition: my primary goal is to set an example for the younger generations.

Can you tell us about the “Turkey Scientific and Academic Cooperation Project (TABIP)” conceptualized by Yunus Emre Enstitüsü? What are the objectives of the project?

Science is the common culture of all mankind, and from this perspective, one of the major factors to achieve world peace is to gather mankind around science. Objective of the Turkey Scientific and Academic Cooperation Project (TABIP) is to bring all Turkish scientists in Turkey and abroad together under the roof of this cooperation, and also to enable scientists to develop projects together. Yunus Emre Enstitüsü has carried out a number of art and culture activities for years. But at the same time Turkey’s scientific and technological infrastructure has become visible in the world today. Turkey has now achieved world standards in science and technology. One of the major goals of TABIP is to make the science and technological infrastructure visible through this cooperation as well as contributing to the promotion of Turkey.

In Turkey, there are many accomplished scientists with worldwide renown. You are one of those people. How will TABIP effect the promotion of scientists, and scientific activities held  in Turkey and cooperation in the world?

I think TABIP is a very good start; establishment of collaborations through the project, introduction of Turkish scientists abroad, bringing foreign scientists to Turkey for conferences are steps that will take Turkey much further. Turkey has become a country that prides itself on producing local and national technology. We need to promote this to the world. Turkey will be able to follow the developments abroad through TABIP as well as its scientific and technological outputs. Think like this: a Turkish professor working in MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) is Turkey’s science ambassador at MIT. Scientific collaboration is a factor that benefits both sides as those figures can come and support the science policies in Turkey, give their opinions, can introduce the developments in Turkey in USA when necessary and bring the two countries closer. This is what we call scientific diplomacy. In my opinion, CERN (The European Organization for Nuclear Research) is one of the best institutions in the world utilizing scientific diplomacy. There are 22 member-countries in CERN. When you visit CERN, you see that the countries live in peace; no matter their country, religion, race or language, they meet on a major common ground: “science”. It is a good thing when countries come together for scientific studies. Bringing the world closer together, isn’t that our goal anyway? We must bring the peoples of the world closer together for world peace; this way, we can prevent the future wars. Through such collaborations, we both aim to promote Turkey and provide the people abroad with a better understanding of Turkey.

Have you participated in the pilot schemes under TABIP?

The year 2017 was declared as science year in Belarus. I visited Belarus by way of Yunus Emre Enstitüsü and gave a conference on “space radiation” at the Minsk Academy of Sciences. We may be presenting a project to the European Union together with a Belarusian scientist.

In Belarus, I chatted with the young people who were learning Turkish. They expressed that they were pleased to learn about Turkish culture, art and literature. At the same time, they stated that seeing Turkey’s interest in science has altered their vision. In the conference, I realized that there were no cultural obstacle between us and all the scientists there; on the contrary, there is a bridge.

You are currently establishing Turkey’s first “proton irradiation testing laboratory” with a team of 15 people, which received 7.7 million worth of funds from the Ministry of Development. What kind of studies will you conduct in the lab? How will the lab contribute to Turkey?

There’s a lot of radiation in space. This radiation consists mostly of protons and electrons, of particles that move with a speed very close to the speed of light. This radiation damages electronic components and materials as they pass through satellites. They may corrupt the data received or disrupt the satellite’s mission. This is why we need to make sure that the material in question will not be damaged or take precautions before sending a satellite to the space. Entire software, electronic design and integration of Turkey’s first national and local satellite Göktürk-2 was made in Turkey. It is an important satellite in this respect. The mere fact that the integration was completed in Turkey, is a major step. However, we aim to build the material and electronics, and produce the essential, critical components in Turkey for our next national and local observation satellite İMECE. What we need to do is to produce our material and electronics, and send these to space after testing. We will conduct the radiation tests of these materials in Turkey. Moreover, we have conducted the radiation tests for glass and batteries produced in Turkey. They still do not entirely comply with space radiation standards but we have completed the preliminary tests. We currently make efforts to follow the European Space Standards. These require us to distribute the radiation evenly over an area in the size of an A4 paper. Currently, we can distribute this radiation evenly over an area of 4cmx8cm.

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