Imagine: a super tiny robot equipped with the technology to enter your body and figure out exactly what is wrong, and then even deliver a drug/DNA straight to where it is needed. This is what Sumeyra daydreamed about as a teenager, making sketches in her notebooks of nano-robots as medical heroes. Then one day in her sophomore year at Istanbul University, she attended a seminar that changed everything. “They were talking about nanoparticles and nano-robots, and they showed the same images that I had been drawing myself! I thought, there it is! That’s what I want to do.”
Armed with the information she needed to turn her dreams into reality, Sumeyra immersed herself in nanotechnology. She read countless papers, talked to her professors in Yeditepe University, and eventually reached out to her current PI, Professor Kotov. He invited her to travel from her home in Turkey to his lab here at the University of Michigan to work with him for 3 months. “I remember every detail like it was yesterday, I had such a great time here.” Sumeyra’s eyes light up when she talks about her work, and her smile is contagious.
Her hard work and passion paid off as she was awarded the prestigious Turkish Ministry of Education Scholarship, allowing her to dive into her graduate studies at the University of Michigan. As luck would have it, her husband received the same scholarship. Together they courageously dedicated themselves to rigorous research training in a new country and a different language. “Being in another country and not speaking your own language is hard, especially being far away from your family. I’m glad I came here with my husband, I cannot imagine if I came here alone.”
Now Sumeyra has completed both her Master’s degree and her qualifying exam, and is the proud mother of two-year-old Talha. Every day she expertly structures her time so that she can efficiently complete her experiments in time to pick him up from daycare, just 6 minutes away from her lab. Talha loves animals, especially feeding the squirrels. “I taught him sign language so that he could communicate with us from 9 months old,” Sumeyra smiles, tapping her knuckles together in the sign for squirrel—one of her son’s favorite signs. “It made him calmer, because he’s able to tell us what he wants.” In her spare time when she’s not playing with her son, Sumeyra enjoys swimming, pilates, being in nature, or relaxing her mind with a good book. She especially loves reading about child development, picking up tricks on encouraging healthy eating habits, potty training techniques, and child psychology.
I’m not sure how she finds the time, but Sumeyra is an active member of the University of Michigan community. Last year she served as an Outreach Co-Chair for the Graduate Rackham International (GRIN) student organization, where she helped organize events such as an outing to the Trampoline Park, the Graduate Student Appreciation Week with Rackham Student Government, and movie nights. This year she is looking forward to serving as GRIN’s Professional Development Co-Chair. She is also an active member of Society for Biomaterials (SFB) Univeristy of Michigan Student Chapter and is currently helping to organize SFB Day, which will be hosted here at UM next fall. Last fall she served as the Engineering in Biological Systems Session Chair for the UM Engineering Graduate Symposium and earned 1st place for her research poster in the Tissue, Cellular, and Biomolecular Engineering Session. She is also an active member of GradSWE, and has especially enjoyed the Female Faculty Mixers, where she picked up useful tips on writing amidst a busy schedule. As Sumeyra adeptly manages her work-life balancing act, she is grateful for her PI’s kindness and understanding, and most of all for the loving support of her family, whom she Skypes with every night over dinner.
Once she and her husband complete their doctoral studies, they will return to Turkey to be professors as part of their scholarship contract. She will be faculty at Bursa Technical University, in a town outside of Istanbul that she describes as somewhat like Ann Arbor. There, Sumeyra hopes to establish collaborations between Turkey and the United States to continue her work in nanotechnology. As the medical field advances and gene therapy inches ever closer, Sumeyra’s work may well play an integral part in effective gene therapy delivery. One thing is clear: Sumeyra’s relentless passion is an inspiration, and we are proud to have her as an outstanding member of the GradSWE community.
When you think of our GradSWE community, who comes to mind? Nominate them for the GradSWE Member Spotlight here!