My favorite quote:
"Don't be afraid of hard work. Nothing worthwhile comes easily. Don't let others discourage you or tell you that you can't do it. In my day I was told women didn't go into chemistry. I saw no reason why we couldn't."
(Nobel Prize-winning biochemist )
I am an astrophysicist, who studies the faintest and most dark-matter-dominated galaxies in the universe.
When I was little, I admired the stars at the night sky. Now, as an astrophysicist, I have the tools to reach those stars and I want to learn more about the Universe and how it came to be the way it is today. I simply enjoy to feed my curiosity and follow my passion to discover.
I began my academic career by receiving my B.S. degree in physics from Bilkent University in Turkey, and my master’s degree from Texas Tech University. I obtained my Ph.D. degree in Astrophysics from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. After three-year postdoctoral research at the University of Arizona, I became an NSF & KICP Fellow at the University of Chicago. I use both large photometric surveys from ground-based and space telescopes in order to discover and characterize the smallest and faintest galaxies in the universe, and the role of dark matter in their formation. My research sometimes takes me to cool observatories like Maunakea Observatories, Las Campanas Observatory, and Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory.
My background: My grandparents lived their lives in small farming towns, and they even did not have a chance to learn how to read or write. My parents grew up in these small towns. Due to the economic pressures, they were expected to support their families. At those years, most students in their towns were in elementary school until they were eighteen years old. They did not have any role models or any support from parents, and they were mostly busy with house or farm chores. My father was different, as he was so successful that he skipped a grade in elementary school. But, unfortunately, he was forced to drop out of school after the fifth grade to take care of his parents. My mother also dropped out of school after the fifth grade because women were not supposed to have any higher education than that in her small town. My parents' experiences motivated me to do whatever it takes to live my dream, but my path was not easy. My family had been criticized for "letting" me move away for my education because "Young women should not live away from the family". Faculty members and advisors are really important for first-generation students to realize their potential. Unfortunately, I did not receive the necessary support structure. On the first day of college, a male professor questioned my presence in the department by saying "Are you crazy? You are a woman, and you left your hometown to study physics?". In each of these challenges, I reminded myself that I do not want to blend in, I want to stand out, so I fought against all these stereotypes and worked hard to live beyond the labels.
While contributing to my field through research, I actively serve on many organizations (e.g., American Astronomical Society, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and many more) to improve the climate for women and other minorities; and I give back to the community through impactful educational media programs intended to show that science can be both enjoyable and reachable for anyone, especially for women and other marginalized groups.