Koç University News & Announcements Bulletin

February 2019


February is important as the last month of winter but also as the month in which our Spring semester starts. I am particularly excited as I do make time to teach each spring, always pleased to meet with my new students (70+ of them from EE or Physics) and start working with my Teaching Assistants. Having taught a variety of courses to thousands of students over literally more than 30 years, I greatly enjoy my time in class with the lectures and especially the question/answer discussions. Whatever else we do as university administrators and leaders; classroom teaching is by far the best and the most rewarding activity of them all and we are so very lucky to be in a profession of lifetime teaching and learning.

February was full of many events that simultaneously reminded me of years past and raised my expectations for a bright near future for our institution. One very exciting development was the official opening of our new Research Center KUTTAM - the Koç University Research Center for Translational Medicine. I strongly believe that the future of humanity lies at the intersection of multiple disciplines, especially in the overlaps of medicine with engineering, sciences, social and administrative sciences and law. At Koç University, we are at the forefront and are uniquely positioned to lead this major wave of change, and are working hard to make sure that academic curricula meet these needs and that our research enterprise embraces multi-disciplinary approaches in all of its dimensions, from the faculty we hire, to the environment we create for them, to the means by which we motivate them. KUTTAM’s official opening with the attendance of Naci Ağbal, Head of the Presidential Office of Strategy & Budget, the former Ministry of Development, through which the governmental funding for KUTTAM was acquired, was thus quite a milestone for our university. In the context of this center, there is much opportunity to make significant discoveries and contributions to global medical science. Much of this kind of research used to be conducted only at a handful of research centers, mostly in the US and Europe. In the past, Turkey lacked both the necessary R&D infrastructure as well as a critical mass of world-class researchers, but such is no longer the case.

When Minister Naci Ağbal stated in his address at the opening ceremony that ‘the global recognition of our country will be enhanced through the work of KUTTAM', I was not only proud but was extremely encouraged that we are on the right path and are destined to do so much more for our university, country and the world. With the establishment of KUTTAM, we are now very well placed to do cutting-edge interdisciplinary research in various areas. I also believe that the combination of the extraordinary investments in infrastructure with the outstanding minds at our university makes it likely that a new world-shattering discovery or the cure of some terrible disease might well come from within the ranks of our distinguished faculty, students, and alumni.

On a related note, when we discuss our potential to do original and high-impact research across the entire university, we cannot single out KUTTAM without mentioning the largest single investment in the research infrastructure for our university, the Koç University Hospital itself. During a recent visit at the Koç University Hospital, I remembered the first years when I began my tenure as president of Koç University. With the opening of our Medical School approved by YÖK, I was a part of the committee along with our Hospital CEO Erhan Bulutçu that searched for a place in Istanbul and travelled to Boston to meet up with the design firm that would eventually build the hospital. I remembered our discussions about how the Hospital design should be such that the outfacing sides of the academic/research laboratories should be all glass doors, so that the white-coated researchers working inside would be visible from the outside. All this came to me vividly at the opening of the Photography Exhibition at the Koç University Hospital rotunda, showcasing the enormous transformation of the actual site from an Arcelik Factory to Koç University Hospital. Just seeing through a series of photographs of what the place had been and what it had become, I believe our University Hospital is truly 'a miracle', now serving up to 2000 patients every day in a mere 4 years after it became operational. The management of the Koç University Hospital, the Deans and faculty members of our School of Medicine and all other parties involved in making it happen are to be congratulated and commended. Please do go and visit the exhibition, with beautiful and sometimes eerie shots of the old Arçelik factory, which was abandoned at the time we decided to build the hospital onto its stead. What was once a manufacturing giant in this old and worn out İstanbul district left its legacy to an entity that now works towards elevating human health. That history shown in segments of what had been left of the factory has now become a part of our university. What a great bookend to a story that has just begun . . .

The start of the spring semester in February also hosted two student-organized events on our Rumelifeneri campus. I greatly value the experiences our student clubs offer to our students, and I always enjoy attending many of the performances of our wonderful students at our very own Sevgi Gönül Auditorium and do make a point of highlighting them in my newsletters. Apart from these performance-based clubs, we have many more clubs that guide and prepare our students for the professional world ahead of them. Two such clubs, the Marketing and the Index - Industrial Engineering Clubs, have both become not only staples of our University but have also established their own brands. I was invited to give a brief opening address at both events, and I was happy and proud to see many attendees from other universities all around Turkey and executives participating from many prominent local and international companies. In my address to the students and attending guests, I briefly tell them that at Koç University, we strive to hire the best faculty, recruit the best students and then create and maintain the freest environment in which they can flourish by being the most productive, creative and successful. I asked many of the students in attendance to be rebellious in their own environments, in the sense of following their inner voices rather than walking along the paths shown to them by others. I do believe strongly that the best thing that we can do as university administrators is to ‘get out of the way’ and let the outstanding people we have gathered strive on their own for excellence.

February for me has also been very busy with my visits to many prominent business people for our fund-raising efforts for our Anatolian Scholarship Program, which have considerably picked up this month, where I sometimes get to meet with 3 different companies in a single day scattered all across Istanbul. A huge undertaking when you consider the traffic in our wonderful, metropolitan city. In this connection, I am thankful to be at the hands of my very skillful driver, Recep bey, who makes sure to get me where I need to be right on time, rain or shine or fog or snow. I also make visits of companies in Ankara, to which I nowadays travel at least once a week.

February 25th marks the 23rd anniversary of the passing away of the Founder of our university, the late Vehbi Koç. He was at the same time an incredibly successful business leader, an outstanding philanthropist and a visionary person who, above all else, loved and believed in his country. Even during the hardest times, he said, 'he exists if his country exists' and continued investing and working hard on his projects. I was part of a large group of Koç Group executives and family members paying homage at his gravesite during the day of his anniversary. In the evening of the same day, we had the wonderful annual gathering of the presentation of the ‘Vehbi Koç Award’, which for this year was presented in the area of ‘Health’ to Prof. Mehmet Toner of Harvard University. The evening was especially meaningful as we also celebrated the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Vehbi Koç Foundation, the oldest and largest of its kind in Turkey, and the parent foundation of our university. The award was well placed indeed, as the recipient is a truly outstanding scientist with so many accomplishments in the areas of overlap of medicine and engineering, one of the most important areas that we have identified as our primary emphasis in our near future.

On a final note, I would like to reiterate a recent announcement that I made earlier in the month. Our Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Mr. Ömer M. Koç, following his dedicated and committed service since 2016, turned over his position to Professor Nur Yalman, a long-time member of our Board of Trustees, who has been elected as the new Chairman at the Meeting of the Board of Trustees held on February 18th, 2019.

I would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to Mr. Ömer M. Koç for his extraordinary contributions and support since the establishment of our University and for his continuing leadership of the Koç Group of institutions and as the Chairman of the Board of Koç Holding. We also thank Professor Nur Yalman for his extensive service for many years as a member of our Board and wish him success in his new position.

I cannot help but mention the beautiful snow that blanketed our campus during the weekend of February 23rd and for a few days thereafter. This absolutely beautiful campus becomes even more so when blanketed in white snow hanging down from the branches of the beautiful pine and other trees that populate our unique environment. Snow on the roads inside and outside campus hampered transportation a bit, but crews by and large kept us all going throughout. In the end, our campus remained reachable, as evidenced by the municipal buses that were around at all times.

My best wishes and regards to you all,

Umran Inan



KUTTAM Opening Ceremony

The ceremony, launching this groundbreaking interdisciplinary research center, took place on February 12th at the Rumelifeneri Campus with the attendance of Naci Ağbal, Head of the Presidential Office of Strategy & Budget. The ceremony included addresses from our President, Prof. Umran Inan and Naci Ağbal, with a keynote speech by Professor Metin Sitti. The opening ceremony concluded with a tour of the KUTTAM (Koç University Research Center for Translational Medicine) laboratories at the Semahat & Dr. Nüsret Arsel Science & Technology Building.

Photography Exhibition’ “Transformation”, from Arçelik Factory to Koç University Hospital

The exhibition at the Koc University Hospital Rotunda, showcasing photographs of Laleper Aytek and Onur Gürkan, documents various stages of the transformation from Arçelik Factory to Koç University Hospital and will be open until September 1st, 2019. The exhibition project is a part of the 10th anniversary of Koç University School of Medicine.

KARMA Lab Augmented and Virtual Reality Training Program kicks off!

Funded by İstanbul Development Agency (İSTKA) and instituted by the Koç University KARMA Mixed Reality Lab, “Extended Reality Training Program” started on February 18th. A total number of 80 participants out of more than 400 applications have been selected and they will be able to gain theoretical and applied knowledge on Extended Reality Technologies during an eight-month training period.

Koç University Student Clubs kick start the new semester…
Marketing Club presented KAMP’19!

In its 15th year, the annual Marketing Club event, “KAMP” started off on February 15th with the motto “This Kamp is Different”’ hosting 400 participants coming from all around Turkey. This year KAMP included 17 seminars with surprise speakers as well as simultaneous case studies, mock interviews, workshops and mini seminars!


IES (Koç University Industrial Engineering Society) hosted IndEx19 between February 22-24. 450 students from more than 81 universities from all over Turkey gathered on our campus to experience cases, workshops, sector-based networking meetings and mini seminars as well as talks by distinguished business leaders.