Koç University News & Announcements Bulletin

February 2020


Dear Members of the Koç University Community,

February signals the end of winter, but it is also the month in which our Spring semester starts. I am always excited to meet with my new students (this year 70+ of them from EE or Physics) and start working with my Teaching Assistants in teaching ELEC206/PHYS302 Electromagnetics course.

The start of the new decade also brings up some interesting facts. 2020 is a leap year, so that February is 29 days. However, February 2020 is also unique in another way. It contains a date that is a rare palindrome. Numerically written version of February 2nd, 2020, i.e., 02022020 has the unique distinction of reading the same backward and forward when written out in eight digits in multiple date systems and even more rare, is the fact that this date is an international palindrome: It works whether you write the date as "Month/Day/Year" or "Day/Month/Year," as many countries do. This special property was pointed out quite recently by my brother, Aziz, who is a professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Portland. It is interesting to note that the last such palindrome date to occur was 11/11/1111 – more than 900 years ago, and that many more decades will pass until our descendants experience such a unique date.

And true to its special place in history, February was full of many events for us, starting with quite a wonderful one . . . Since the launch of the Anatolian Scholarship Program in 2011, we have been maintaining a tradition of hosting dinners for the donors of our program. These dinners have become special events where students get together with their sponsors, and where we find the opportunity to express our gratitude to the contributors of our program. What started out back in 2011 & 2012 as a few nights at the President's Residence turned into a large gathering last year as we now have more than 800 guests.  This year we held these events on two nights, February 4th and 12th at the Rahmi M. Koç Museum, where we hosted two separate groups of 400+ guests including our donors and Anatolian Scholarship Students, some of whom performed on stage with folksongs from Anatolia. The sense of unity we all shared during both nights was just incredible. This program has turned into one big embrace―among different industries, generations, and geographies. All our donors share the same objective; all of us have the welfare of our nation at heart. Our donors contribute significant sums to this program, and yet, seeing what has become of these young people, they thank us for giving them the opportunity to be a part of this program.

One very exciting development this month was the official kick-start of a new Artificial Intelligence (AI) Research Center, in partnership with İşbank, one of the oldest and most established banks in Turkey, founded by Atatürk himself. We are quite excited about the work of this research center as AI definitely has become an integral part of our everyday lives, undoubtedly destined to have major social and economic impact. I strongly believe that this Research Center, with an investment unparalleled at this scale in Artificial Intelligence in Turkey, has an extraordinary potential for research, creating an immense added value for our nation. Together with our 20+ professors working in this field and colleagues from İşbank, we aim to explore the unknown unknowns which can elevate our research output to higher standards, that I hope may be an example of excellence for other institutions.

This month, I was especially quite pleased to see the results of the evaluation report for ‘National Examination for Specialty in Medicine (TUS)’ 2019 (1st Term and 2nd Term) published by the National Assessment, Selection and Placement Center (ÖSYM) which strongly underscored the extraordinary success of our Medical School graduates in both Clinical Medical Sciences and Basic Medical Sciences. This result, where Koç University ranked first among top 20 universities in Turkey, is a most significant indication that our Koç University Hospital and our School of Medicine now provide outstanding service to our people as a source of pride for our country. We express our sincere thanks to our graduates who led us to the top, to our faculty members who contributed to this success, to the Management of our Medical School and Hospital, and to the Koç Family, Vehbi Koç Foundation and the Board of Trustees who provide generous and sustained support for our university.   

As a scientist and researcher at Stanford University, I travelled to the different ends of the world, from Antarctica to Australia, Greenland to Alaska and the Far East. My most frequent visits in my current position nowadays include Ankara, where I grew up as a high school student at TED College and then studied at Middle East Technical University for my undergraduate degree. Thus, I was more than pleased to have been invited to speak at Ankara Palas Meetings, which gather every month people from various backgrounds who are specialized in their field and are known worldwide. I spoke about my journey from Antarctica and Space Physics to the Presidency at Koç University. I shared my thoughts on education and research in general and how innovation can thrive when the right environment is created for able people.  I spoke nonstop for about an hour, followed by nonstop questions from the audience for another full hour.  I was sorry that the organizers had to terminate the session when there were so many more hands up for questions.  After the session, I greatly enjoyed mixing with the crowd, facilitating nonstop handshakes and selfie requests and responding to individual questions as I was escorted out of the crowd so I can make it to the airport in time for my flight.   

My address to a crowd of about 500+ people was in the Historic Opera Building in Ankara, a majestic place that I was a regular visitor at so many times in my youth during my high school and university years, but have not been to for nearly 45+ years since. About 300 meters from that building is the Presidential Concert Hall, where the Presidential Symphony Orchestra (CSO) used to perform every Friday.  As high school and university students, we would go there to listen to the symphony every Friday, sitting in the clear back rows, arriving around 7:30 pm. Former Turkish President the late honorable İsmet İnönü would arrive about 1 minute to 8:00 pm every Friday, sitting in the very same seat at the very front, after which the concerts would commence.  Those Friday evenings were truly memorable experiences . . .

On a final note, February 25th marks the 24th 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 following evening, we had the wonderful annual gathering of the presentation of the ‘Vehbi Koç Award’, which for this year was presented in the area of ‘Culture’ to Prof. İlhan Tekeli. What I really admire about the Vehbi Koç Award is the fact that, in the past 2 decades since its inception, we have been introduced to so many brilliant people and that had it not been for this award, we would not have had the chance to know, understand and appreciate the talents of our country. The award recipient this year was indeed one of those hidden gems, a highly prolific scientist in urban planning, having written a record number of 110+ books and many articles in this field.

Such were the highlights of a quite busy month of February. I think we made a great start on our Spring Semester, which like always, will be over before we know it.

My best wishes and regards to you all,

Umran Inan



Koç University and İşbank launches the “Artificial Intelligence Research Center”

We are very excited to announce that Koç University and İşbank joined forces to open the Koç University İşbank Artificial Intelligence Research Center. The press meeting was held on February 18 with speeches from Adnan Bali, General Manager of İşbank and President Professor Umran İnan, followed by a presentation from the Director of the Research Center, Professor Deniz Yuret. The Research Center aims to contribute to scientific and academic activities and carry out advanced studies in artificial intelligence, providing expertise, hardware and data in this field.

Business Trip ‘20 by Business Club

Held on February 21-22-23, Business Club hosted “Business Trip”, which introduced C-suite executives from several leading companies to 450 successful college students from numerous universities all around Turkey. Executives shared their own career journeys, experiences and vision with the participants. The three-day career event hosted 18 seminars, 30+ workshops under Business Academy and a Networking Night where participants had a chance to meet with HR executives from different companies.

IndEx’ 20 by IES

Industrial Engineering Society (IES), gathered several participants from all over Turkey and C-suite speakers from diverse industries to share their industrial and intellectual knowledge and experiences. IndEx’20, which took place on 14-15-16 February, consisted of many case studies, workshops and seminars.

KAMP’ 20 by Marketing Club

Marketing Club hosted KAMP’20 between February 7-8 for the 16th time. This year, KAMP hosted 300+ students and hosted 16 seminars by renowned speakers as well as simultaneous case studies, mock interviews, workshops and mini seminars.