Koç University News & Announcements Bulletin

November 2020


Since the start of this pandemic back in March, I had on many occasions underlined the importance of keeping our traditions and rituals, as one of the great things that define our University. Making the effort to continue those traditions is more critical than ever during these unusual and highly challenging times.

November always starts with a most important solemn observance and remembrance where we mourn the Founder of our Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who passed away 82 years ago. This year we held our traditional ceremony online and we were able to garner close to 1000 members of our community joining us, quite larger typical than at times when we held it on campus. A few of us were still present right by the Ataturk bust on a crisp, windy but a beautiful fall day, nonetheless. In my address right before that one minute of silence when the siren calls play at 09:05 am, I talked about my own experience with November 10th. Ever since I realized my own 57th birthday, I have pondered how our country would have been had Atatürk lived longer than his short 57 years and overseen the full development of his young Republic. Aside from his military genius, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is one of the most revered statesmen as well as a true intellectual who spoke several languages, having read profusely in many languages and having written nine books, one of which is on geometry. I am certain that he would have given so much more to the development and elevation of our country, in almost every walk of life, had he lived longer. Alas, we are forever thankful for the clear direction he has pointed for us in his short life, which we at Koç University do and shall follow with unrelenting determination.

We should always remember that even though November 10th is a day of mourning, it is also a day to remember and celebrate Atatürk's legacy. It is indeed quite fitting that the traditional Koç Group tribute to Atatürk this year, widely seen and shared throughout Turkey on many television channels and other news outlets, was a story of how the Turkish people eternized him with the principles and ideas passed on to us with a kind of love the likes of which has never been seen before, that he lives and shall live always and forever in our hearts and minds.

We had a great opportunity to once again remember and celebrate Atatürk as the Teacher of all teachers on November 24th, Teachers Day, where we recognize his vision and the importance he attributed to education, especially of young minds. Each of us must remember the incredible teachers that have touched us in our own education. For myself, my dearest ‘teacher’ during high school at TED Ankara College was dear Kıvılcım Özkök (later Kıvılcım Kamgözen), from whom I learned so very much not only about English and English Literature but also about dignity, pride and hard work. She was a truly exceptional person and a teacher, who later on moved to become the High School Principal but succumbed to cancer at such an early age. A wax statue of her currently stands in her model classroom at TED Ankara College, which I was truly touched to visit back in 2011. Although I am largely a person with technical & science interests, I owe my love of literature and language, as well as my command of English and my perfectionism in writing to my dear teacher Kıvılcım Hanım.

As we talk about teaching, I want to give a shout-out to our students and alumni who put together a rather emotional and heartfelt video of our beautiful campus to remember and celebrate our teachers, who continue their work in all circumstances with great sacrifice, working tirelessly day and night, including during weekends.

Last year in November, I was honored to have been recognized by the Mustafa Prize, for my research in Ionospheric and Atmospheric Physics, a top honor in the study of science and technology, granted by the Mustafa Science Foundation to prominent researchers and scientists in the Islamic world. Exactly one year after this wonderful experience where I attended the Award Ceremony with my wife in Tehran, I was again once honored at a ceremony, this time online, where my bust was unveiled in the Garden of Scientists, Pardis Technology Park in Tehran. This Garden is adorned by the busts of many world-famous scientists as well as those Muslim scientists who have received the Mustafa Prize, in honor of their achievements in various fields of science and technology. I had a chance to watch the unveiling of the busts of all of the 2019 Prize laureates, Professor Uğur Şahin, Professor Ali Khademhosseini, Dr. Mohammad Abdolahad and Professor Hossein Baharvand along with myself. In my brief address at the bust unveiling ceremony, I was once again able to convey how the Islamic world needs broadly based education and interdisciplinary research and that people produce the best and the most when they are the freest, thus underscoring the fact that a free environment needs to be provided and maintained in order for scientists to flourish.

I was quite happy to continue to talk about University education, this time at another outlet where I was invited to be a part of global roundtable at the 11th annual Reinventing Higher Education Conference, bringing together leading international figures from the world of higher education to discuss new realities and new visions for Higher Education. I reiterated my thoughts on how I see university education as a rendezvous, or an appointment if you will, between generations, echoing my reflections from the conference that took place the previous year. I elaborated on how we all went through a digital transformation in two weeks, rather than in several years over which it might have been otherwise spread over and how many people observe that this entire sequence of events underscored and demonstrated the feasibility and potential of online teaching and learning. I stated my exactly opposite opinion that the sequence of events actually illustrated and exposed the shortcomings of online teaching and learning and that most of university education still needs to happen in the context of the ‘appointment between generations’ on campuses and in classrooms especially for undergraduate students and also for PhD students where peer to peer interaction and knowledge exchange is of key importance. I do see however an opportunity for MS/MA programs to flourish in an online format, where many universities, including ours, can recruit ‘online’ students from a larger region of the globe.

This conference, like most others this year, was held online, with all of us connecting from our respective countries. Even though nothing can replace the face to face engagement, having an online conference allows us to reach many people from all around the world. Although I was somewhat saddened by the fact that we were so confined to our home offices, I was also happy to be able to extend our reach to many more people.

As I stated in my newsletter last month, our Giving Week is now scheduled at the beginning of December and I would like to once again reiterate my sincere hope that we may generate the same kind of enthusiasm this year as we were able to do last year in our first Giving Week.

Our country seems to be moving into a difficult time in our fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. As we are taking extra measures on our campuses, I ask all of you to also take care of yourselves and your loved ones during these challenging times. Good news is definitely on the way as we have been proud to hear news of Turkish-German scientists at the forefront of vaccine discovery and we are also working on various research projects directly targeting COVID-19 problems, including a highly accurate diagnostic kit that generates fast results at low cost, a filiation tracking system and an antiviral drug at KUTTAM and our newly established Koç University İş Bank Research Center for Infectious Diseases. However, we still need some time to be able to get back to our lives before COVID; therefore, as I extend my best regards to you all, please continue to be cautious and stay healthy and in good spirits.

My very best wishes for success, health and happiness . . .

Umran İnan