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Science and Business Together Can Be a Force of Good – Ozge Akbulut

Ozge is a real life Dr. Who. In this episode we talked about how she uses her expertise as a scientist, academic and entrepreneur to build business that solve global problems.

Ozge Akbulut is a real life Dr. Who – scientist, academic and entrepreneur. A Harvard and MIT engineering graduate, Ozge uses her research and experience to build businesses that solve global problems. For example, as 1 in 8 women globally will get breast cancer – Ozge has built a company called Surgitate that makes breast models to train surgeons in mastectomy. When she realised how much manufacturing cement pollutes the environment, she sought out ways to improve that and create sustainable solutions.

In this episode we talked about being super-nerds, doing scientific research that improves lives and starting a business with the right partners and backers. So if you have a background in science, academia or entrepreneurship – or an interest in solving big global problems and instilling that curiosity in others – this episode is for you!

We also touched on gender parity at Turkey’s Sabanci University… About 50% of the material science students are women; and even more impressive is the gender split of the university teaching faculty: 50% female! One of the highest in Europe.

If you would like to get in touch with Ozge or learn more about her work, please visit or find her on Twitter @matist_ozge.

A huge thank you to Naseba and the WIL Economic Forum for making this interview possible.

Read the Transcript

Note: While When Women Win is produced as an audio recording, we are delighted to produce transcripts for those who are unable to hear. Kindly note that these are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Media is encouraged to check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.

Rana Nawas:  (00:00)

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to our final episode of 2017. I’m excited about my guest on today’s show because she’s a real life doctor who a scientist, an academic, and an entrepreneur. Ozge has been an assistant professor at Sabanci University in Istanbul since 2012. At MIT her PHD focused on the cost effective fabrication of biomolecular devices. Don’t worry, I didn’t know what that meant until we sat down and talked. She continued her studies as a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University focusing on developing tools and techniques for resource limited settings. Ozge has built several profitable businesses on the base of her academic research. We’re going to explore breasts and cement. Yeah, seriously and we’re going to discuss how to get today’s young ladies interested in STEM and how to use modern science lab to solve everyday problems. So let’s get into it. So Ozge, thank you so much for taking the time to come on When Women Win. I’m so delighted to meet a kindred scientific spirit.


Ozge Akbulut: (01:14)

Thank you. It’s my pleasure.


Rana Nawas:  (01:15)

Great. So, Ozge, when did you realize you were a super nerd?


Ozge Akbulut: (01:19)

Uh, I dunno, as long as I know myself, I’m a super nerd. I basically opened up things, I put things back together and I think that’s one of the reasons that I chose science along with my love for Lord of the Rings and you know, these kinds of nerd series like I knew it already like.


Rana Nawas:  (01:36)

So what did you study in undergrad and grad?


Ozge Akbulut: (01:39)

All of my degrees are in material science and engineering. I had my undergraduate degree at Sabanci University Turkey, which I am now the faculty at. So, you know, I was living in the dormitory is like, you know, till the end of 2004 after eight years I came back and I moved to faculty housing. So improvement in my life of like 300 meters over.


Rana Nawas:  (01:58)

I got engineering material science. We really are kindred spirits. That’s exactly my degree. That’s incredible. Great. Okay. So now your main research interests you say are rheology modifiers and silicon based composites. What on Earth does that mean?


Ozge Akbulut: (02:16)

Okay, let me start with the silicone based composites. So as you might know, I make breasts and, you know, we make breasts because one in eight women experiences brest cancer in her life and the return of these women to.


Rana Nawas:  (02:29)

Sorry, how many women?


Ozge Akbulut: (02:29)

One in eight.


Rana Nawas:  (02:30)

One in eight.


Ozge Akbulut: (02:31)

I mean it depends on the region and also a genetical code as such. But in general it’s one in eight. So, and return of these women to the precancer lives depends on the success of the medical anesthetic success of the surgery that they are going to go through and there is this new trend, it’s called breast conserving surgery and so there are all these new techniques that are going to preserve the breast as much as removing the tumor, just perfectly in terms of the medical sense, but they are also, you know, they’re also planning to leave the breast as nice as possible physically because it’s not only a cosmetic problem. It looks like women, if they’re happy with their body after the surgery, they follow up their routine exams and their chemo that, you know, this after surgery procedures much more religiously if they are happier with their body. So it is not just like I want to look good kind of thing, but also a part of the, you know, follow up, I guess follow up medical procedures. So what we are doing is we make these breast models, these are composite models. Once you cut them, take a piece out of them or steer them back, they feel like as if you’re cutting down the real breast so you can also manipulate the position of the nipple. So we are having this tactile platform so surgeons can practice on them to perfect their skills. So now we are selling to, of course to Turkey, Australia, and India and we are enlarging quite, you know, you again, we are gaining speed right now. It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be because I thought that, you know, before hand they were using videos and seminars to teach fellow surgeons. I thought that, no, no, you know, you them give them a 3D platform, it feels like a breast, cuts like a breast and it will be adapted so, you know, so immensely. But no, you have to create the market than then, you know, talk good surgeons, one by one to basically get them this platform to their trainings actually. So that is the breast part.


Rana Nawas:  (04:25)

So you create breasts that simulate real life breast so that surgeons can train on how to operate on them. So it’s not that they come as implants or.


Ozge Akbulut: (04:33)

Not at all, we are not doing anything that gets into the body.


Rana Nawas:  (04:35)

And then the other part?


Ozge Akbulut: (04:37)

The rheology part. So the rheology part is if you look around, also in Dubai if you look around or anywhere Emirates or anywhere in Istanbul, so to speak, you see buildings and construction going on. So once I landed to Turkey in 2012, you know, as a faculty, new Faculty member, you have to decide which fields, new areas that you are going to be pursuing in your laboratory. So I thought that, wow, there’s so much cement around me so that these guys should have a problem and then I started seeking what I can do for construction or you know. But at same time, don’t think it is a construction, it’s also a very big environmental problem. Eight to 10 percent of carbon dioxide emissions are coming from cementing, the processing of the cement.


Rana Nawas:  (05:19)

Manufactorer of cement.


Ozge Akbulut: (05:20)

Yeah. The manufacturing of cement because the processing takes, you know, the temperature of the processing is like 1500. So you know, you really have to spend lots of energy in order to have all this cement. So we need to come up with alternative materials in order to, for sustainable buildings actually. Both in terms of building them and then after we’re separating them because operating costs of buildings are also very high in terms of energy. So what we are in my group, we are looking at this actually we are trying to figure out like how to substitute this highly environmentally dangerous part of cement with substitute materials, if possible recycled stuff and at the same time, you know, can we eliminated the cement totally and going off other kinds of systems. But I’m not actually doing the, you know, the recycling and like, you know, replacing the cementitious materials. Overall, what I’m doing is the controlling railage and you have these things and railage of things are, you know, controlling the flow of cement. So you know, all you see all these trucks that are going very fast, they are going very fast because there’s cement cost reaction and then it will basically frozen down before you can cast it. So that’s the thing and in Emirates like, you know, we have been talking with fellow colleagues in NYU Abu Dhabi the other day and, you know, there are, there is a problem. Like the lifecycle of these buildings, due to humidity and seawater, these things, these are much shorter than, you know, from climate’s benign geographies and these kinds of geographies, benign climates so to speak. So there they’re also quite an important cement problem going on in the region and we will see if we will be able to solve this or that is the cement part.


Speaker 1: (07:03)

Interesting. If you’re looking for another problem to solve.


Ozge Akbulut: (07:05)

Okay, yes please.


Rana Nawas:  (07:06)

I’ll give you one because I’ve been working aviation the last 11 years and this harsh climate of temperatures, sea, sand also affects the blades of the engines, of aircraft engines.


Ozge Akbulut: (07:17)



Rana Nawas:  (07:18)

So maybe that’s another


Ozge Akbulut: (07:20)

That is an important subject but it’s really kind of that subject belongs to the metal people and I’m the polimer people. Thats an important thing but at some point, you know, the entire thing is going to be probably replaced with composite materials onsite, so.


Rana Nawas:  (07:33)

Already happening.


Ozge Akbulut: (07:34)

Maybe in the future, yes.


Rana Nawas:  (07:36)

Yeah, it’s already happening then.


Ozge Akbulut: (07:36)

Exactly, exactly, it’s correct.


Rana Nawas:  (07:39)

So how do you choose the problems you want to solve?


Ozge Akbulut: (07:43)

That’s a very nice question. Thank you very much for asking this. Well, you know I chose a problem based on impact because we have limited time like you know, I mean we all have very much roller coaster lifes and in that case the issue is like, you know, how they define your problem and then you know how they pick up the problem. It’s actually something that I’ve been thinking on maybe like plus 15 years. So I choose to make the breasts because I could see the impact of the problem, right. You want a nice, a very big number and then the follow ups and these kinds of things and so, and the other one is also a big problem. Like, you know, the construction industry already has severe problems, although it looks like it’s enlarging day by day. We could do much more smarter solutions in order to bring the environmental effects of a cement and so the global impact is the keyword for me, actually.


Rana Nawas:  (08:36)

But you’re an academic and an entrepreneur.


Ozge Akbulut: (08:39)

Yes and I am now also involved with a venture capital firm as well.


Rana Nawas:  (08:43)

Oh, wow. You have to tell me about that. I don’t have that in my notes.


Ozge Akbulut: (08:49)

It’s very simple.


Rana Nawas:  (08:49)

Have you ever found there to be a conflict between the two, the academia and business?


Ozge Akbulut: (08:55)

No. Because like, you know, I could only survive because I put these things on top of each other. So in a sense that my company also feeds my academic work and my academic work also feeds the company. So in a sense that I’m an entrepreneur but I still publish. So, you know, and as long as people are not competing with me in terms of like, you know, developing these products, I’m just fine for them to get into the lab and make them and I use them themselves. So we are in some of our articles, we already give the recipes for what to do. So I think it’s important. So no, they feed on each other and even my new venture capital work, it’s also a very useful in that sense because like let me give a brighter picture, you know, broader and brighter. Hopefully it will be bright in the future picture of what I would like to do in this area. So, I mean countries like Emirates or Turkey or you know, this let’s say the countries that started investing in science in the recent years so to speak, there is no way that we can compete, for instance, in a field like steel industry. I mean, there are world leaders in this case and then you know, for us to develop formulations as such, it won’t happen. We are maybe 50 years behind. But then there are newly developing areas like composite materials, like 3D printing, like all of these things. I mean world in terms of the passing of information and such, it’s much more faster pace right now. So we can be leaders in the world in that specific fields like, you know, again, like compost materials definitely. Now at Sabanci University we have an excellent center on compost materials and we are really quite picking up the name for what we do actually. So you know, these kind of like certain fields that we can be leaders in or you know, compete to the very top. So and for instance, in the venture capitals from like, you know, it is, so there is, you know, also this venture capital firm is also powered by one of my investors in my own company and this is a fortune 500 company which produces automotive parts and composite materials, which is great. So thereafter, lightweight technologies. So my job in the venture capital firm is to look for this lightweight technology so that we could offer them some scaling of options because this company already knows how to do plastics manufacturing as such, so also of course the financial benefits. So we are really trying to bring up all these people all around the world who are investing in the same area or thinking about the same problems and offering them an environment that they can enlarge and you know, we can make a cluster around certain subjects that people come to us to solve their problems.


Rana Nawas:  (11:33)

So sorry, you’re creating a venture capital fund.


Ozge Akbulut: (11:35)

We have the venture capital which invests in like, you know, materials and manufacturing technologies that are related to automotive.


Rana Nawas:  (11:44)



Ozge Akbulut: (11:44)



Rana Nawas:  (11:44)

Only, ok.


Ozge Akbulut: (11:44)

So for now it’s only automotive, but you know, we’re open to other suggestions as well. Like we are not limiting ourselves but we are saying that this is our top priority. So in a sense if we could bring those companies to Turkey or invest in where they are, but that’s still offer them scalability options as well as, you know, this company Fire Plus, they also have like several OEM like, you know, customers, so they can also provide customers to startups on top of investing. So I think it will be like, you know, I think we should be pursuing this kind of business plans in order to make the area grow in a much more sustainable way. So that also overlaps with my composite materials, interests, and you know, while talking with these companies and such, I realized the global problems and you know, if they fit to my research, then I will also attack similar problems.


Rana Nawas:  (12:40)

Great. What’s it like moving from academia to entrepreneurship? I know you haven’t left academia but was it an easy transition?


Ozge Akbulut: (12:48)

No. So yes, I have never left so the idea is like I try to come up with all this methodology for my work such as I could be doing all of them together. So academia really fits the company so you know me doing the cost productive allotment and it has a scientific part, technological part in it as well. So the academia the university really supports me in that aspect. Like I have the laboratories, I have the graduate students, I have all of my colleagues and they test equipment and such, which we can basically run things over. So I think it is a, it’s a good move to not to leave academia and I’m not the kind of person who could deal with a single project so, you know, I would have been doing it that way career wise. But then what really easy stuff for me is actually the investment that I got through Aria women’s investment platform. So the company that I’m talking about, the venture fund, it’s a different front and this company was brought, and me and my company and this company has brought together by this Aria woman’s investment platform and Aria does it in such a way that they bring you to the investor which has expertise in your field. So this, they have immense experience in plastics manufacturing. So, you know, I started working with these engineers who are regularly designing automotive parts now they are designing breasts. So we have pictures like these guys basically talking about like how the mold should be in this kind of thing. So you know, we really utilize their experience in this molding and this, you know, manufacturing of things and at same time like for an academic entrepreneur or what they did was also very critical. Turkey is a very bureaucratic country and, you know, from invoicing to human resources and, you know, even the running after with documents from one building to another, they did it for me. So, you know, once the, my investor basically opened up such a, such a nice work environment such that they dealt with the stuff that I don’t need to deal with it.


Rana Nawas:  (14:56)

But does that help you on the academic side?


Ozge Akbulut: (14:58)

No, but then, you know, running a company in Turkey, like in terms of taxation and these kinds of things like invoicing, you know, the I really don’t know how to send breasts outside of Turkey. Like, you know, what is legal if doing these things. So they already have the in house expertise and they basically, as a part of their job, they helped me to do this. So, you know, I didn’t need to hire someone to handle the HR or financial services. So they provided this in a sort of their incubation center. So I’m also their tenant. We have our manufacturing like, you know, I don’t want to say plant of course, but then we have more manufacturing room in Fire Plus. So we produce over there and they really help us with other methods, other areas such that we can focus on what we do best.


Rana Nawas:  (15:47)

Okay. So being, so I think I heard you say that being an entrepreneur and an academic, you get to leverage the resources of the university?


Ozge Akbulut: (15:59)

And also the entrepreneurship. So because entrepreneurship also highlights my research in the university. Because the, I mean, what do we need in academia is like we would really like to bring the brightest minds to academia and you know, really underline the importance of doing science and technology. I mean the attention that the company is getting in terms of this, you know, high tech innovation in Turkey, it’s also really highlights the university as well.


Rana Nawas:  (16:25)



Ozge Akbulut: (16:25)

So, you know, they really feed from each other.


Rana Nawas:  (16:28)

Yeah. So it’s kind of win, win, win for all the stakeholders. Stakeholders being, for example, yourself, Sabanci University, and Fire Plus. Is that your only investor?


Ozge Akbulut: (16:40)

University also has shares in my company.


Rana Nawas:  (16:42)



Ozge Akbulut: (16:43)

So, you know, university has a seed fund company that’s called Innovent and then you know, university’s also a shareholders and the Fire Plus through our investment platform is another shareholders and it’s me and I also have a surgeon cofounder.


Rana Nawas:  (16:56)

Okay. So it’s four shareholders.


Ozge Akbulut: (16:59)



Rana Nawas:  (16:59)

Four shareholders. Wow, that’s great. So, I mean, obviously then the university and Fire Plus are aligned.


Ozge Akbulut: (17:05)

Oh yes.


Rana Nawas:  (17:05)

In terms of vision and objectives, which helps when your shareholders are all going towards the same goal.


Ozge Akbulut: (17:11)

Exactly, exactly. We don’t have any problems over there except everyone needs to work very hard. That’s the one thing.


Rana Nawas:  (17:18)

Great and can you share with our listeners some lessons you learned while setting up Surgitate?


Ozge Akbulut: (17:24)

Okay, so if I’m giving advice to the people who would like to be entrepreneurs, then let me start with that one. So no, they shouldn’t start a company unless they really, really, really want it so they should basically wait until like, you know, they can’t do without it. So that is my advice.


Rana Nawas:  (17:43)



Ozge Akbulut: (17:43)

So because I would say the foming a company there is like, you know, I would say lifestyle entrepreneurs, men or women, I’m just not classifying. I mean it’s entrepreneurship is not something that you get into because you don’t want to have a boss or you want to have flexible hours. It is not like that. I mean, you work as an entrepreneur much more compared to a salary paying job or you know, people think that you are flexible, of course they are flexible, but then you are flexible in terms of like, you know, you start working after 11:00 PM and you know, it is not the way people understand from flexibility. You work in the weekends and such, you know, so you are flexible to work on Saturdays. That is what.


Rana Nawas:  (18:29)

You’re flexible to work more.


Ozge Akbulut: (18:29)

Yeah, you’re flexible to work more. So that’s what I am saying, like, you know, if they’re adopting this entrepreneurship ideas for flexibility orI don’t want to have a boss, I want to be a boss of myself, then they should not do it and what I am saying is if you really feel the sort of the sting in your stomach that you cannot stop anymore, you really have to see this product or you know, we really need to sell it. You really need to realize the potential and impact then at that point and go ahead with it.


Rana Nawas:  (18:57)

So, only do it if you’re really hungry for it.


Ozge Akbulut: (18:58)

Yes, exactly. That’s what I am saying. It is not that I’m trying to bring down the businesses here. What I’m saying is because, you know, the lifecycle of a startup is also critical and so that is one thing and for the academics who would like to be entrepreneurs then my business plan with my investor really, really works well. I mean, I wouldn’t be able to do this if I’m really having the documents in my hand running from one government office to another and then trying to get some signatures or I even don’t know where I should get the signatures from, tha is the other thing. So you know, established companies sharing their business experience, like sharing their operations experience with startups on top of their investment is I think really working well. So to my academic listeners, hopefully. So what I’m saying is try to establish such a partnership on top of the investment.


Rana Nawas:  (19:55)

I think you touched on something that’s really critical for not just academic entrepreneurs but any entrepreneurs, which is you should expect more from your investors than money, right?


Ozge Akbulut: (20:05)

Yes, exactly. I mean, people are asking me like if you’re looking for an investor right now, of course I am looking for an investor. It is not the issue, but the issue is I can’t do with anyone who is just going to give me money and then basically withdraw. So that’s not how we operate. So we are kind of looking for smart money who is going to open up me new medical channels, for instance, for me to touch a new customer base or any profit sharing base business arragements are also fine. I mean, we will only get the investment if these conditions are satisfied. I’m not looking for just money pouring into the company because on the other hand we are just trying to basically prove ourselves to be based on revenues and at the same time there are new projects that we are handling, so.


Rana Nawas:  (20:47)

I mean, I think that’s the secret sauce to your success here is the fact that you’ve managed to align all these shareholders and each one brings something really valuable to the table.


Ozge Akbulut: (21:00)



Rana Nawas:  (21:00)

It’s not just money and at the same time they’re all aligned.


Ozge Akbulut: (21:03)

Yes, that was very critical.


Rana Nawas:  (21:05)

Incredible achievement.


Ozge Akbulut: (21:05)

I would say so, well thank you. I mean people are doing good as well.


Rana Nawas:  (21:09)

So yeah, the importance of finding the right investors. Brilliant.


Ozge Akbulut: (21:11)



Rana Nawas:  (21:11)

Okay. Let’s talk about patents.


Ozge Akbulut: (21:14)



Rana Nawas:  (21:14)

Sabanci University is an investor in your company. How does it work with patents? Because I know from a lot of academics when you’re tied to your university, I mean, does that work, is that work yours or does it belong to the university?


Ozge Akbulut: (21:31)

So we don’t have a patent for our breast models and other models, but we have all like, you know, we have all formulations that we keep very, very secretly, so to speak. So at first that we didn’t tell that problem, but the way we do it at Sabanci University, so you could negotiate for exclusive patenting and then you don’t need to worry as the lead inventor. Then I basically say that, I can say that, you know, you cannot license it to another company without my knowledge. So that wouldn’t be a problem because also in Turkey and in Sabanci University, we are really trying to go up with licensing and such. So, you know, the university is very much supporting their academics in terms of founding companies and entrepreneurship because they really have the name for innovation and entrepreneurship as well and then they are really creating the plan the environment for the patent holders and such although they hold the patents themselves. So it is also very critical because for my cement work, because with breasts we are the only producers of standalone breast models in the world, but cement business is like huge as you might imagine. So you know, you have several, several competitors and 3D printing case as well. So yes, the patents in that case they belong to the university. We have one past with an extended same time. We have another one that’s going on so, and then my next step will be probably going to a joint venture with an established 3D printing company or so, or with a cement company. We are just negotiating several of these right now. So, but then so far so good. We didn’t have any problem with university because it’s again, the goals that are aligned.


Rana Nawas:  (23:07)

Amazing. Has an associate. Sorry, excuse me. As an assistant professor at Sabanci University, what exactly do you teach the students?


Ozge Akbulut: (23:17)

Okay. I teach Introduction to Material Science, Polymer Physics, and Polymer Engineering too.


Rana Nawas:  (23:24)

Amazing. I think I should ask that question at the beginning. Maybe we’ll need to do an edit. No, but seriously, what I’m trying to get to is the percentage of women in your class.


Ozge Akbulut: (23:34)

Oh, Turkey is actually doing very good in that area. So we had the like, you know, let me answer unasked questions. So the first one is the number of women academics in Turkey. We are the Europe’s highest. Sorry, we are the Europe’s highest in terms of the women academics in, so not in engineering though. Overall level.


Rana Nawas:  (23:54)

So women as a percent of university staff?


Ozge Akbulut: (23:57)

Faculty members.


Rana Nawas:  (23:58)

Faculty members.


Ozge Akbulut: (23:59)

So as a faculty member, like with staff that will be also like probably women will be more. But then in terms of the so we are I think at 25 percent compared to, for instance, Germany’s nine. So, in terms of the percentage of academics we are high and in engineering faculty we are almost 50/50 by women to men ratio. So Sabanci Universitie is, you know, very well known for, you know, this openness, diversity, and such. So, and then there is a queue in front of a woman’s laboratories in engineering building that is, you know, that’s very unheard of.


Rana Nawas:  (24:34)

Totally unheard of.


Ozge Akbulut: (24:37)

So you have to wait in the cue in a women’s laboratory which most people asked me, I answered this way there is a cue.


Rana Nawas:  (24:44)

That’s amazing because when I studied engineering 20 years ago now.


Ozge Akbulut: (24:48)

Oh you look so young.


Rana Nawas:  (24:48)

20 years ago now and we were one in seven I think. I think that’s right. I think that one in seven were girls at the time.


Ozge Akbulut: (24:57)

We are really much like, especially in material science, like for those of the students who choose material science, we are 50/50 and in engineering such, you know, we have mechanics and electronics which is like more male dominated but we also have like a good percentage of women in that, in those classes as well.


Rana Nawas:  (25:16)

So you’re about 50/50 in the student body?


Ozge Akbulut: (25:19)



Rana Nawas:  (25:19)

And twenty five percent of engineering faculty is female?


Ozge Akbulut: (25:22)

50/50 entire university.


Rana Nawas:  (25:25)

Entire university.


Ozge Akbulut: (25:26)

So also faculty of management and faculty of arts and social sciences as well. So the entire university is 50/50 almost.


Rana Nawas:  (25:32)

Okay and for women in your class?


Ozge Akbulut: (25:35)

It is also 50/50.


Rana Nawas:  (25:35)

How are you doing so well when the rest of the world is really struggling with this? Why is Turkey different?


Ozge Akbulut: (25:45)

I wouldn’t say Turkey is different, but then, you know, this is a really economical question as well. So, Sabanci University is one of the top private universities of Turkey and like, you know, the people who are really, you know, it’s bad to say it that way, but then, you know, if you are more economically developed then you pay more attention to your woman offspring. So, I would say for a certain economical level, in Turkey, then, you know, the women and men are very much treated well. Even the women are probably from time to time are doing better than men in that aspect and you know, so that is why, you know, once you go to this high on institutions, they ended up with, you know, the similar ratios in terms of, you know, attendance from men and women.


Rana Nawas:  (26:29)

So what you see in Turkey is the wealthier, amongst wealthier people, women are as interested as men in science?


Ozge Akbulut: (26:39)

Not science, I would say technology because you know, the basic science is an entirely different discussion from this one. What I’m saying is in terms of attendance to university in the, you know, from how should I say, middle class and upper, the ratios of men and women are not that different because like if you’re more economically challenged situation then you probably bet with your money to your son. But then if you have more money than, you know, you don’t discriminate between your children and you probably have less children anyhow.


Rana Nawas:  (27:11)

But that still doesn’t explain the interest that women have in science and technology because you have a, you know, women attending private universities all over the world, but they’re not doing so in these degrees, in engineering and science as much as 50 percent.


Ozge Akbulut: (27:27)

I don’t have a concrete answer to that, actually.


Rana Nawas:  (27:29)

Interesting. We’ll have to do a podcast with, another podcast to get to dive into that.


Ozge Akbulut: (27:35)

Exactly. So, you know, and plus I don’t like speaking without numbers. So, in a sense that I know that in my university’s numbers and I know that the general number for the Turkish academia, but then I don’t exactly know the, you know, what are the groups like, you know, what are the person’s children going to the university or chase, you know, choosing the engineering and basic sciences. So next time I will have the numbers and maybe we can make a much better analysis of that.


Rana Nawas:  (28:02)

Fine. Do you see pay discrimination in academia in Turkey?


Ozge Akbulut: (28:09)

To my knowledge, no, because like, you know, we don’t talk about our salaries so the answer is I don’t know, but I don’t think so.


Rana Nawas:  (28:19)



Ozge Akbulut: (28:21)

Because I’m very well paid. I don’t think I am lying.


Rana Nawas:  (28:26)

I only ask because it’s an issue all over the world.


Ozge Akbulut: (28:28)

Yes, that is exactly an issue. I don’t think we are discriminated at Sabanci University or in these top institutions. If your estate, for instance, your again, it doesn’t matter if you’re a man or woman that, you know, the salaries are fixed depending on the level of years in your academia. So they cannot discriminate over there and in the private universities you just, you know, you want to keep the top talent in your university. So, and then we have been very high numbers of women faculty, so I don’t think so.


Rana Nawas:  (28:59)

Okay. Ozge, what books did you read as a child? I mean, I don’t know if they’re Turkish or English or translations or what if I would be able to relate to them, but I tell you why I’m asking. There is this global drive to get our daughters, I personally have two sons, but to get societies daughters, into more science and technology and engineering and math and I was just wondering if you had any tips or hacks for moms and dads to share to help get their daughters there.


Ozge Akbulut: (29:29)

Okay. So I had childhood asthma, so I was basically probably locked down in the house since I was 12 because I was allergic to everything. So I read a lot. I don’t think it has something to do with my choice for science and engineering, though. But I lived in a very fruitful household such that my father was an electrical engineer. My mother is a primary school teacher. So I was constantly being triggered to ask questions and, you know, no one told me to, you know, we don’t have time for you. They always had their time to basically speak with me and you know, to support my talents, so to speak. So I think the household that I grew up in is the key here and, you know, we practice on, like, it’s the question that I also ask myself, like, you know, how to basically put this thing into next generation and I think they’re also going to talk about this in the panel as well. Like, you know, how can you sustain this passion in someone’s, I don’t want to maybe use the word passion here, but like, you know, how to put it there and then keep it alive is the question. So I think we should be talking with children about the problems of the world. So, you know, you should introduce the global problems and, you know, tell them there’s a refugee crisis. Tell them that there are people who are just out of their homes right now. Tell them that there are several people who are very hungry and there are several. Tell them the number of kids they’re going to the bed, like in, you know, in an empty stomach. Tell them the water pollution, tell them the electric crisis. Tell them the renewable energy and then the students and just children they really pay attention to those problems. They just get into the world of, like really is it really happening and then empower them with the education to solve that problem. So that is the key, I think. Because, you know, I don’t think children their really know things in such a way either that or in some other ways. He’s manipulative.


Rana Nawas:  (31:28)

Yeah. Super naughty, the three year olds are the naughtiest.


Ozge Akbulut: (31:32)

You never know, but then you know, they are really sensitive to those kinds of things. So if you just insert the seeds early in their minds, then you know, they will be global worriers who are going to fight for what they believe in and at the same time, you know, we should also tell them they really have the toolbox to fight with them. So and engineering and sciences is of course one of those toolboxes and at Sabanci we can choose actually in Turkey you cannot choose your profession. In Sabanci you get into a university entrance exam, you get your points, then you rank what you would like to be put in, then they basically put you to that university. But then there is a slight difference between like in between the points being a civil engineer, mechanical engineer, which are a totally different thing if you look at it. At Sabanci u can choose. I, in fact, went to Sabanci to be an industrial engineer. Then I converted to material science and engineering. So the issue here is I also tell to my students like, you know, first choose the problem, don’t choose the professional like you know which view, how are you going to attack this problem is that, you know, as engineers we give you a toolbox to attack the problem. So that is a thing. But otherwise, like, I really like reading but I don’t think they really liked it.


Rana Nawas:  (32:43)

Yeah but I love the tip on, you know, expose the children to the problem and there will, there are so many, you know, sad to say, there are so many problems out there, there’s going to be something that triggers a feeling inside them, a reaction inside them that they want to solve and then equip them to fix that problem. No, I love that. Do you have an all time hero?


Ozge Akbulut: (33:05)



Rana Nawas:  (33:06)

Okay, fair enough. Does anyone inspire you or did you see it everywhere?


Ozge Akbulut: (33:11)

Well, how should I say? So, you know, again if we fall back to entrepreneurship and academia and all the entire thing, I find motivation, my motivation in reading the biographies of basically smart men and women. So, you know, if you look at those biographies, you will see success of course, because they are very successful because, you know, if you get your biography written and you know, there’s certain bias over there, you are successful. But then it is not that, you know, all of them are talking about their blood, sweat and cries. You know, it should be there without them we cannot be successful and without like, you know, putting the effort in. Without doing this a thousand times like for them, but we don’t repeat the same experiment a thousand times of course, but if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. So, but then knowing that unless you did that way, it is not going to happen is I think it’s a lesson that I learned from smart people.


Rana Nawas:  (34:09)

Wow, amazing. What is a question that you wish people would ask you more often?


Ozge Akbulut: (34:17)

I think the question that you asked about the children or us, you know, also there’s no limits to education, right? I mean, one can start attacking the global problems at the age of 40 as well. So I think the idea is like we are living in a very, a very cramped world in a sense. It is very easy to be hopeless, right? If you look around you like, you know, there is much more discrimination. There are like, you know, people are getting more and more nationalistic and you know, we were on the way to globalization at some point, but then, you know, people are segregating more nowadays and it’s normal in the times of economical crisis. People have a tendency to clench more onto what they have. So, but still I think the importance is how we can mobilize people to attack those global problems as you know, as allies. I think, you know, I think we should think more on this because the problems are there. I mean there is no separate climate problem for the United States or separate problem problem for Turkey. It is the same problem. So maybe we should talk more on this in general. I mean not asked specifically to me, but then maybe we should ask like, you know, how we can contribute.


Rana Nawas:  (35:29)

How we can


Ozge Akbulut: (35:30)

Contribute to the solution of the global problems. Like, you know, we introduce problems to children. Why don’t we introduce the problems in corporates who are sincerely smart people all over the world?


Rana Nawas:  (35:39)

Yup. I love it. Great. Well, Ozge, I’ve enjoyed this so much. Thank you very very much for your time.


Ozge Akbulut: (35:45)

Me to, thank you so much.


Rana Nawas:  (35:45)

How can our listeners find you?


Ozge Akbulut: (35:47)

Well, I’m kind of doing many things to not to be found but. So I have my website, and my email is everywhere on the web and at the same time I am matists because materialist was so long they didn’t give it to me. So I am matist, you know, matist_ozge and I’m also on Linkedin.


Rana Nawas:  (36:11)

And your website, that is cement and breasts?


Ozge Akbulut: (36:14)

Oh no, the website has my full name,, but it opens as breasts and cement and ink.


Rana Nawas:  (36:20)

I love it. Breasts, cement, and ink. Ozge, thank you so much for your time.


Ozge Akbulut: (36:24)

Thank you. It was my pleasure.


Rana Nawas:  (36:26)

I hope you enjoyed today’s episode. You can check out show notes and more episodes at or search When Women Winn on Itunes, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. I’d also love to hear your feedback and ideas for who I should bring on the show. You can find me on instagram @RanaNawas. Thanks and have a great day.



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