Gözde from Turkey is a postdoctoral researcher at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, CA, USA.
She is a materials chemist working on the design and synthesis of functional materials for energy applications. Her work focuses on the development of electrode materials that can be used in a wide variety of rechargeable battery types and the advancement of next-generation energy devices.
Gözde participated in the 71st Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting – in advance she took the time for this interview.
Enjoy the interview with Gözde and get inspired:
What inspired you to pursue a career in science / in your discipline?
Both my parents are teachers. My father, who was retired as a high school chemistry teacher, used to bring us scientific journals and books written for kids. As a curious kid, I enjoyed reading them and doing basic experiments in science classes and at home. Eventually, I wanted to pursue a scientific career to better understand the world we live in.
Who are your role models?
My advisors, mentors, and terrific women scientists in my field and those I met along the way. I learned a lot from them about approaching a scientific problem, thinking critically, being resilient, and being a good mentor, along with many other organisational and technical skills.
How did you get to where you are in your career path?
I obtained my bachelor’s degree in Chemistry at Bilkent University, Turkey. During my undergraduate studies, I did a summer internship in an organic chemistry lab at Middle East Technical University during my junior year. Afterward, I moved on to computational chemistry during my senior year at Bilkent University, and I conducted simple DFT calculations on conductive polymers under the supervision of Prof. Ulrike Salzner. Having research experience in different fields of chemistry was beneficial for me to explore my own research interests. After taking materials science and inorganic chemistry courses during my junior year, I realised that I was particularly interested in materials. Therefore, I decided to join a material-focused research group led by Prof. Ömer Dağ for my master’s studies at Bilkent University.
Then I went to the US for my Ph.D. in chemistry. During my Ph.D. studies at the University of Southern California, I worked on nanoparticle synthesis as well as cathode materials for rechargeable batteries under the supervision of Prof. Richard Brutchey. I wanted to further my understanding of the structure-property relationship of functional materials with a postdoctoral training to advance the design of next-generation energy devices. That’s how I ended up at Berkeley Lab as a postdoctoral researcher and have started working on the synthesis and characterisation of heterostructured electrode materials under the supervision of Dr. Marca Doeff.
What’s a time you felt immense pride in yourself / your work?
I feel proud of myself when I figure out something new and interesting while working on a new and challenging project. As an experimental chemist, I fail in the lab on a daily basis. I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the number of failed attempts but discovering something new in the end is such a joy.
What is a “day in the life” of Gözde like?
I like to go to the lab early in the morning, around 9 am, and try to complete a more difficult and time-intensive task first. I am not a coffee drinker, so I would like to take short power naps after lunch to recharge my batteries. In the afternoon, I do computer work in the office, and before leaving the lab, I plan experiments for the next day. I try not to bring work home and use my free time for reading, exercising, socialising, and developing new skills via online courses.
What are you seeking to accomplish in your career?
I like to try new things, challenge myself and grow as a professional. I aim to work at organisations where I can contribute to their missions while enhancing my skills and professional network.
What do you like to do when you’re not doing research?
I like to grow plants, go on hikes with my friends and colleagues, explore new places, cuisines, and cultures, and volunteer. I served as the co-chair of the Berkeley Lab Postdoc Association. We organise various social events and career development activities to enrich postdocs’ lives at Berkeley Lab and build community. I am also a cat lover and looking forward to fostering kittens and eventually adopting one or more.
What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
Two projects on electrode materials during my Ph.D. and postdoctoral appointment. They are both collaborations with other research groups and aim to understand ion insertion mechanisms in different classes of functional materials. Collaborations are valuable for scientific advancements. These two collaborative projects led me to explore a new field, enhance my skill sets and professional network, and learn about new techniques.
What advice do you have for other women interested in science / in your discipline?
Do not be afraid of failing and asking for help. Resilience and consistency are more crucial for success than genius and perfection. Try to find good mentors and enhance your professional network. Choose your work environment and colleagues wisely. Try to balance your personal and professional life by having hobbies, volunteering, taking time off, etc.
In your opinion, what will be the next great breakthrough in science / in your discipline?
I am in the energy storage field. In the short term, I think direct materials recycling for lithium-ion batteries will be the next significant innovation, along with high energy density systems and fast charging. In the long term, new chemistries relying on more abundant materials for long-duration energy storage will be the next significant breakthrough for energy storage technologies.
What should be done to increase the number of female scientists and female professors?
Gender bias is still a severe issue in all fields. We first need to accept that we all have some bias and then try to develop more objective and merit-based systems for admissions, hiring, grant and fellowship evaluations, etc. Creating support groups as well as mentorship and career development programs for women would also help a lot. Making sure to have a diverse group and gender balance in committees, invited speakers, research groups, and organisations would eventually create more role models for younger generations. Gender roles and societal expectations also lead to the dominance of men in academia and science. To mitigate this, policies regarding childcare, parental leave, flexible working hours, and remote working would be helpful.