Voices of Youth Inspire! "The biggest obstacle? Moving to a foreign country..."
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Your name: Ilgar Safak
Your age: 31
Where are you originally from and where do you currently live?
I'm originally from Turkey and I currently live in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
According to your business card – what’s your job title?
And how does that compare with what you wanted to do when you were 10 years old?
Since I was a kid, I always wanted to be in academia and scientific research (I was not that concerned back then about what type of scientific field of academia I would be researching).
Give us 10 words that describe your typical work day?
Searching – for documents and oceanographic data that is necessary and/or would be helpful in conducting research tasks
Reading – scientific journals and books
Analyse – field data on ocean processes
Code – computer programs to efficiently analyze and simulate ocean processes
Meet - with supervisors and collaborators to discuss work
Feedback – from supervisors, collaborators, colleagues, and other scientists
Present–theresearch results and progress at seminars, workshops, and conferences
Write – research progress and results into reports, conference abstracts, and scientific journal papers
Review – proposals submitted to funding agencies, and other scientists' papers submitted to scientific journals in my field
Lunch – mostly at my desk these days
In a nutshell, how did you get to where you are right now? Name some of the most important milestones.
- Being influenced by observing my parents who are also in academia and scientific research
- Certain classes I took during my undergrad studies and professors of those classes
- Supervisors I had throughout my graduate studies, and continuing to communicate with them even after I moved on to different jobs
- People I have been collaborating with
- Promptly responding to people that ask for scientific assistance and consulting
What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome to get to your current position and how did it help you to grow as a person?
Moving to a foreign country, which was not really an obstacle, but quite a change to go through. I knew it was necessary in order to broaden my scientific horizon and enhance my research expertise.
How important was your choice of degree/field of study at university for what you’re doing now?
The choice of my undergrad degree at university is important but does not necessarily say a whole lot about what one will be doing in the future. My undergrad field at university (civil engineering at Middle East Technical University in Turkey) and the experiences I earned while obtaining this degree, helped me to decide on the major field for my PhD in gradschool (Oceanography, Univ. Florida) and the things I am working on right now (ocean processes). However, there are so many scientists in my field who obtained their undergrad degrees in several other fields (physics, mechanical engineering, geology, mathematics, naval architecture, etc.). In addition, there are so many skills I gained and coursework I took during my undergrad studies which I am not currently using; on the other hand, there are some other undergrad degrees that could be a better fit for what I am doing right now.
What are the top three things someone needs to excel in your field?
- Determination to solve a scientific research problem
- Enthusiasm to do independent work
- Collaboration with as many top-notch scientists as possible
What do you think is the MOST important thing governments and/or companies can do to help young people get started in their careers?
Accurately evaluate one's personality, skills, and life goals to best suit his/her career.
On a lighter note, tell us about the strangest day you’ve ever had at work or the strangest thing you had to do?
I struggled but could not find anything worth to write as a response here. My work is not boring though!
Some words to youth out there: What advice can you give them when chasing their dream position?
I would suggest them to spend time first on trying to figure out what exactly the “dream position” is. Don't hesitate to discuss this with people that know you well and can give you genuine advice about you and your dreams. Once you think you are in the right field and on track towards that “dream position,” be in close communication with as many people in your field that are good at what they are doing. So basically, talk to people!