Europe, Interviews

Gizem Kayar – Assistant Professor at Muðla Sýtký Koçman University Computer Engineering Department

In order to bridge the gender gap, we have to think and act beyond gender.

Asst. Prof. Dr. Gizem Kayar has received her MSc and PhD degrees from Computer Science department of Freiburg University / Germany, specifically from Computer Graphics group. Later she worked as Post-doc at Massachusetts Institute of Technology Geonumerics Group. Her research interests include (but not limited to) fluid simulations, efficient surface reconstruction algorithms and data structures, game programming, serious games and Virtual/Augmented/Mixed Reality applications.

Previously, Dr. Kayar worked as a faculty member at TED University Computer Engineering department and Yasar University Computer Engineering department. Currently, she is working at Muðla Sýtký Koçman University Computer Engineering Department. She has been directing the Digital Game Design and Technologies Master Program, leading the Digital Game Development Certificate Program of TEDU CEC – TOGED, running the MSKU Digital Game Based Learning and Serious Games Lab, is a volunteer mentor at Turkey’s Engineer Girls and is the President of IFITT Turkey Chapter.

In a Nutshell: Tell us a bit about your job and what role technology plays in it?

I am a computer engineer and an Asst. Prof. Dr. at MSKU Computer Engineering Department. My specialization area is Computer Graphics (CG) Algorithms. I had my BSc, MSc and PhD degrees from this field. Technology has always been the heart of my job, both in terms of Computer Engineering and academics. One can easily imagine that computer engineers walk hand-in-hand with technology. We use it, follow it, develop it.  After years of thorough study including the hardware related design processes and software related production pipelines, we as computer engineers are equipped with a deep knowledge about computer technologies. However, we are ready to expect something new every moment. Literally, today’s Tech may be old tomorrow. We need to follow the technological state-of-the-art very carefully and produce innovative ideas all the time. Otherwise, we can find ourselves not one but many steps behind in just a couple of hours. After years of hard and dedicated work, I honestly know that there is still too much to learn. My title changed to academics, but I am still a student in a never-ending learning process. Each moment with a new knowledge is quite welcome in my everyday life. Working both as an engineer and academic teaches me a lot. Because both unites in a single path: Research. Research opens your eyes, makes you criticize yourselves, pushes you forward and gives you the heart to embrace new ideas and new ideals. And a good research is the beginning of the Development. Without R&D, we cannot talk about Tech. This is why I can easily say that using, following and producing Technology is reshaping my life everyday and we are quite close to each other.

Where did your professional journey start and how did you get to where you are now?

I studied Computer Engineering during my bachelor’s. I really loved my field in all terms and have been proud to be a dedicated programmer. Throughout my undergraduate years, I dreamed of further studying and being an academician in Computer Graphics specialization area. This dream directed me pursue my career following a related path. Therefore, I went to Germany/Freiburg University to study my MSc. Taking CG related specialization courses from the department of Computer Science there was a real privilege for me. I learned a lot and decided to pursue an academic career without veering. First, I worked as a student assistant. After finishing my MSc study, I immediately started my PhD there and started to work as research assistant at Computer Graphics department. This is how my professional journey started.

It took years of hard work and thousands of miles to get where I am now. One of the biggest opportunities my job offered me was traveling and extending my network due to conferences. These are the places where you meet like-minded people with whom you can share your high-tech ideas mutually. You can expand your knowledge very efficiently by meeting new researchers. It was a real advantage for me. After my PhD, I worked as Post-Doc at MIT GeoNumerics group, which means, I moved to the United States from Europe. Working at MIT and having this experience is for sure, precious. After my Post-Doc, I finally came back to my country, Turkey. I started to work as a faculty member / Asst. Prof. Dr. at TED University Computer Engineering Department. Meanwhile, I became the technical coordinator of Digital Game Development certificate program (which has been initiated by TED University and Turkish Game Developers Association) which I still continue to direct. At the same time, I was also the director of Interactive Computer Technologies Master Program of TED University. After years, I transferred to Yasar University Computer Engineering Department. As I was working there, I opened a branch of International Federation of Information Technologies, Travel and Tourism (IFITT) in Turkey and I am still the founder president of Turkey Chapter. I also became a volunteer mentor at TMK, a.k.a. Engineer Girls of Turkey (EGT). EGT is a great initiative that was implemented by LIMAK in cooperation with the Ministry of Family, Labor and Social Services, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Turkey and Ministry of National Education in order to contribute to the economic and social empowerment of Turkey by ensuring that women take part in engineering more in the fellowship. I believe in the program with my all heart since I believe that our young women who study/work in Science and Technology related disciplines will change the future with their smart and bright minds and souls. They are digital natives and we have much to learn from them. I respect these young engineers.

My final institution is Mugla Sıtkı Kocman University (MSKU) Computer Engineering Department. In addition to my departmental duties, I direct the Digital Game Design and Technologies Master Program, I run the “Digital Game -Based Learning and Serious Games” lab and I am also one of the members of MSKU Technology Transfer Office (TTO) due to my entrepreneurship experience. Nowadays, I spend most of my time on my new e-Health R&D company that I am about to found. Academically, administratively, socially and financially, I always have been face-to-face with Technology related work. Technology is indispensable part of my life. 

What is the greatest transformation in technology you’ve witnessed in your career?

Well, it is not easy to pick one among many. We can talk on smart phone developments, 4G-5G, secure mobile systems, blockchain, advanced ML/DL algorithms etc. However, related to my own field, I can say that developments in GPU technologies and immersive technologies were quite fascinating.

When you think about ‘women’ and ‘technology’ what comes to your mind first?

We, women, are really dedicated to ensure that we give meaning, power and beauty to every part of the life at our hands. We are able to show the same dedication in our work life.

I know the two words that I will say now looks distant to each other but they are “Fear” and “Dedication”. I have lived, studied and worked in different continents and always saw that the number of women in Technology related positions was less then men. Sometimes, I talk this situation with high-school students before they give their university and department decisions and try to explain them there is nothing to be afraid of. There is really no point in it. We, women, are really dedicated to ensuring that we give meaning, power and beauty to every part of the life at our hands. We are able to show the same dedication in our work life. Sometimes, at some parts of the world, they can underrate themselves due to social pressure they feel and lack of education they face. But nothing is more powerful than our will.    

We always hear there are not enough women working in Tech. What needs to happen to change that, which steps should be done to achieve gender equality in tech?

Education is literally everything. But I am not talking about only the Science and Technology education. Education starts at young ages by teaching how to follow your heart and how to identify the goals you have for the future. Aiming this mentality for our children falls to everybody: parents, family members, all teachers we have starting from the early Kindergarten years and the government for sure. Sometimes, I meet with students who do not want to study engineering but they do just because their parents want. On the other hand, I meet with students who want to study engineering but they do not since they are afraid of Maths and Physics courses we give. Both are wrong. I am so sad to see that some high-school students have no experience with science-oriented projects and team work. They are afraid because they do not know how to use the theoretical knowledge in real life.  We should raise a generation who knows what they want, at what field they can be successful and can generate innovative ideas, and have internal power to continue in her/his own way. In order to bridge the gender gap, we have to think and act beyond gender. This should start at home, must continue at school and has to be supported by governments by all means. We also need initiatives to support young women in Tech until we come to the point I mentioned above. Financial and educational supports are still the most important to take care of.

Which was the best decision in your career?

Pursuing an academic career has been the best decision for me. It pushes me to work harder, learn and produce more, meet young generation, witness these digital natives’ enthusiasm and catch up with the state-of-the-art. I never regret and I am happy with all the steps I took that carried me to the position I stand now.

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your 14-year-old self?

Try to learn 2 languages until 20 and at least one more after 20!

Studying science was my constant dream at my very early ages. This is why I preferred to study at Science High School in my hometown at the age of 14. That was the age everything started. So, I can tell her “Go on, Gizem, you will come to the point you wish if you continue to work hard. But, learn 2 more languages!!!”. This is really what I could say to myself if I could go back in time. Turkish is my mother tongue and English is my second language. My German is not bad. I would like to learn more but it is not easy. Some scientists say that at young ages, children do not learn a language, they acquire it. As we get older, this changes. It does not mean that our brain loses functionality. It is definitely something different. After a certain age and with all these responsibilities in our minds, finding time and learning a language is a little bit harder when you compare it to younger ages. This is why I give this advice to my daughter nowadays. Try to learn 2 languages until 20 and at least one more after 20!!

Asst. Prof. Dr. Gizem Kayar has received her MSc and PhD degrees from Computer Science department of Freiburg University / Germany, specifically from Computer Graphics group. Later she worked as Post-doc at Massachusetts Institute of Technology Geonumerics Group. Her research interests include (but not limited to) fluid simulations, efficient surface reconstruction algorithms and data structures, game programming, serious games and Virtual/Augmented/Mixed Reality applications.

Previously, Dr. Kayar worked as a faculty member at TED University Computer Engineering department and Yasar University Computer Engineering department. Currently, she is working at Muðla Sýtký Koçman University Computer Engineering Department. She has been directing the Digital Game Design and Technologies Master Program, leading the Digital Game Development Certificate Program of TEDU CEC – TOGED, running the MSKU Digital Game Based Learning and Serious Games Lab, is a volunteer mentor at Turkey’s Engineer Girls and is the President of IFITT Turkey Chapter.

See more interviews of our amazing Gals.

Meet Our Other Gals

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *