Long before I approached the end of my PhD, I began to think of what-next, as quite usual of me. Michael Kruetzen is the head of a lab in the Anthropology Department of the University of Zurich, who works on great ape genetics and its link to the behavior. Since I started science, I was looking for an opportunity to work on primates and, if possible, behavior. So I applied to and received a grant to work with Michael on a project regarding orangutan genomes and identifying the genomic basis of both cognitive evolution (Sumatran orangutans) and adaptation to harsh environments (Bornean ones). We already have some thrilling results. Meanwhile, I continue working on tandem repeats with further collaborations.
As I liked the lab and of course Switzerland during my internship experience, I applied to Wagner lab. Andreas was so nice to support me within a Master Scholarship Program in UZH, where I could jointly carry out my PhD research and master studies. Initially, I have worked on metabolism evolution and published a paper in PLoS ONE as a part of the Fast-track Master program, I was involved in. After one year and a half, I officially started my PhD studies. I developed a project to investigate the role of highly polymorphic tandem repeat elements in DNA on gene expression divergence. I chose primates as my model system, as I was most excited about great ape evolution. I gave couple of talks. The one in the ESEB 2013 (watch my talk here), in Lisbon gave rise to a fruitful collaboration with Tomas Marques Bonet’s lab in Spain. This paper just got accepted in Genome Research. As it took three years to publish that work, of course I did couple of projects, as well. For example, I finished the project, I started in my bachelor on genetic codes and published it. I also worked on cancer genomes from real patients and studied the abundance of tandem repeat variation in tumors compared to normal tissues. In this project, a highly motivated Master student, Elina worked with me, as her Master thesis study. We’ll hopefully publish this paper, soon,as well.
I studied Genetics and Bioengineering in Yeditepe University in Istanbul, Turkey. Although the department was more into wet lab experiments, I found modelling and data analysis through computational biology and bioinformatics lot more interesting and decided to revive an old project of my professors Isil Aksan Kurnaz (actually a neurobiologist) and Levent Kurnaz (actually a physicist) on the evolution of alternative genetic codes. We have become good collaborators and published two papers, (see my Publications), before I graduated.
In my second year, with two other colleagues, we founded Biotechnology Society of the University. This was such a fruitful experience for me. During the next two years, we organized journal clubs, many conferences, congresses, trips. We also helped the knowhow flow from more experienced students to the new ones, including recommendations on internship locations, jobs, conferences, etc…
In my last year (summer 2009), I visited Wagner lab for three months, where I started my bachelor graduation project on codon robustness. This project turned out to be bigger than expected. We have finally published it in J Mol Evol, in 2013.