Reversing the Brain Drain: A Proposal

17 Haziran 2024 Pazartesi

One such individual is Prof. Şakir Ayık, a physicist and emeritus professor at Tennessee Tech University. For decades, he has been supporting scientific activities in Turkey from abroad.

Returnees and remainers from the U.S.

Ayık notes that from the 1960s onwards, countries, particularly in fundamental sciences, began to recognize the importance of education and research more profoundly. In Europe, Germany, and in Asia, China sent their talented young students to the United States for education and research in fundamental sciences.

By the 1980s, the influx of talented students from China to the U.S. ceased, and enough students returned to contribute to the Chinese miracle. After the 1970s, Germany lured back highly successful German scientists with attractive offers.

During this period, talented young students from Turkey also went to the U.S. with scholarships from TÜBİTAK or various ministries. The migration of talented students to the U.S. continued until the 1980s. Among those who went to the U.S. from these countries, many did not return, and the brain drain persists.

The Importance of General Physics

After summarizing the well-known facts, Ayık emphasizes the absolute necessity of an education mobilization in fundamental sciences and shares his contributions and experiences:

“In the U.S., scientists typically work on nine-month contracts, spending the summer months on research. Project-supported faculty members are not required to conduct their research at their own universities; they can do it wherever they prefer.”

Ayık suggests that by contacting and partially supporting our professors working abroad, we could encourage these scientists to spend their summers at universities in Turkey. This would help direct talented students towards research and foster collaboration both within the country and internationally.

He highlights the importance of general physics education: “A student learns classical physics laws, mathematics, computer science, quantum physics, the principles of statistics, thermodynamics, and develops experimental skills. Therefore, a student with a four-year physics education has opportunities in various fields of the workforce.”

Six Different TÜBİTAK Projects

Since 1997, Ayık has spent two to three months each summer, and occasionally two to three weeks in winter, collaborating with academics in the Physics Department at METU. Between 2003 and 2019, he completed six different TÜBİTAK research projects, with a seventh ongoing. He co-supervised five doctoral theses and seven master's theses in the Nuclear Physics Group.

Six students who completed their doctoral studies through these collaborations are now faculty members at various universities in Turkey. All are professors, and Ayık lists their names in his article.

He recounts: “We organized international Nuclear Physics Summer Schools jointly with the Nuclear Physics Group. We completed five summer schools in 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2010 at the Feza Gürsey Institute in Istanbul, with contributions from TÜBİTAK. The sixth was at Yıldız Technical University. Professors from the U.S., Europe, and Japan gave lectures on the latest developments in nuclear physics at these summer schools. Some of our students connected with these professors and had the opportunity to visit various universities and laboratories in Europe and America.”

Undoubtedly, there are other examples, but the contributions of hundreds of scientists engaging in such relationships with our universities would be significant.

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