Discovering Stars: Feryal Ozel

The name of Feryal Özel is listed under “Big Ideas,” one of the twenty names of well-known scientists like Einstein and John Nash. As a Hubble post-doctorate fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies of National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA), Özel is researching the formation of our universe, stars, black holes, and the Big Bang theory.
Her specialization is the transformation of stars into neutrinos or into black holes. She is working on explanations of topics like the formation of galaxies, beginning of our universe, black holes in our galaxy. Özel says, “We are researching the planetary objects around the stars. We can not ask the question, if there is life on them, but we would like to answer such question in the future. NASA has developed some projects to do research on earth-like planets.”   
Feryal Ozel.

To the question what the contribution of her research to mankind is, she replies, “We can not be the only civilization in the universe. If we are not the only ones, on what kind of environments they can be? Understanding the formation of the universe and the system is another task.” To the question if the UFOs exist, she replies, “I don’t believe in their existence. I don’t believe that another civilization tries to get in contact with us. This is not proven.”

Özel, who came to U.S. from Turkey with a two-year scholarship from the Health Education Foundation, had to find different scholarships in order not to change schools. She even drove benefit from a scholarship for Chinese students. She tells “They changed the conditions of a scholarship by a Chinese businessman to ‘students with Asian origins.’ There was a photo shoot, only I and the dean were not Chinese.”

Contrary to most of the students going abroad for education, Özel is making plans to return to Turkey. Özel states that she is still keeping her connections active and adds, “There are of course additional benefits in studying abroad. We are developing some projects with Sabancı University. During my time there were fewer opportunities. Today they provide many more opportunities. I will start teaching next year. My decision to stay there is not final; it depends on the possibilities.”  

Özel, who had to work in the library and dining hall in order to support herself at the beginning of her study in the U.S., especially in New York, recollects those days as “I took the responsibility of my life at an early age. I established my life in a different continent with two suitcases. It wasn’t an easy life”.

She says that she likes science-fiction films and adds, “I love the films, written well. I don’t like Star Track, but read, for example, Harry Potter, although it is not science fiction but a fairy-tale world. I’ve read all five books of the series.” She says she is occupied with astronomy, a positive science, and that she doesn’t read the daily horoscopes in newspapers because of her conviction that astrology is superstition.

Özel, who was ranked top in the 1990 and 1991 European mathematical competition of high schools, graduated in 1992 from Üsküdar American High school with honors. She completed her B.S. in physics and applied mathematics at Columbia University in 1996 with high honors. She spent 1997 at CERN in Geneva and the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, where she received a Master's degree.

She continued her graduate studies at Harvard University, where she received a Ph.D. in 2002. She is currently a NASA Hubble Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study. Özel, who holds an advanced diver license, goes to scuba dives to the Red Sea, runs triathlons and dances folk dances. She has a happy marriage with her Greek husband Dimitrios Psaltis, whom she met in Harvard. The couple who likes to travel and discover new places, traveled during their honeymoon 25 thousand miles in forty-eight days.
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(February 2004, 11th Issue Cover)
Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07