Vildan Bayram - University of Manchester

Newton-Katip Çelebi PhD Scholarship Fellow 

PhD Topic: sustainable energy generation and storage by developing new materials and applying them to advanced technologies

I believe my research will contribute to the clean energy and storage sector as well as the advanced technology research and innovation in Turkey.

My name is Vildan Bayram. I am a PhD student at the University of Manchester working in the School of Materials. My three year PhD study is funded by the Newton-Katip Çelebi PhD Scholarship Programme and I am proud to announce that I was one of the first students to be granted this valuable support. 

When I first started applying to PhD programmes, it was not clear in which country I should pursue my PhD. Initially, I was open to all opportunities. I started by submitting applications to various universities in the United States. I decided to also contact potential supervisors in Europe and the United Kingdom. Most students will agree that the biggest challenge in pursuing a PhD is the high costs. I was looking for universities and potential supervisors on the one hand, but also applying to PhD funding opportunities on the other. I was granted Overseas PhD Scholarship programme by The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK). However, the scholarship only covered two years of any PhD study. 

The next challenge in my way was to find funding for the other years of my PhD endeavour. This scholarship helped me get an offer in a US university and my supervisor suggested that we could fund the rest of my PhD study by writing project proposals to the National Science Foundation (NSF). This was a fair offer, but I was not happy with the unknown nature of the funding opportunity through writing project proposals and did not want to take the risk of being underfunded for the duration after the first 2 years of my study.  Just when I was struggling to decide on accepting the offer from the university in the United States, I was informed about the Newton-Katip Çelebi PhD Scholarship Fund. Although the application dates were quite far, with great motivation I contacted the Newton-Katip Çelebi programme manager in Turkey. The programme manager was extremely helpful and provided me with all the necessary information I needed to know for the application process. 

The major criteria for the Newton-Katip Çelebi Fund was Official Development Assistance (ODA) which can be summarised as the impact of the proposed study on the economic development and social welfare of Turkey. In my proposed project to the Newton-Katip Çelebi PhD Scholarship programme I focused on sustainable energy generation and storage by developing new materials and applying them to advanced technologies.   My specific research is in the field of nanotechnology. Materials behave extraordinarily when the properties are configured at the nano-level. Graphene, for example, a material isolated from graphite used at the tip of a pencil, shows superior properties on their 3D counterparts in terms of electrical conductivity, mechanical and thermal stability, and optical properties. Increasing demand for energy and the gap between energy production and consumption forces us to investigate more sustainable materials for energy generation and storage. 2D nanomaterials have a great potential in transformation of conventional technologies with more efficient and sustainable options. I believe my research will contribute to the clean energy and storage sector as well as the advanced technology research and innovation in Turkey.

I started my study in September 2015 and am so happy that I am able to do my PhD at the University of Manchester because it was my first choice and additionally it is the birthplace of Graphene and the pioneers of nanomaterial research.  Manchester is an inspiring place to do research because of its unique scientific heritage and the contributions it has made to scientific discovery, innovation and industry.  

On 27 January, the Newton Fund organised an event and invited all Newton Fund scholars to House of Lords for a Science Policy Making event. Respected Lords and Baronesses in the Science and Technology Committee in the House of Lords, members from the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, scientific advisors working for government and representatives from the science and research teams in the British Council welcomed many Newton Fund scholars coming from a wide range of countries. This event was an unforgettable experience for me to have a conversation with many of them. Additionally, it was a fascinating chance to engage with other scholars and learn more about how science plays an important role in UK government policy making. 

The collaboration between the UK and Turkish governments in science and innovation is of great importance. I feel extremely lucky to be invited to the UK-Turkey Year of Science and Innovation Event that was held at the University of Manchester on 9 March 2016. The welcoming speeches given by both high representatives from British and Turkish governments underlined the importance of collaboration in science and innovation for both countries. In the following workshops, the practical collaborations and opportunities for new scientists, researchers and companies, such as the European Science Open Forum (ESOF), Erasmus, TUBITAK H2020 and Newton-Katip Çelebi Fund were presented to audiences. This event was a priceless experience for me as I had a chance to meet professors, researchers, business people and policy makers, and to tell them about my story in engaging with Newton Katip Celebi Fund. 

I was the first PhD student to benefit from the Newton-Katip Çelebi PhD Scholarship Fund. However, I will not be the last one. I have recently met with new scholars that are going to join me in coming months. I had the chance to have an online conversation with them and I was more than happy to provide them with guidance and share my experience. I am very pleased to be in the UK for my PhD studies and I am confident that I will complete my PhD by reaching many goals I have in mind in my area of research. I have to say that starting my PhD studies would not have been easy if it was not for Newton-Katip Çelebi PhD Scholarship Fund. I want to sincerely thank the Newton-Katip Celebi Fund for this treasurable opportunity!