Introduction of the Board Members: Bulent Basol

On behalf of the editorial team of TASSA we are pleased to introduce the members of our Board of Directors, who have agreed to graciously share their thoughts on TASSA and its activities, as well as information about themselves with our readership.  In this issue we feature Dr. Bülent Başol who is presently CTO and co-founder of 3D Forms, a young start-up company in Silicon Valley.

The Bridge: Could you please give us a brief summary of your background?

Bülent Başol :  I am a technologist residing in California. I received my BS degree from Bogazici University in 1973 in Electrical Engineering and completed my Ph.D. at UCLA with specialization in solid-state electronics. After graduation, I worked at several small high-tech companies, some of which I started. Throughout my career acting as the CTO of these organizations I developed technologies related to materials processing and electronic device fabrication. Since much of my work involved advanced research and development, I worked very closely with academia and participated in the organization of several conferences such as IEEE Photovoltaic Specialists Conferences, SPIE Optics and Photonics Conferences and MRS Conferences, among others. I have 166 US patents and over 100 publications. More importantly I have a wife, Sema, who works towards advancement of Turkish women’s status in Turkey, two successful sons, a lovely daughter-in-law and a cute grandson.

T.B. :  Could you also summarize your research program/area of study?

B. B. :  My R&D areas include thin film photovoltaics and semiconductor manufacturing. At the present time I am working on a project in the field of three dimensional (3D) printing or additive manufacturing. Our goal is to develop a new technique that can process both metal and plastic materials.

T.B. : Would you please tell us about your involvement with TASSA, its importance to you, and your vision for the future of TASSA.

B. B. :  I was always aware of the good work TASSA had been doing since its establishment. However, I got more engaged by attending a TASSA conference when Prof. Banu Onaral was the president and I was quite impressed by the organization. In 2010, I was called upon to participate in the resurrection of TASSA and contributed to the preparation and adaption of the new bylaws. Now as a board member I am going to get more intimately involved. I believe TASSA has been serving a real need. Goals and vision are very valid and achievable. We just have to work hard to bring more resources to bear.
I have always been involved with Turkish American organizations, such as local associations in California and ATAA in Washington DC. For me contributing to such organizations feels like I am paying back, at least partially, what I was given by Turkey. TASSA is becoming quite visible within the Turkish American graduate students and academicians. In the future I would love to see a TASSA that is more engaged with the scientists working in the industry.

T.B. :  What, in your opinion, can be done to increase the collaboration and strengthen the bridge between scientists and scholars in Turkey and the Turkish-American scientists and scholar in the US? And how can TASSA, in your opinion, contribute to it?

B. B. :   TASSA needs to be perceived as a major resource by both Turkish and Turkish American scientists and scholars to be able to serve its bridge function well. For example TASSA can play a role facilitating; mentoring of Turkish and Turkish American students, matching job seekers with employers both in academia and industry, and organizing workshops on specific topics in Turkey in collaboration with Turkish universities and companies. Events organized in Turkey would increase TASSA’s visibility there. In the US, TASSA will have to increase its visibility among the Turkish American scientists working in the industry, who probably constitute an overwhelming majority of the scientists of Turkish origin in this country.    

T.B. :  Are there any project that TASSA is undertaking that you are excited about and why?

B. B. :  I think the biennial conferences of TASSA serves its purpose well. Face to face interaction between Turkish participants and those attending from the US is essential to build bridges and germinate partnerships. It would be great to have every third conference in Turkey for increasing visibility there. I also love the young scientist awards TASSA initiated because this project promotes the work of young generation of scientists while engaging them with TASSA. After all they will be the future leaders of this organization.

T.B. :  Could you please tell us about your life outside of your work? Do you have hobbies? What are your favorite activities? If you recommend a book, what would that be and why?

B. B. :  I love gardening and any other menial work around the house. This can be fixing a leaky pump, building a small wall or figuring out a problem with the electrical network. Working with my hands is very relaxing for me and I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment after the work is done, especially if the pump is still working, the wall is standing and I did not cause an electrical fire. If I have time to read I tend to lean towards historical and political writings and books related to innovation. For scientists I recommend the book “A History of Silicon Valley” (Rao and Scaruffi, Omniware Group, 2011). Since I live in Silicon Valley and have company start up experience, when I visit Turkey I often get asked if a Silicon Valley can be built in Turkey. I think the long answer to this question is in the book I mentioned above. In short, Silicon Valley is not only a geographical location, but it is also a mindset, a culture, and a combination of many other factors. Building shiny research centers and universities at a specific location cannot replicate it in a short period of time.  I have a second favorite book that I will recommend: “The Long Divergence- How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East” (Timur Kuran, Princeton University Press, 2011). “Why are Islamic countries underdeveloped?” is a question we all wonder about. In his book Kuran demonstrates that starting the 10th century Middle East economies, which were ahead of Europe until then, were held back by Islamic legal institutions that did not allow emergence of central features of modern economic life. 

T.B. : Thank you very much.