“We learn how to be good scientists at Mississippi State,” Ali Akgul said of his graduate studies at MSU.
“I am living my dream.”
An MSU doctoral student, Akgul began his education more than 6,000 miles away in Izmir, Turkey. After deciding in high school to become a scientist, he went on to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology from Ege University, one of his nation’s oldest institutions of higher learning.
Even with a graduate degree, Akgul said he recognized the need to refine his career focus even more.
Through to a fellowship awarded by Turkey’s Ministry of National Education, he was given the opportunity to come to the United States and study at Mississippi State. After first completing a master’s degree in forestry in 2013, he entered the university’s Ph.D. program in veterinary medicine.
“The Turkish government supports many people to go off site, earn their Ph.D. and come back to Turkey to work, so this was a very good chance for me,” Akgul said.
Though the transition from one education system to another initially had its difficulties, Akgul persevered. In pursuing two distinctly different degrees, Akgul has managed to accumulate a considerable body of experience in campus laboratories. These experiences have helped him adapt new approaches for conducting experiments, he said.
He and wife Ayfer, a sustainable bioproducts doctoral student in the College of Forest Resources, both are studying genomics. They also are the parents of two children.
“She is working with fungus, and I work with bacteria,” he said, noting that his current project focuses on the development of vaccines to combat catfish diseases.
Outside of the classroom and laboratory, Akgul is active in the MSU Turkish Association and the Dialogue Student Association, a group that works to promote positive relations and interactions among those of different faith backgrounds. During the fall semester, he was among 30 Turkish Americans from around the country chosen to attend a Turkish leadership conference in Washington, D.C.
Akgul said he and Ayfer are on track to graduate in August. After a year of post-doctorate work, the family plans to move back to Turkey, where he will begin work as a scientist and faculty member at Sinop University, a new institution established in 2007 in the city of the same name.