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Turkish scientist finds success abroad

ANKARA - Radikal | 7/5/2010 12:00:00 AM | BETÜL KOTAN

A Turk has now become one of the 100 most successful scientists in the world after choosing to work abroad following graduation.

Despite being advised to pursue a career as a hotel receptionist, a Turk has now become one of the 100 most successful scientists in the world after choosing to work abroad following graduation.

Since working abroad, Ali Erdemir has received several R&D 100 awards from R&D Magazine, a leading science magazine in the United States that revealed the top scientific and technological innovations of the past year.

Having been awarded four R&D 100 Awards between 1991 and 2009, Erdemir was also awarded the Discover Magazine Award in 1998, in addition to many other awards given by the Argonne Laboratory, which, Erdemir said, focuses primarily on energy storage technologies and ways of transferring these technologies to the marketplace.

Erdemir began working with diamonds and diamond-like surfacing in the 1990s, with his studies helping to produce an element that was not discernibly different from a natural diamond when examined by X-ray.

Utilizing nanotechnology to develop the area of research, Erdemir said the second biggest development in this field was that he and his colleagues had manipulated a nearly frictionless diamond-like surface.

This innovation could be used in many different areas, such as computer and automobile technology. He said a computer’s hard disk’s performance could increase 10 times if the innovative new diamond technology was utilized.

“Indeed, if we could use this technology in all mechanical systems we could solve the energy problem altogether,” said Erdemir.

The diamond-like surface has a coefficient of friction of 0.001 or 0.005.

Completing his education in the U.S. in 1986, Erdemir returned Turkey to look for work. When he could not find a job he decided to talk to Turkish politicians.

“It was the end of 1986. In those days it was necessary to ask for help from politicians and deputies in order to find work. I went to [a political party’s] provincial heads and deputies,” said Erdemir. “As soon as they learnt that I spoke fluent English they told me ‘If you work as an associate professor at a university, you will not earn money, go to a hotel and make use of your fluent English.’ This is one of the incidents which made me leave Turkey.”

After graduating from Istanbul Technical University in 1977, Erdemir continued his education at the Georgia Institute of Technology where he received both his MS and PhD degrees.

He studied Material Science and Engineering and said he had great dreams about his future. He returned to the U.S. to try and find a suitable job and in 1987 started work at the Argonne National Laboratory, one of the U.S. Department of Energy's oldest and largest national science and engineering research laboratories.

Erdemir has received many awards for his studies in both surface engineering and tribology, the science and engineering of interacting surfaces in relative motion.

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