• Matt_s Swirls

S Piril Ertem

Postdoc - University of Minnesota 

I worked in Professor Coughlin’s research group and graduated in 2016. In my research, I investigated macromolecular design parameters to obtain robust anion conducting membranes with efficient ion conductivity and chemical stability. Currently I work as a senior formulation scientist at Axalta Coatings Systems.

I am from Istanbul, Turkey and received my B.S. Chemistry degree in 2009 from Bogazici University in Turkey. Before joining PSE, I received my master’s degree in Materials Science and Engineering in 2011 from Koc University in Turkey under the guidance of Prof. Iskender Yilgor, working on polyether based thermoplastic polyurethaneurea elastomers.

The first step that I took towards scientific research was in my senior year at Bogazici University, when working on an independent science project under the guidance of Prof. Selim Kusefoglu. The project was based on the idea of using biological resources, such as oil or fat, to produce new types of polymers. This was my first experience with polymers, and I was fascinated by the limitless aspects of science. My experience in Prof. Kusefoglu’s laboratory inspired me to become a polymer scientist.

I received the ERASMUS Programme Scholarship and visited the University of Vienna as an exchange student for one semester in my sophomore year. ERASMUS is a prestigious student exchange program funded by the European Union. In the Bogazici University Chemistry class of 2009 I had the third highest GPA among 40 other chemistry students. Most recently, I received the 2012 Santos Go award from PSE. The Santos Go Memorial Merit Scholarship was created in honor of Santos Go, the first doctoral student to enroll in the PSE program. This award is presented each year to the most outstanding second year PSE student as judged by scholarly accomplishments accrued during the previous academic year.

Why did I choose UMass PSE? I was very determined to learn more about polymers. I targeted graduate schools with macromolecular science programs, and I noticed that PSE offered the most diverse curriculum, covering all important aspects of polymer science. Also, the research profile of PSE comprises a diverse environment combining chemistry, engineering, physics, and characterization of polymer based materials.

Looking back, I know that my time in PSE was invaluable. As a student I was surrounded with an abundance of knowledge and resources. The scientific diversity of individual research groups was an eye-opening experience for understanding the breadth of the field of polymer science. The rigorous training in polymer chemistry, physics, and engineering was strengthened by the weekly departmental seminars and lectures given by researchers at the frontiers of the field. Annual polymer events held by the department allowed me to present my research to a broad audience from industry and academia, and to improve my networking and presentation skills.

The strength of our education in PSE showed itself once I started working in industry. The multidisciplinary approach of our education in PSE prepared me to work and collaborate with people from different scientific backgrounds. Being well rounded with a strong understanding of the structure-property relationship of polymers helps me determine key problems and possible solutions quickly. Having had hands-on experience with the large number of instrumentation techniques available in PSE allowed me to adjust very quickly to a new work environment and laboratory settings.

I believe the rooted culture of openness in PSE contributed to my success significantly. Not only my fellow classmates, but all other PSE graduate students, faculty, and staff were always happy to offer their help and support. From the moment I joined PSE, I knew I was part of a big family. It is a privilege for me of have had the chance to meet, study, and work with all these great people and be a member of the PSE family.