ScienceOnline’09: Interview with Betul Kacar

The series of interviews with some of the participants of the 2008 Science Blogging Conference was quite popular, so I decided to do the same thing again this year, posting interviews with some of the people who attended ScienceOnline’09 back in January.
Today, I asked Betul Kacar of the Counter Minds blog, to answer a few questions.
Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? Who are you? What is your (scientific) background?
I am Betul Kacar, originally from Istanbul, Turkey, living in the USA. I actually came here to get a PhD but now that I am graduating, I am starting to feel that I am here only to steal an American’s job. My doctoral studies structured around biochemical work on a teleost enzyme (MAO). Now I am getting ready for an exciting project for my post-doctoral work: “resurrecting and evolving 4-billion year old proteins”. Interested? More can be found here.
BetulKacar pic.jpg
What do you want to do/be when (and if ever) you grow up?
I don’t want to be a grown-up when I grow up. That said, I don’t want to lose my ambition and passion for scientific research and I think that is possible if one has the curiosity and courage of a child.
But if you insist, I want to see the Earth from a space shuttle that is headed to Mars.
What is your Real Life job?
Well.. I spend my day time in the lab doing research but I guess people no longer consider academia as real life. Therefore, in my -other- life I dance & teach tango. I am also a volunteer for the IRC (International Refugee Committee). Many refugees come to the US and they need help in many ways, if you’d like to help see this .
What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?
I am learning. Nothing excites me more than new ideas and thoughts. Therefore through blogging I think I found the right place for me. Not that I get hundreds of hits everyday, but it is just nice to feel a part of the club, plus, all the interesting people (like you) I got to meet. Some people from Turkey reached me through my blog, and now I am writing articles for a popular science magazine called NTV-Bilim in Turkey. So yes, blogging does open you new doors and raises opportunities. One shall not underestimate the power of the Web.
How does (if it does) blogging figure in your work? How about social networks, e.g., Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook?
I have friends who read my blog.. well at least they tell me they do so. My graduate advisor wanted me to keep my work limited to publications therefore I have not been able to write on my project details on the blog. I try to write some real-time campus happenings, that way when people see me around, they share their comments and thoughts. Mostly fun. These days I can not blog as often due to my dissertation writing but I promise to strike back starting August. — I don’t use Twitter.
When and how did you discover science blogs? What are some of your favourites? Have you discovered any new cool science blogs while at the Conference?
My dear friend and collegue, Karen Ventii PhD (science to life), introduced me to the blogging world. I am very glad she did. I like to communicate and I like doing experiments, however laboratories are not the perfect place to be talkative (learned the hard way). Blogging helped me to release my words, my thoughts and everything else that I could no longer keep to myself.
This year was my first time at a SciBlogs Conference, and I had limited time, so I tried to read as many name tags as I could and go talk to sciblings. Therefore I had a lot of “oh so, this is him/her” moments, some disappointing, some surprising but always fun. I got to meet Stephanie Zvan for instance, after reading and following her blog for so long, her blog name has become like a brand in my mind. I called her “almost diamonds” for a while then switched to her first name eventually (I hope this doesn’t make me sound like a weirdo)
Is there anything that happened at this Conference – a session, something someone said or did or wrote – that will change the way you think about science communication, or something that you will take with you to your job, blog-reading and blog-writing?
I have never thought of the copyright issues or the problems that I might encounter with my employee based on the things I put on my blog. Conference made me realize that my blog is not my secret diary, it is out there and people actually read it. I was more careful on what I put or say in my blog afterwards, though I am still working on it. Like, one way to control myself is not to write when feeling too emotional or frusturated so to not regret later – and for a Mediterranean, that is a challenge.
Eh, I know! Mediterranean myself. Was there an event that marked your first year at blogging?
Definitely, blogging helped me to make a voice on Turkey’s censorship of evolution. I even made it to the news in Turkey. So instead of sitting at home and being frusturated on my own, it was a good feeling to be actually doing something. It was also amazing to see how evolution can gather so much attention on one’s blog! Some creationist was threatening me and he even told me to behave (or else). A lot of action and drama for a small blog, right?
After all I feel happy with the crowd I gathered. I always feel happy when a new reader stops by. I have no big ambitions on blogging (like being a blogging super star), as I said earlier, having fun and learning new things: priceless.
What is your favorite ice-cream flavor?
It was so nice to meet you and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January.
My pleasure Coturnix, thanks for all the fish (and baklava).
See the 2008 interview series and 2009 series for more.


3 responses to “ScienceOnline’09: Interview with Betul Kacar

  1. Great interview Betul!

  2. Pingback: ScienceOnline interviews « A Blog Around The Clock

  3. Pingback: ScienceOnline2011 – introducing the participants | A Blog Around The Clock