Murat Gülsoy is a prominent Turkish author. His post-modern self-consciousness gained him a huge reputation as an elegant author. He was awarded with Sait Faik Hikaye Armağanı in 2001. He is also an associate professor at Boğaziçi University Biomedical Engineering Faculty, teaching Biophotonic classes; he has published many articles on laser systems design.
We know that you have successful tracks with two very different studies; how did the situation of being successful as a scientist and an author improve and advance?
When I was around your age, I had interest in many different areas, but reading was always a priority. I used to like reading, researching and learning. I was also interested in mathematics and natural sciences. For this I can say that I was not forced to make a choice between them. Actually I wanted to study medicine and until the last moment I was determined to do so. But during my last year in high school, I claimed that if I make a choice such that I would have to dedicate my life to medicine. But I had not yet learned that every different type of career demands dedication. After thinking, due to being good at maths, I claimed that the easiest occupation for me to study was engineering. In high school I was a successful student and I entered university with an excellent degree, any choice I would make would be worthwhile. I chose engineering because it is a basic education and one can add many more over it. Unlike most studies, after studying engineering you can continue your studies in many other ways. After finishing my engineering studies I wanted to become an academic researcher but I was most interested in psychology. Psychology is not quite far away from medicine, it is also about mankind and consequently, I mastered at psychology. Doing the opposite is not easy. After finishing psychology mastering at engineering is not quite possible. For this having a basic engineering education creates many different paths for one. I could have mastered at physics, chemistry or psychology and I chose one and returned back to engineering, studied biomedical, still not much far away from medicine, in one way I actually did what I truly wanted to. As all these happened I continued to spare the time for my interests such as literature, art and painting. I never had a thought such as ‘I chose my studies this way and must not pay attention to anything else’. Quite the opposite, one must have as many as interest there can be and must show them enough attention, unlike hobbies, I actually oppose to the concept of hobby, art ca not be a hobby. Because of this to be engaging with literature, it is not really important to study literature in college, literature is something you learn as you read. Meanwhile I give lessons for creative writing so I actually have created a school for this. That is also something beneficial but when I was young it did not existed. This way I started to work in different areas, science and literature. If you are doing what you like to willingly there is not a reason for you to not to be happy.
If you say that you chose electrical engineering at The Boğaziçi University, no family would oppose. Because of that I never had many problems but after graduating, but during higher studies family support is very important because you cannot easily accomplish these without certain economical support and you may have to start working, in that case it is right that family support is important. I started to work as a private teacher the day I started my university studies and kept on this job for 20 years. I can say I worked a lot. I had lessons nearly every day. That taught me a lot, teaching and talking with adolescents; students are very beneficial for any person. I mean that one can do many things at the same time, all this needs is getting rid of prejudices. In university students ask me how I can be both engaged in literature and also math and natural sciences. This separation exists only on the university entry exam booklet and these studies must not be separated completely. For example to solve a good math question you must know well the language it’s written, you start to solve only after you understand what the question demands from you. I never understood this separation. I was a student who read quite well and a lot and I do not remember working for a Turkish test. Literature and language is something you can learn yourself unlike sciences and math, which require formal education. Music for example, if right now I choose to become a pianist I most likely cannot. But if I had started when I was 5 years old I would have a better chance. Math and natural sciences are like too but you can advance in literature by your own, all you need is to be determent and must find out what you like to do. But for this you may have to change the conditions you live in. You may have to think in many ways. But whatever you do you must like it; something you do not like does not work.
A lot. It is not possible for me to separate from each other. I can give examples from what I read but can hardly give examples from what I write because they are the last product of my creation and after I gather everything a create novels, stories and different writings. But because via computer and technology I am more linked with science, I can quickly make literature experiments. For example the book I am reading now is a scientific study about the evolutionary progress of storytelling, story writing and creating literature. I do not think this is something every writer would be interested. This is something that links my interests. Along with this a good story, more correctly a good work of art, is a design. Art has 2 dimensions, design and presentation. Design is align with the capability of engineering. Art can be practical. As you read more you learn how to write.
Do you think that studies which are focused on literature and science are done enough in Turkey? Is it important the government to support and encourage in both studies? Or is science fed by the encouragement of the government and private sector and literature fed by the encouragement of the culture that it’s been in?
Of course no, I mean it’s not possible to say sufficient but at least there’s something like this; there’s a great improvement comparing to 20 years ago, even 10 years ago, especially about the scientific studies in the university. When I got into the university in 80ies maybe there were less than 20 universities, now there are around 100 universities. Studying abroad was much harder, now it’s much easier I mean being able to take education there may became easier but the main problem of Turkey is still at the primary and secondary education. If a good education is provided there, that person will relax in the university and the scientific studies will improve too. Now, there are important investments are being made to the science, I mean budget of TÜBİTAK increased a lot it’s not so hard to find financial supports for scientific studies. I mean if you have a really good project you can even get some support from out of Turkey but still some constructional changes has to be held, new research centers has to be built up. People take postgraduate education and they cannot find some place to work in, this is seriously a big problem. People go abroad, take a good education and want to return back, they don’t want to work and live there but there is a lack of universities that people can work in when they return back, there has to be some institutions about every subject. About the literature, maybe there are more books that are being written and being read but it’s going in the same direction with the world’s trends. I mean in last 50 years the position of literature in the world changed a lot; it mainly became a function of the market just like the cinema. How it became a function of the market, how it became an addition of a giant industry and now became something that only you can see in art movies, festivals and things like that. In the past, the main trend was the movies that are popular bur now the trend is totally about an age average and the specific morality. The main aim in the literature is earning much money on those days. If you go to Germany, France, England, wherever you go you’ll see the same books in big book stores. The books are being translated and international best seller market makes the literature homogenous among the world. Normally, literature and art represents meeting of local and global. These problems are parallel with the ones in the world but the main problem for us is that people cannot read and write, a huge amount of people have no relation about reading books. Especially when the school is over, nobody even thinks of having relation with reading books, even they have a good job. This is a sad situation but maybe that’s because of the culture of our country. Japanese people for example, they are maybe the people who read the most on earth and when you take a look at it on years such as AC 1000 I mean 1000 years ago they had an awesome publishing activity and there are several books that we know which was published on those years. For example there’s a generation named “woman writers” and they are all transferred to today, they are not lost. It means it has a traditional part too. Education is being fed from the culture that takes place in and actually it’s the result of it. In a community that doesn’t have the reading culture; the literature does not develop too.
Science is a thing that requires big investments; I mean you have to find some money source for the projects. The main source is the government, like TÜBİTAK, DPT. The place of private sector is very little, I mean industrial cooperation is very little because Turkey doesn’t have the tradition of R&D (research and development), because you’re not producing something you’re just installing and for things like these, of course the industrialist was not setting up an R&D. I mean the industrialist has to have an improvement too. For the improvement of the industrialist, the product that will occur has to be converted into profit. On the other hand, the government must give us financial support with the funds in order to make some improvements with the science in the country, with the things like health, technology etc in order to make our lives better. At that point, the motivation of private sector is different, the difference of the government, because of that the government has to be better. Anyway, the main problem is the level of education at schools and it has to be increased as soon as possible. All of the schools have to be in a level like Açı High School and maybe increase more and this is something that can be done.
As you know, high school students are in a stage to make decisions, we are looking for the answer to the question whether to study in or out of Turkey. What is your opinion about this? What do you recommend to a student who is interested in two different studies?
If you can find universities that are better than the ones in Turkey, and if you can study at them, why not? Also studying abroad brings the problems and difficulties of living there with it. For a young person, there are many factors with it, such as studying abroad but being far away from the family, about how the place that person goes is going to be. I mean the person may not want to live in a much smaller place in United States while that person was living in Istanbul. In Turkey, I can advise you my university, I was here when I was a student and now I am still here. Boğaziçi University is a great place with things like social life, education, education of teachers and the students. Of course it has some problems too but it has an improving and liberating environment. Another very important thing is that, when you start studying on a subject and when you don’t like it, you look for the ways to change it. The system of Boğaziçi is very appropriate for this because there are opportunities for changing. Sabancı University also has a system similar to this one, on the first two years you take the education of main subjects and on the third year you decide on a specific subject. I mean you say that you want to be an engineer, but you decide engineering of which subject later. Also an opportunity such as being able to take the education of two main branches is good for both the university and the student. I mean, of course studying abroad is fine as well, but you have to take everything into consideration, or you can stay and have the education abroad with exchange programs. It’s very important to know what you want while you’re choosing the university and the job. Also you have to take every situation into the consideration and you have to know what you can face with.