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"MEANWHILE, in South Korea, Turkish chemist Cafer T. Yavuz is designing new materials from oxide and organic building blocks to address environmental challenges.
Yavuz represented Turkey in 1997 in Montreal and in 1998 in Melbourne, Australia, winning a silver and bronze medal, respectively. He is now an assistant professor at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science Technology (KAIST).
“I’m a chemist today because of the olympiad experience,” he says. “I would have gone into computer science if I weren’t in the olympiad.” The competition in Montreal marked his first time visiting a foreign country. “I wouldn’t have had the slightest idea of doing my graduate work out of the country if I weren’t exposed to other countries and cultures,” he says.
After receiving his B.S. in chemistry from the Middle East Technical University in Turkey, he moved to the U.S., where he earned a master’s and Ph.D. in chemistry from Rice University. He went on to complete a postdoc in chemistry and biochemistry at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Now, at KAIST, Yavuz is trying to pass along the mentoring he received as a high school student. He frequently invites local high school students to do science projects with him. “I’m taking the initiative to bring them to chemistry because I know how important it is to change other people’s lives the same as it changed mine.”
His research group is diverse, consisting of postdocs and grad students from India, Pakistan, Turkey, and South Korea. “Five people, four countries in my group,” Yavuz says. The lab’s Turkish postdoc is a former teammate of Yavuz’ from the chemistry olympiad."