Engineering Fresh Faces: Neslihan Dogan

Photo by Kareem Baassiri

Welcome to Fresh Faces. In this series, we’re highlighting more than 40 engineering faculty members, all hired in the last five years, who are doing interesting and innovative things in the lab and the classroom.

Neslihan Dogan is an assistant professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. In her Fresh Faces spotlight, Neslihan talks about her Turkish roots, passions outside of McMaster, pursuing metallurgy and the hidden talents of dessert chefs.

On the happiest day of her life (so far)

One of them is the day I got married; the other day is my PhD graduation. For me, it was very, very special. And the reason for the PhD celebration, of course, after four years of hard work, you get your degree. But it was so special that my parents came all the way from Turkey when I was in Australia. My very best friends were with me as well, so I had important people celebrating me and we went for a beautiful dinner.

On the most influential people in her life

Of course my parents were really important; they gave me the choices of whatever I wanted to do. My PhD supervisor was influential with the choices I made. He always said to accept people as they are and try to always see the big picture.

On her roots and planting new ones

I grew up in Turkey, the south part of Turkey, which is very sunny and warm. After finishing my undergrad, I wanted to do something — I had to travel. I went to Australia and started a master’s program then converted to a PhD. It was a great match; I loved every minute of my PhD work.

On her decision to pursue metallurgy

I have my bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, and my PhD supervisor had the same background. He gave me a list of projects, and he said, “Just choose whichever you like the most.” He was nurturing my interest in process metallurgy and I’m trying to do the same thing for my students. At that time, I knew reaction kinetics already, so the application of somewhat the chemical engineering into steelmaking; since then I love the steelmaking process itself and process metallurgy in general.

On grappling with a tough problem

Sometimes, I try to split into small portions and ask opinions of trusted friends and colleagues. I will go them and say, “What do you think?” On some occasions, speaking aloud really helps. Once during my PhD, I went out to have a coffee with my friend who is a dessert chef. And I said, “You don’t need to talk; I just need to speak loud for myself and hopefully I will solve this problem.” She didn’t know what I was talking about, but the coffee break was helpful to find an answer for my modelling problem.

On making a high quality steel

My research team and I are currently finding ways to optimize practices during steel refining processes. There is a growing demand in high quality steel. This demand is even becoming greater as automotive manufacturers require stronger thinner sections for lighter vehicles to meet tougher greenhouse regulations and passenger safety goals. We hope to help steelmakers reduce material and energy intensity and offer alternative production methods.

On her passions outside of McMaster

Right now, it’s mostly yoga. I started doing it in 2008 when I started my PhD. I like the fact that you can do it indoor and outdoor. The other thing is hiking. That was not popular in Turkey earlier. During my travels in Australia, I learned to appreciate nature and hiking became another passion. Here in Canada there are wonderful trails to explore. I got a membership for Halton Parks so that [my husband and I] can go, and we specifically picked that one because of the variety of activities year round, like swimming or cross-country skiing.

Inside the lab…

I supervise my students at the moment. Previously, when I was in the lab, I was mainly checking for leaks around furnaces. With high temperature furnaces, it can be challanging to operate them. There are always some cracks from a former experiment and so on, so you have to check for leaks 90 per cent of the time.

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