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Neset Akozbek

For this installment of Senior Member Insights, we talk with Neset Akozbek, a senior research scientist at AEgis Technologies Group Inc in Huntsville, Ala., USA, where he leads a small R&D group in applied research and advanced technology development in nanophotonics. In addition, Neset is a defense contractor at the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research and Engineering Center, supporting the facility’s basic and applied research programs in optics and photonics. His research interests include ultrafast high-intensity laser pulse propagation in optical media, nonlinear optics, plasmonics, metamaterials, optical thin films and photovoltaic cells.

What paths have you traveled on your career journey that came as a surprise or were unexpected?

After obtaining my Ph.D. at the University of Toronto, Canada, I started a postdoc position through the National Research Council at the U.S Army Aviation and Missile Research and Engineering Center in Huntsville, working with the late Dr. Charles M. Bowden. A three-year term turned into a 20-year career in research and development!

Has there been a particularly difficult decision in your career thus far? If so, what did you do to make the right decision for you?

My passion has been basic and applied research in optics and photonics. However, funding opportunities, especially in the industry, are more limited. Several years ago, my work was almost discontinued due to funding limitations. By being persistent and results oriented, I was able to overcome this through securing several R&D contracts.

What professional resources do you rely on to stay active and engaged with your field?

Unlike the times when I started my professional career, there are now so many ways to connect, share information and stay up-to-date in field.  While I am trying to make use of all available resources, I prefer attending conferences and meetings in person to interact with other scientists.

What is one piece of advice that you wish you were given as a student or early in your career?

If you are persistent and work hard, there will always be many great opportunities for you to advance your career. Dream big.

What have you learned by being a mentor to others, and what have you learned from mentors who helped shepherd your career?

I strongly believe that mentorship plays an essential role in preparing and creating opportunities for the next generation of scientists and engineers. I had great mentors as well as co-workers who helped shape my career. One of my primary goals is to pass my experiences on to younger scientists by providing them with the tools they need to achieve their career goals. There is nothing more rewarding than to see them advance in their careers.

How do you define success in your career?

For me, success is learning something new, maintaining and establishing new collaborations and creating opportunities for others to succeed.

What habits do you frequently rely on that help you to succeed?

In the last five years, I have taken up running to manage my workload. For someone who could barely run a mile, I set a goal to run a half-marathon! Setting achievable incremental goals has been a key factor for me to achieve both my running and work goals.

At this point in your career, what are you most looking forward to next?

Currently, my research group is relatively small, but I am hoping it will grow by attracting talented research scientists and engineers with diverse backgrounds. This will allow us to transition new technologies towards commercial product development.

If you weren't in the sciences, what would be your dream career?

After I completed high school I wanted to become an engineer.