Mehmed Can Özkan 2019/01/21 – Kyoto Study Program 2019

Back then, I do not know if I was perfectly aware, but this idea of similarity-of-all-humanity has since been a key factor into my outlook of the world. I am EXTREMELY lucky and grateful to have traveled to nearly 20 countries tagging along to parents' appointed trips and some with saved up money... so maybe I did already have this idea, but especially after Secondary School Program 2018 at Harvard, I realized how much, honestly, dispite the occasional dissapointment I may feel for some people, I love people in general.

I find that our differences are not to be filed down, but celebrated, while recognizing that we are all human, share dreams, fears, and a common ecosystem. It is so easy to fall victim to the political winds of the era, "trends" of thought, that we often forget our values, what we actually believe in and think that matters.

In addition to this, I get very emotional thinking about how this experience developed, as I took the initiative to research, apply, contact my Japanese teacher for recommendation etc. inspired by a great Japanese friend. I was lucky to be chosen to this program of 23 individuals, with mostly the sponsor of the City of Kyoto and The Consortium of Universities Kyoto, stay at a beautiful central hotel and experience things even the locals seldom get to do, like to perform a short dance on a 400 year old Noh stage...

This allowed me the confidence into going through with my passions, and that I could achieve something, and it would mean an amazing deal for me when I actually achieved it.

I realize that if I hopefully have the chance, or can make the chance, to do what I love in science, I will get the most satisfaction while having the greatest social and scientific impact.

Thank you mom and dad, all the friends, for believing in me,

From the bubble,

Mehmed Can

"Mehmed Can Özkan 2019/01/21 - Kyoto Study Program 2019

How to Time Travel

Well, this was actually a trick question as I believe in Kyoto, you do not need to. Kyoto, as I once again experienced today in the lecture and as we toured around the city, I believe, is a wonderful example to how the past can be incorporated into the present and how the daily lives of many can be integrated into the artifacts of the past. To not replace each other but be reshaped under professional care and national passion to complement one another.

Japan is a country which is known to come up with countless innovations in a decade, such as ones in the entertainment industry, with fun characters such as Hatsune Miku, legends such as Hayao Miyazaki, in technology with brands such as Nintendo, Honda, Sony, and the super fast Shinkansen (dating back to 1964, first Olympiad in Asia, Tokadio Line between Tokyo and Osaka) while managing to leave its mark on the world as being able to retain a huge amount of its traditional values despite the globalizing nature of the modern world. In the lecture in the afternoon, as a part of Kyoto Study Program organized by the City of Kyoto and Consortium of Universities Kyoto, Ms. Tamaki Katayama shared with us the wonders of Japan. We talked about the spectacular view of the surprisingly symmetrical natural wonder that is one of the many symbols of Japan, the highest mountain in Japan, Fuji-san (3776m “mi na na ro”), the meaning behind the imperial crest of Chrysanthemum (菊one of my favorite flowers), and Japan’s 4 distinct seasons 四季 (for which the way the Japanese value these seasons have encouraged me to be grateful about and appreciate the 4 distinct seasons of my home country Turkey).

It was also heartwarming to remember some similarities between my own culture and Japanese culture. The schools, traditionally, and the fiscal year in Japan, we were told, begins in April, marking the awakening of the nature and the beginning of life after the direness of the winter landscape. As the Turkish we have certain celebrations around the time of the astronomical vernal equinox (19-21st of March) for similar reasons, although much of the tradition has faded away as they were forgotten by many. Everyone, however, still appreciates the revival of nature as spring arrives.

One of my favorite things about today’s program was the part where we talked about the National Anthem of Japan adopted as the country was in the progress of westernization. The waka “Kimigayo” poem dating back to 10th Century, Heian Period, apparently is rumored to be a love letter. I really enjoyed this fact, how it is possible that the love of someone from the 10th Century survived all these years in its own peculiar way to become the National Anthem of a nation with a current population of more than 126 million, scaling 378,000 kilometers squared, and is composed of more than 7000 islands. Isn’t that romantic? It was also amusing to learn that how the meaning this love was supposed to be passed down to the newer generation was influenced by the politics of the country, first being named as love towards the Emperor and after the war and the peace treaty in mid-20th Century in morphed into the love of citizens and the nation.

It is clear that Kyoto also aims to continue such success of bridging the past and the future with its 50 universities, which have brought home 10 Nobel Prizes out of 26 Nobel prizes obtained by Japan, and preservation of more than 1600 temples. The city, which was not bombed just like Nara and Kamakura during the Second World War continues to hold relics from the past. These are not only in the form of buildings however and can also be seen in the festivals 祭り of Kyoto. Aoi, Gion and Jidai festivals continue to be the highlights of the lives of the locals as well as the tourist.

It is crucial that we as Turkey, a nation with roots in Anatolia going back to 1071 AD, see example in this. To not only preserve the culture and knowledge of our on but all the civilizations that resided in Anatolia, including the Hittites, Ionians, Byzantine, Persians, and many more, and all that was gathered over the 600+ year reign of the Ottoman Empire.

Thank you for your time and interest,

The words in Japanese I have learned today: 菊 (chrysanthemum)、おこしやす(a traditional way to say welcome) 、近江ビーフ (a local type of beef from near Kyoto) "

Catalyzing the Future? My experience in the Chemical Engineering Lab

Towards the end of Summer 2019, I had the privilege to intern and conduct research at the Chemical Engineering Lab of Prof. Ahmet Erhan Aksoylu at Boğaziçi University, Istanbul. This experience was a key point in my discovery of my role in the field of Science, and a verification that my multidisciplinary approach to the questions of the world would allow me a unique perspective into possible answers. 

The lab investigated Catalytic Chemistry, and in particular, heterogeneous catalysis for the conversion of strong contributors of Global Warming into useful chemical precursors and a friendly source of fuel, Hydrogen gas, for the growing energy demands of the modern world. Although experimented on, through my interest in Sustainability, I have come to the realization that in addition to implementation of sustainable power sources such as Solar Panels and Lithium Ion Batteries to store them, commential implementation of radically different methods to produce and store energy should also be researched and commercialized, not only searching for cost and energy efficiency, but also environmental friendliness, non-toxic, non-flammable, with reduced Health Damages, and perfect life-cycle returns. I was also inspired to think of this through my experience in Sustainable Product Design and Innovation Ecosystem course of Dr. Ramon Sanchez, a researcher and inventor, who knows how to do business, but also has adopted the momentum to do it sustainably and encourage others to do so too. 

 An example to radical endeavors in the field of energy I mentioned above that gets me very excited is a “>1-volt, ultra-long lifetime aqueous organic redox flow battery at pH 12”, an Alkaline Quinone Flow Battery with Long Lifetime at pH 12, devised by Michael J. Aziz, Michael P Marshak, and Roy G. Gordon and their team of other fellows and students, dedicated to shaping science for the betterment of Human Environment relations. When I look at the paper, and realize the diversity of the team in Scientific Background including Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Harvard University, Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and ongoing students of Harvard College itself, and the cultural and ethnic diversity in the team, I also realize that my interest for combining disciplines and cultures around a key problem, although rarely well executed, is not unrealistic. So, this is my first step into my goal in achieving a similar environment where we smile, and make others smile with scientific research of global significance. The investigation that the assistants in the lab, the professor and I performed also directly complements their work, as well as many others such as the University of Michigan Energy Institute who performs research into new battery and transportation technologies.

The research in the catalytic chemistry lab I interned at focused particularly on the production of the fuel and other helpful precursors, and the engineering of the catalyst to do so. The reactions at question were the catalytic reforming, or Dry Reforming (DRM) of Methane (CH4) and Carbon Dioxide (CO2), two of the infamous culprits of Global Warming, which absorb Infrared emission through their appropriately tuned oscillating covalent bonds, holding in heat from the Sun, that would otherwise be radiated into the Space. This would not have been a problem if the balance of the rates of creation and consumption of these gases had not been compromised by short term industrial planning and lack of protective policies. DRM produces Carbon Monoxide (CO), and Hydrogen Gas (H2). Our hydrocarbon precursor and gas fuel. Then, we can take another catalyst where we can use the CO produced and react it further with Water Vapor to produce even more Hydrogen through a reaction referred to called Water Gas Shift, producing CO2 and some more hydrogen.

As I usually like to do, I collaborated with another High Schooler, but one who wanted to focus on the business side of the vast field, so fulfilling my interest in encountering a different perspective as well. Initially, we were lectured by the professor in concepts related to rate, equilibrium point, metallic and covalent bonding, which we had learned in school and over my courses Chemistry in Context in 2018 at Harvard, and Principles of Organic Chemistry in 2019 at Harvard, spanning 14 weeks in total. We had done 9 labs of 5 hours each during the latter, but it was very satisfying to apply my knowledge into an area of study in the industry. I was very surprised to be able to comprehend Chemistry and Engineering jargon at once, and felt closer than ever to the “real world” and being able to touch the hearts and lives of many, to which I seldom feel near in the usual school atmosphere.

During my internship, I was introduced to many perspectives into the research in the lab. After the theory, we met  young assistants in the lab. Catalysts were produced by depositing metals onto a carrier material, all of which was important for the working of the catalyst. I was lucky to follow the specific synthesis of SBA-15, a useful support material, which was a very fine powder a result of mixing a gooey gel called P-123, some acid, a few more reagents and pressure under a special vessel. I could not stop my curiosity, and looking at the chemical mechanisms involved online, I was again surprised to realize I could in fact understand how it worked. 

We were also introduced to “reactor” setups used to test the catalysts produced in a lab scale before they would possibly be implemented in the industry. The reactors were made out of stainless steel sheets and tubes, I was told were very expensive and imported. (Which made me think of the possibility of an industrial growth for metal workers on the side industrial chain to move on to through fiscal incentives to produce lab equipment for example instead of exhaust pipes for cars, they could do pipes for gas transfer). Some of the parts were improvised from what was available, since the university did not have infinite budget and they needed to buy other precision gas control and measurement of the equipment that was indispensable for the development and the study of the catalysts themselves. This made me realize that, once someone was determined to do science, any sort of economic instability or lack of funds, although requiring more effort and time, would not be a right excuse and a scientist needed to persevere. The little improvised reactors and the financially wise attitude was due to supply future aspiring scientists with the infrastructure to achieve something much more than we right now may have been able to do. This should be a scientists legacy.

Some of the precision equipment we got to work on were Mass Flow Controller and Mass Spectrograms. After being warned about the safety hazards of having explosive methane gas under 200 atmoıspheres of pressure in huge metal cylinders, we helped with the calibration oıf Mass Flow Meters, which were responsible for the precise dispensing of a volume of gas per unit time through the chamber with the catalyst inside. The factory would claim a certain level of precision, but the calibration would in most cases be inadequate. These tools were also gas specific, so one machine could only be used for a single type of molecule. The way to adapt to both of these difficulties was to spend a bit of time making a graph which would tell us which value to enter into the machine to get the gas flow we actually wanted when compared with what the MFC actually gave us. 

We used a “soap bubble” machine, which was composed of a squeezable balloon at the bottom of a simple glass pipe. You would set the flow and the machine to 0.5ml/s for example, then you would squeeze the bulb to produce a circular bubble spanning the width of the glass tube that would slowly start travelling upwards. Then, we would count how many millimeters bubbles would move up per unit time, and enter it into a spreadsheet. For example, when we would enter 10, it would actually move 15. When we gathered enough data, we would draw a graph with a best fit line, to produce a function which would later adjust for any specific value of gas flow we wanted for any gas. It was extremely surprising to see how a chronometer, a soap bubble and a glass pipe was able to race with complicated and expensive gas equipment with special filaments and precision temperatures inside. It was very inspiring, and for once, I was applying the graphing skills I have obtained from my school courses in a real life setting. 

However, the more special part of the experience for me was when we moved on to the assessment of a developed catalyst. A few metals, where the gas molecules can partially bond onto due to delocalized electrons and metal cations had been disposed onto a support material, but nobody was clear on how it worked. There are multiple steps to how a molecule bonds to a surface to make very hard to break bonds easier to break under preferred temperatures and pressures. One of these metals on the surface could be moving it to a certain transition state, and it could slide over the surface to move to another surface on the catalyst which would complete the transition. We could observe the change in gas amounts, bonded on the surface and in the air through Fourier IR, and Mass Spectrography which would give us an idea of how the steps in the mechanism might be, my removing elements from the catalyst to see how it affected, for example if we removed Platinum, would it get stuck at a certain step? Not work at all?

Through my basic knowledge of principles of Organic Chemistry I was able to guess how the proposed mechanism might be, but there was almost no way I would be correct, right? I tried to ask if it was to the assistant, but he was not able to understand some of the terminology I tried to use for molecular orbital theory, arrow pushing, electron pushing etc. which was a little disappointing. Then, I met a student that was visiting from Organic Chemistry focus, and he was able to understand me, and I was actually being reasonable and able to apply my logic into the real world, and my guesses were not that off! This made me also realize, however, that maybe Chemical Engineering was not right for me, as I had suspected, or just focusing on that, for me, would not be enough, as students had focused too much on how the machines worked, and overlooked how the molecules interacted on a quantum level, which was actually crucial for how catalysts functioned! Later, I spoke with the professor, who also taught me how the proposed mechanism worked in a simple way, and pointed out my weaknesses and mistakes, which I was very happy to correct. Again, my interdisciplinary approach in science would prove helpful. 

In addition to this, we learned how to operate a Rigaku X-ray Diffraction (XRD) machine, used to visualize crystal structure in a miniscule scale, from concrete to catalyst surfaces. We measured a pure table salt and potassium chloride sample, and I was surprised to see it worked. We also looked into more specific tools, which used lasers for absorption and many more.

During all of this, the professor was also experimenting with an idea he had, where he wanted to make open lectures for people of interest into the topic from the public, where he would get science closer to the people. This made me incredibly excited, as I had spent a chunk of my childhood watching lectures from The Royal Science Institution and universities like MIT, full of fun science demonstrations from explosions to rocketry. This also fit into my goal of sharing interest and love for science, and facilitating a safe and enjoyable environment where young people could ask questions and just have fun while learning science, instead of being stuck with theoretical and superficial school courses. I was very proud to be a part of the beginning of this important change in Turkey.

From my experience, I was also able to come up with questions of my own, that I could perform research during my professional career. For example. You can use special molecules of Boron, which is the most abundant in the world in Turkey, and falsely believed to be not very useful, to store this gas as a useful, easier and safer to transport but sadly very toxic, which could be researched further for safety and possible use. In addition to this, this made me think of other important issues related with ecology, sustainability, mainly the problem of energy storage once more, but I realized I was not very far from the scientific and cultural environment and was already able to take part in it with a unique perspective. I cannot wait to be a part of the creative, cultural and exciting science ecosystem that is University.


Navigating with Fingers: Building a map for the Visually Impaired

The black and white, high contrast, no texture image
Bogazici University Main Campus - The black and white, high contrast, no texture image

It had never occurred to me that our visually impaired friends would require another way to be informed about navigation. I am honestly ashamed about this, but I am also grateful that just after I came to this realization, I was able to take part in a project to contibute to this field.

Simply Inspired: Looking Back/Forward to Kyoto, Japan

At the end of January 2019, I achieved the most beautiful birthday gift and was on the plane to Kansai Airport Osaka, from which I would begin my two week individual dive into the Japanese culture, and the unique bridge between tradition and modern: Kyoto. As look back on the experience, I now realize the emotional impact it had on me, and the surprising realizations it led to regarding me as an individual. I miss all my friends from there so much, and all the smiles we shared. I somehow know that our paths will cross with some of them. Thank you everyone 🙂

Now, I would like to dedicate this week to a flashback into all the things I experienced, and how this short period of inspiration is shaping my outlook into the world right now. To future me, please travel Kyoto, please go to Japan, get lost there, use the language, share your own…


From the bubble


MemoCanDoes on Youtube!

I managed to lay my hands on a camera this summer while I was in the Harvard Summer School program and realized that enjoy video making quite a bit more than I thought. (Sony a6500 with an f-1.8 Prime Lens is you are interested.)

This gave me the incentive to launch a brand new youtube channel where I could share my content with people in higher definition as an expansion to the quicker and easier Instagram that I normally use.

I hope to share the links of my videos as they go up here as well!

Here are a few just to begin with, I hope to also do individual posts on some of the videos to elaborate more on the content.

Turkish Guy Visits Japan

This is a quick amateur vlog of my trip to Japan in August 2017. I was mesmerized. From food to Mt. Fuji to the Hatsune Miku concert, it was a super valuable experience for me. I wish to definitely visit again.

A new beginning!

Hey! お久しぶりねー

A lot happened since I last tried to have a go at writing up a blog mainly as a way of looking back at my past endeavours and therefor my growth over time. Though I am not sure if it would be fair to say that my last attempt was real blogging, or I do not know if it will really ever turn into one. Anyway, what I really mean is, I think I wish to have another go at this! I had a look at some of my previous entries and I think they should stay on this website as a relic to my past self ahah!

Have a great one!

From the bubble!

Photon Particle – Internet of Things

I have for many hours in the past week tinkered with this device called Photon by Particle which is essentially a tiny cute micro controller that aims to promote the wide range implementation of Internet of Things (IoT).


I first scribbled a tiny bit of code that made an RGB LED that I had lying around randomly fade through different colours using one of the Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) outputs of the Photon.

I then proceeded to try and replicate a past quick project of mine which aimed to drive an alphanumeric display via a Raspberry Pi. I hooked up a shift register and a small 7-segment display and coded the bits and bytes of simple numbers which I could instruct the controller then to output sequentially as serial through one of its pins and shift out signals which turned the LEDs in the display on and off. After few hours of problem solving and component testing I managed to make the wifi enabled Photon count through a few numbers. The nice thing about the Photon was that I could easily flash new code onto it through the Particle cloud and its easily accessible web interface.

I may follow this post with an update when I get to improve on the display output system a bit. Then I want to try new things as well such as somehow trying to make it communicate with a Raspberry pi or Arduino, could be nice. Maybe produce a little helper AI or interface for my room.

This cute little Photon was a gift of a friend of mine for my 15th birthday. Its pretty nice.

You can find Particle’s webpage here.

See ya!

From the Bubble.

(P.S. I might try and teach myself or take lessons for SolidWorks. I wanna stop being able to only print pre-made models and start producing some for my own. I know there are simpler tools but I believe this will help me be freer in the end.)


Part of the Chain

I sometimes find myself thinking about how what I am able to consume as a product, if it is the iPhone or the piece of cheese that I am eating for breakfast, how came to be in my hand or in my mouth. I also find myself trying the figure out what type of roles people and machines were involved in during this process. We have the idea that something handmade, human made always surpasses a product that is quickly produced by following a production line. I agree, but why is that the case?

I guess the reason machines were quickly involved and were behind the scenes helping out in production came to be because of how cheap on the long run it was. Handmade objects required more time, expertise and money, and the quality was not always standard, being affected by points of flaws or successes associated with a human. While some companies were able to retain the quality they originally possessed, most were affected by the easy money and missing the overlook and expertise of a human. And  the occasional love and dedication added.

What I believe should happen is people should be able to not give up quality over quantity but also learn to work in coherence with machines. How will this happen? I believe it already is happening as people are starting to realise companies abusing the quantity aspect over quality. People are willing to pay a bit more for better cheese, “organic cheese”, “ancient seeds” and this is awesome.

What we should focus on now is how we can develop machines and develop methods which will produce near human results which will be completed by humans. I fail to take humans out of the equation as although machines can be more efficient and safe in certain procedures I certainly believe humans will and should be a part of the chain they built.

The Photo of the Day is the picture of a postcard they hand out when you ask to pay in a restaurant in Bebek, Istanbul. It really does make you feel special and the warm atmosphere is made just a bit warmer by the addition of something this human. Postcards are outdated technology wise, but I love what it reminds us of. Love and, HUMAN. We are human, we make mistakes, we achieve the previously unimaginable and we should be proud of it.

I also stumbled upon a semi-new addition to the chain that is the 3D printing which although publicised in the recent years has been benign developed apparently for decades now. We are so used to it, the products varied very quickly and cheap materials were developed over what was previously inaccessible to the common consumer. It is so interesting to see how we went OH 3D printing HOW FUTURE to, oh 3d printer, I have one too… oh well. Drones, electric cars and individual flight options, they will all end up like that. However, this is a part of the chain I believe as it clears way to new innovation and constant improvement.

From the bubble

See ya!



Little Big Bubble?

The wording of the current title of this blog, that is the Little Big Bubble can sound confusing if not lame at first. But I invite you to think about it one more time for me. Your answers may vary and that is all right.

For me the idea that is a Little Big Bubble emerged from the idea that “some people have their own bubbles” or for them to be able to get along and be open with themselves and other people they need to “burst it”. I believe everybody has this methapohical Bubble which basically can impact their ability to do something. Ok, so much with the murmur. What I basically mean is according to how oneself shapes this Bubble he/she has the potential to continue doing something or not be able to build courage to do it at all while there are no real uncontrollable obstacles along the way. It might be fun to observe how this Bubble morphs into different shapes along the journey.

Another fun thing that I discovered after this is that we were all living on a little big blue bubble with occasional green and brown spread onto it: the Earth! It is spectacular to imagine that the Earth, which although after advancements in technology has become gradually smaller, still being ginormous for us, forms a tiny spec in the universe. We hardly can escape the gravitational pull of the Earth, but something weird happens then. We dream, we think, we try to produce solutions and despite feeling small I guess there really is a universe within us.

Also, I really enjoyed alliteration, you know, Big Bubble, and Bubble is a fun word anyway. So that might also be it!

From the Bubble

See ya

Why even bother blogging?

My main concern while blogging is actually probably limited to my desire to see how my mind and myself change over time and to push myself to dedicatedly process my ideas and write them out. 

The idea of someone sharing their thoughts and some things they come by in life and broadcasting it to the internet is due to be self centered, and although I do not expect much of an audience as I am doing this for myself, it could be interesting to see how others feel about what I write.

In a few years time I will probably be laughing at this beginning but, oh well future me, what can I say. You were like this and you should be proud of every achievement and mistake you may have come by. 

As to why I am choosing Web as a medium over notebooks etc. it’s just that I find it easier, and if I face any challenges while maintaining the website I figured it would be fun to try and cope with it.

Oh, and, the focus? I will not be constraining myself in any way and I do believe that it’s not worth throwing a quick thought aside to be forgotten, however I will try to not go overboard and hopefully we will have some sort of a rythem going.

As for the name, stick along to learn about it more. (p.s. Little Big Bubble).

I could have started by explaining who I was and could have done a quick autobiography but I didn’t. I might do quick updates every so often anyway about little details.

Have a nice one,

From the Bubble

Photo of the Day is a picture that I magically managed to take this morning. Apperantly there was a partial moon eclipse yesterday evening and it was beautiful. Guess who missed it 🙂