One of Turkey's very own, Ph.D. researcher Özge Akbulut is looking to win the Chair's Award of the Newton Prize, a U.K.-based research and innovation fund, for her landmark project to help breast cancer patients.
Her project titled "Design and fabrication of synthetic tissue and organ models for surgical trainings" aims to improve "outcomes for breast cancer patients by training surgeons in a technique that removes tumors while retaining healthy tissue," according to the Newton Fund. The project also has the backing of the British Association of Breast Surgery.
Akbulut, who is currently an associate professor at Sabancı University in Istanbul, also worked with British heart surgeon Dr. Sue Down and will be entitled to funds worth up to 500,000 pounds ($671,000) if selected for the Chair's Award.
Akbulut welcomed her candidacy for the award on Twitter, saying: "Honored to be shortlisted. If we receive the Prize, our team, Dr. Sue Down of University of East Anglia and Dr. Mel Mckendrick of Optomize Ltd, will devise unprecedented access to surgical education in ODA countries. It is time to rethink/redesign education!"
Honored to be shortlisted. If we receive the Prize, our team, Dr Sue Down of @uniofeastanglia and @DrMelMckendrick of @OptomizeLtd, will devise unprecedented access to surgical education in ODA countries. It is time to rethink/redesign education! #LeaveNoOneBehind #NewtonPrize https://t.co/Eie3wmAgAz— Ozge Akbulut (@matist_ozge) August 19, 2020
The winning projects will be announced this November via a virtual awards ceremony.
In a recent interview with Turkish daily Milliyet, Akbulut said that she believed the project would be completed in 1 1/2 years.
Reiterating that breast cancer was the most common cancer among women, Akbulut said: "The breast models we designed and produced contribute to learning and gaining practice in especially breast-protecting techniques for surgeons."
With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic affecting millions across the world, she said she and her colleagues had begun a search for ways to "combine online and face-to-face training."
"We thought about how to provide surgeons with online and physical training and came up with a system," she said. "We suggested a structure where the surgeon's eye and hand movements will be screened while working on an existing breast model, thus allowing us to evaluate their performances in training surgery."
Noting that such training has never been done before, she said surgeons anywhere across the globe can be trained through this system.
"Once we complete this, we will come up with an online platform that provides not only training on the breast model but also a place where the learning progress can be followed. This will be the first in history. We want everyone to reach surgical education without leaving anyone behind," she said.
If the results they obtain are successful, the project could also be implemented in other parts of the body within three years, she added.
4 other Turkish scientists shortlisted
In addition to the Chair's Award, another prize of up to 200,000 pounds will be awarded by the Newton Fund to another project in high-quality research and impact.
Among projects from Egypt, Jordan, Kenya and South Africa, there are four different projects from Turkey shortlisted for the Newton's Prize.
Elif Nur Fırat Karalar of Istanbul's Koç University is shortlisted as a candidate for the prize for her project titled "Dissecting the role of centriolar satellites in spatiotemporal regulation of centriole duplication."
Professor Memed Duman of Hacettepe University in the capital Ankara is shortlisted as a candidate for the prize for his project "A SPR Sensor System using Molecular Imprinted Polymer-Nanoparticle composites for Ultrasensitive detection of Pharmaceutical Emerging Contaminants in Fresh Water Sources."
Professor Mustafa Şahmaran of Hacettepe University is also shortlisted for the prize for his project "Lego Construction System of 'Green' Structural Components for Low-cost Housing."
Professor Ebru Emekli-Alturfan of Istanbul's Marmara University is shortlisted for her project "Collaborative Research on Epigenetic Effects of BPA, BPS and BPF as Potential Endocrine Disrupting Environmental Pollutants in Zebrafish Embryos."