Meet the Researcher: Begüm Genç

Begüm is a CONFIRM Post-Doctoral researcher based at University College Cork

“I get the chance to talk to our students, to guide and motivate them with their studies and research”

Tell us a bit about your research...

I am currently working on optimization problems. To put it simply, my current focus is to speed up the process of finding a solution to complex problems and also enhancing the quality of the solution. My work as part of Confirm mainly spans scheduling and planning problems. We worked on an examination timetabling use-case. The administrator was spending weeks for the timetabling each semester. We were able to automate the process and find a much better solution in less than 45 minutes.
Some of the questions I have recently worked on in detail can broadly be listed as:
– “How can we create more fair timetables?”,
– “Which modeling techniques help us find quicker solutions for timetabling?”,
– “How can we distribute a given set of splittable items into vehicles for transportation such that, we use as little number of vehicles as possible / or not split items if possible?”, etc.
I have also attended a workshop in Sweden for carrying out the deep dive process of Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy AI. Subsequently, I interviewed some organizations in Europe. This hugely impacted my research by channeling my thoughts around the ethical aspect of my research.

What did you study as an Undergraduate?

I studied Computer Engineering receiving a full scholarship at Izmir University of Economics in Turkey after ranking in the top 1% in the centralized University placement exam. At the time, I was interested in studying architecture, my parents wanted me to become a doctor. On the very last day, I decided to throw a complete spanner in the works and chose computer engineering, simply because I wanted to design better computer games! It turned out I was the right fit for it and I graduated as ranked 1st in my department. I mostly focused on applied concepts such as designing computer games, graphics and developing mobile applications.

What made you decide to go into research?

My brother was an Assistant Professor in the Faculty at the University where I did my undergraduate at that time. He noticed I had a keen interest for artificial intelligence and encouraged me to zero in on a more research based, scientific path.

What do you enjoy most about being a Post-Doc?

As a post-doc, I love the fact that I have the opportunity to progressively develop my skills and explore new subjects of interest without the duty of lecturing. I get the chance to talk to our students, to guide and motivate them with their studies and research, as well as emotionally supporting them by showing a friendly face around the offices.

Do you have any advice for someone who is thinking about a career or research in STEM?

Considering that the world today evolves around technology, I encourage everyone that has the slightest interest or curiosity about STEM to explore it in great detail. I would also strongly suggest that they go further for a PhD position, if they are interested in identifying problems, solving and evaluating them, and most importantly – have self motivation.

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