Gulce Nazli Dikecligil
Class of 2010, Major: Biomedical Engineering

Prof. Lilianne Mujica-Parodi, Biomedical Engineering

"You have to sit on the edge. And I think that was the worst —sitting, dangling off the edge.. You can feel the air go through you. He counts 1 2 3 and then you jump out. That’s when your heart stops for a moment. . . "

Interview:

Researchers of the Month: past features

Photo (above): Long Island SkyDive, July 2007, G.N. Dikecligil & Tandem Master Dunkin; Skydiving Video & Photography Services.






Researcher of the Month

About Naz

DikecligilskydiveWhen your research supervisor says “Jump”, you ask: “How high?” But for one BME major, the project involved a distance of approximately 10,000 feet!

Gulce Nazli Dikecligil, known to her friends as “Naz”, has been a dedicated member of the Laboratory for the Study of Emotion and Cognition (LSEC) run by Prof. Lilianne Mujica-Parodi of the Department of Biomedical Engineering since spring 2007. As part of an ONR-funded project investigating the neurobiology of fear and stress, Naz had the opportunity to participate in a tandem sky dive and contribute to the data collection in a very personal way! More routinely, in the past two and a half years, she has performed heart-rate variability analyses on ECG data using MATLAB-based code, done statistical analyses on complex data sets (ECG, electrodermal activity, and respiration), and been involved in clinical work with subjects on acute-stress protocols in a pheromone/EEG study. Naz is a first-author on two of the laboratory’s manuscripts (in preparation) and hopes to spend her 5th year at Stony Brook— before graduating in Spring 2010 — completing her BME major requirements (including Senior Design), taking GREs/applying to graduate school Ph.D. programs in the fall, and spending more time on her research!

The sky dive notwithstanding, it should be noted that Naz is adept at physical feats, having played for the last 4 years on the Stony Brook women's volleyball team with an impressive average of 0.66 aces per set (more than any other Division I player!), and a fourth-all time Stony Brook single season history of 71 aces. Naz also enjoys being a member of in the interdisciplinary BME team: “We are very close—the BME undergrads. We do a lot of events together. We try to hang out and spend time together. We are a smaller department too. So we work really closely with our advisors and professors. Everyone knows each other. If we need help with anything, they’re always there.

This summer, Naz was awarded a URECA fellowship to support her work on a new lab project on “set shifting”: modeling visual signal detection as a function of the net coherence of moving stimuli. Naz has also volunteered to help mentor one of the high school students doing research in the laboratory this summer, and enjoys being a physics tutor for Athletics. Though born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey, Naz feels very much at home at Stony Brook, and in her LSEC lab: “I have a key to the lab. And having a key is a physical attachment. So those are keys I have—for my bike, my room and the lab. That shows how important the lab is for me!” Below are some excerpts of her interview with URECA Director, Karen Kernan.

The Interview

Karen: How did you first become involved in research?
Naz: I work with Dr. Mujica Parodi. I’ve been with her for two and a half years. The work in the lab is mostly seeing how people react under fearful situations or how we can relate people’s behavior under stressful conditions with their personality traits. Now I’m working on a project where we look at how people react under ambiguous situations and how they make their decisions.  We record ECG, heart rate data, GSR, skin response, and other physiological data.

How did you find your mentor?
Prof. Mujica-Parodi [Lily] was my teacher for BME 100 which is Introduction to Biomedical Engineering course. During the class she would talk about her research and I thought it was very interesting what she was doing. After the class ended, I emailed her and mentioned that I wanted to do research with her. She had an opening and she accepted me. And I’ve really enjoyed my time working with her.

What’s the lab atmosphere like?
We actually have a big lab now. We have 5 undergraduates working in the lab, 3 post docs and 2 graduate students. It’s a very friendly environment. For a lot of the work, we need help from each other. If someone is good in a certain area, we go and ask them for help. The undergrads help out the grad students and post docs on various projects too. We depend on each other a lot. It’s really a nice friendly environment.

Do you have regular lab meetings?
We usually meet every Monday morning. We set our plan for the week, and try to follow that. Then next week, we sit down, and see if we can accomplish that.

How do you balance school work/academics, with research?
Don’t forget volleyball. Volleyball was a full time job. We had practice 4 hours a day. We were mostly away on the weekends for tournaments. So it did require a lot of time. . . But I found that the more I have in my hands, the better I get at doing them. I don’t like it when I have a lot of time on my hands. So most of the time, I plan everything. I write: “8-9, breakfast. 9-12, practice, etc.”. I schedule everything! . . . For me, the lab work varies. Sometimes we need something to be done right away; sometimes we don’t have data coming in, so I don’t come in as often It’s not as regular a schedule as volleyball where it was a set 9-12 practice.

Are you going to miss volleyball this year?  
I always experienced school being very busy, being an athlete. But you can only play 4 years - that’s a rule of the NCAA. I think having one year of not being as busy will be good for me to get involved in other aspects of the campus. It works out well. I’ve been playing since 5th grade so it’s been a really long time for me. It's always been very competitive. Every day, you have to go to practice.….In the summers,  my friends would ask me to go other places, and I would always say, “No I have practice.” People who haven’t done something like that don’t understand, you can’t not go to practice, it doesn’t work that way.

This summer, URECA is funding full time research. Is it valuable, do you think, to have a whole day dedicated to research?
Yes, I really enjoy it. You don’t have to leave at a certain time. If something doesn’t get done, I can stay and finish it. There’s no class to go to….and also, after I leave the lab, I can go home and read some papers if I want to. I can follow up on things I'm curious about. You don’t have to worry about anything else. You can just focus on research….

What would you say is one of your best days of research?  
I think the best experience was when I did the sky dive and . . .

…a sky dive?
Sky-diving—yes that’s the main project that we have in the lab. What we do is we test how people react under fearful situations. . . . Two summers ago, I did actually sky dive myself. I did the study. That was a really great day! I actually experienced it myself. I could understand how the study worked. I could understand when I was analyzing the data how the data made sense, in a way, because I could relate it to myself.

Were you scared?
Yes, especially right before you have to jump. They open the door and you feel all the air coming in. You think, “am I really going to jump out of the plane?” I was attached to the tandem master. Another guy, filming me, jumped first. I saw him falling out of the plane, he just jumped and disappeared……. You have to sit on the edge. And I think that was the worst sitting, dangling off the edge.. You can feel the air go through you. He counts 1 2 3 and then you jump out. That’s when your heart stops for a moment. Once you realize you’re in the air you can enjoy it. . . . I really enjoyed it, after the first two seconds.

What’s the most interesting finding?
We collect sweat from the subjects to see if there is such a thing that we can call an alarm pheromone. Our most interesting finding is when other people not aware of the situation smell the sweat of someone who did the sky dive, and we see a different type of activation in their brain. So people actually can detect fear in other people, not consciously but unconsciously. That’s a really interesting finding that’s going to be published.

Do you have more routine days . . .even a few tedious days here and there?
They happen quite often! Sometimes you do something for the whole day trying to figure it out and then it turns that you don’t have to do it, or there’s another way of doing it, something you didn’t think of.

How has doing research enhanced your education?
I think it definitely helps, because when you do your classwork, then you can see how to apply it to the real world. What you learn in class is not simply an abstract idea. You can think of it in terms of research or what could be done in the area. It helps you to see how it could be applied in real life. . . . Doing research also helps you to decide what you want to do later on in your life, what interests you and what doesn’t interest you. In my case, I really liked the research I did so I have decided to continue in this area and to go to graduate school in the field of biopsychology or neuroscience. But if I didn’t like it, then I would know what I don’t like and could choose something else.

What have you learned from your mentor?
She is a really good role model. She manages to be a professor, have a great family life (three kids), everything at the same time. At the same time, she’s really organized. She knows how to communicate with everyone, communicate with us in the lab and other people outside the lab to keep the research going smoothly. I’ve learned a lot as far as how research should be conducted and how to deal with people.

Tutoring also involves communication skills. Do you enjoy your work as a tutor?
I really enjoy tutoring actually! Right now I’m tutoring physics (with Athletics), and I think it’s really fun. I really enjoy it. Before, I would help out my friends, make extra time to help them with certain subjects…so it prepared me. Tutoring really helps you to understand your subjects better. Sometimes you think you understand it, but when you have to explain it you realize that you can’t explain it…So with tutoring, it makes you clear your thoughts and order them. To be able to explain, you really have to understand what you’re talking about.

Have you always been good at math?
I think it started in 1st grade. I remember we had a math book and at the end of the year we didn’t finish it. We had a lot of things we didn’t cover. I remember that after school ended, I sat down and I finished the book and did all the problems. I think that was the turning point for me! I decided then: I'm good at math and this is fun. I always thought from that point on that it wasn’t a scary subject for me.

Do you have any advice for other students?
The most important thing is communicating with people. If you find something interesting, and it seems like you might want to work with it, you should just go and talk to the professor. They’re more often than not very friendly and helpful. You could end up working with them or they might direct you in the right way, in terms of your interest. For new students just starting at Stony Brook, keep in mind that professors are always very busy but they always need extra help. If you are willing to give your time and do something in the lab, professors are usually willing to accept it.

What qualities are important for research?
I think curiosity should be the first thing. Because if you’re not curious about it…if you don’t have a question in your mind that you want to get answers for, I don’t think it really works out. Doing the research would feel like a burden on you. … You don’t want to do it just because it looks good on a resume. If you really want to be in the field, you should pick something that you’re curious about!