Unal Yigit Ozulku

Yigit is an international student from Istanbul, Turkey. During his high school years, he merged his passion for STEM with a strong desire to create social impact, taking part in numerous internships, research projects, and social innovation efforts.

At Columbia Engineering, he looks forward to conduct research at the intersection of cutting-edge technology, sustainability, and public policy, hoping to address environmental issues on a global scale.

To utilize his set of skills as an aspiring engineer while initiating tangible change in different communities, Yigit interned as an R&D assistant in the EU Horizon 2020 Smart Cities & Communities Project, where he assessed new technologies to integrate into buildings and big infrastructure projects, developed urban structure designs by utilizing AI and machine learning, and filed three patent applications. Prior to this, he assisted the project leader at the Marmaray complex, a railroad tunnel connecting both sides of the Bosphorus Strait, which provided him with an ideal setting to learn about state-of-the-art applications of earthquake engineering. In parallel, Yigit lead a research on air quality assessment using UAVs, developing a custom-made quadcopter drone to track the distribution of particulate matter in the atmosphere via a map-based user interface. Having published his findings in a scientific journal, he aims to empower local communities, academia, and NGOs in the environmental decision-making process.

Apart from his scholastic endeavors, Yigit also sought to tackle the social, economic, and infrastructural issues of his community by being involved in a variety of NGOs. As part of the Social Innovation Lab (SOIL), he traveled to Iznik, Turkey to address the excessive environmental degradation in the local ecosystem caused by industrial smog and other chemical pollutants. Building on his individual research project, Yigit supervised a research team to employ UAV technology and dispatch remote-controlled drones to assess air quality, allowing local NGOs and government personnel to identify and respond to the causes of excess pollution. Currently, he is leading another group on an ongoing project to introduce remote-controlled drones as an affordable replacement for the motorboats the gendarmerie uses to detect illegal fishing activities during ban season.

In an effort to bridge the opportunity gap for people with limited access to education, Yigit took part in the Maker Routes Project, an initiative funded by the U.S. Embassy in Turkey. As a co-instructor at the project, he introduced children in disadvantaged neighborhoods of Istanbul, Gaziantep, and Izmir to the disciplines of electronics, coding, design thinking, and 3D modelling. Yigit was also actively involved in the Robotel (Eng: Robotic Hand) Project, wherein he contributed to the development of ergonomic and affordable neurorobotic arms controlled by EMG and EEG biosensors. As a member of the design department, he made effective use of his proficiency in CAD software and conducted virtual simulations using SolidWorks to test the movement and linkage of various joint designs.

In his spare time, Yigit enjoys reading postmodern literature (and occasionally sci-fi), singing with his fellow chorists at the Istanbul State Orchestra Youth Choir, playing the guitar, curating the meme archive on his computer, and debating, always eager to learn about and discuss new ideas ranging from scientific breakthroughs to age-old questions of philosophy. Yigit is also a cartophile and a geography enthusiast: having represented Turkey in the International Geography Olympiad (iGeo), he is currently an organizer at iGeo 2020, which is set to be in Istanbul.