Member Spotlight: Meet Ece Gulkirpik

Member Spotlight is a regular INFORM magazine column that features members who play critical roles in AOCS.

Ece Gulkirpik on the colorful grounds of the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, where she is a PhD candidate.
Ece Gulkirpik on the colorful grounds of the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, where she is a PhD candidate.
Fast Facts
Name Ece Gulkirpik
Joined AOCS 2019
Education BSc in food engineering from the Istanbul Technical University (Istanbul, Turkey)
Job title PhD candidate (expected to graduate in May 2022); graduate research and teaching assistant
Employer University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign (UIUC)
Current AOCS involvement Chair, AOCS Student Common Interest Group


What’s a typical day like for you?

A typical day starts early for me at around 6 am. I’ve been working with scientists in the Sub-Saharan Africa region for my dissertation study through the Soybean Innovation Lab at UIUC. Because of the time difference, we usually have team meetings early in the morning. After these meetings, I spend most of my time working at the lab.

My favorite part of my job is…

Contributing to finding a solution for one of the world’s most important problems: global food insecurity.

Flash back to when you were 10 years old. What did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be many things, to be honest: a doctor, an architect, an artist, a chef, etc. But I remember that I was always passionate about food.

Why did you decide to do the work you are doing now?

My passion for food science stems in part from being raised by a family who let me live the joy of sharing food and honoring the long culinary tradition of our Turkish culture. As an international student from a developing country, I’m also aware of the need for change in the current food system. I aim to combine my engineering background and interest in nutrition to create sustainable food systems to enable everyone to access safe and sufficient food. My doctoral research is, therefore, focused on developing and evaluating processing technologies to improve the utilization of soybean products and to promote the health and nutrition of vulnerable populations in low-resource settings.



How do you relax after a hard day of work?

It depends how tired I feel. If it is a day filled with lab work, I prefer to stay at home, watch my favorite shows on Netflix such as Squid Game and La Casa de Papel, maybe listen to some music, and rest. However, if I still have some energy, I go out to play tennis or hang out with my friends.

What skill would you like to master?

I would like to improve my data visualization and presentation skills. Grad school taught me that performing science in the lab is very important, but communicating the results of that work—in other words, delivering the story behind one’s research and answering the “why” questions—are as important as your scientific skills. And one of the ways to explain your work efficiently is to be able to use data visualization and presentation tools effectively.

What are some small things that make your day better?

Video calls with my family in Turkey always brighten my day. Their endless love and support are my biggest motivation.

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