Clarkson University Assistant Professor of Physics Arzu Çolak was recently one of only 12 scientists featured in the NuNano Women in AFM (atomic force microscopy) blog.
Atomic force microscopy (AFM) is a type of scanning probe microscopy with a resolution in fractions of a nanometer, more than 1000 times better than an optical microscope's limit.
NuNano is a company specializing in the design and manufacture of probes for atomic force microscopy and cantilever-based sensor devices.
In the blog, NuNano says that it realized showcasing the AFM work of women was fundamental to the development of the AFM community and that it become evident to them how difficult it is to find women in AFM from underrepresented backgrounds.
In its most recent blog, NuNano interviewed Çolak, who shared her thoughts on why building a community of women in AFM is critical to the wider AFM community and the need for greater diversity and representation.
In the interview, Çolak noted that she had been in the AFM community for almost 13 years working in institutions where the majority of group leaders or principal investigators were men. "Even today, if you look at the research groups studying AFM-related topics, you will see that they are mostly directed by men," she says. "I do not believe that the problem is a lack of women leaders in the AFM field, but the absence of visibility or a platform for their voices.
Çolak thinks that to increase the number of women scientists in the AFM field, it is important to increase the visibility of women in AFM-related studies. She views them as role models to give women undergraduate and graduate students and postdocs courage and hope.
"During my own journey, there was a lack of women AFM scientists showcased, so I was only aware of a limited number of women scientists in the field," says Çolak. "This was discouraging and I felt alone most of the time. However, the more I saw other women in AFM showcased, the more I believed in being one of them in the future."
Çolak says that women scientists in every field, especially underrepresented group members, struggle to gain acceptance or find space. But she sees positive developments from the younger generation, which she says is more open and fearless in discussing their identities. "I believe seeing and hearing other people from underrepresented groups triggers this courage," she says. "So, being united and supporting each other may help to find solutions or remove barriers."
"Having worked in many different countries, it is also clear to me that every country approaches diversity and inclusion in different ways," she adds. "Unfortunately, there are cultural issues, which cannot be removed in a single day. For this reason, bringing together a more diverse range of women requires both a determined effort and patience."
Çolak joined Clarkson in July 2020 and conducts independent research in the field of surface and interface physics with scanning probe microscopy-based methods. Her main research interests include surface and interface physics, nanotribology, nanomechanics, mechanobiology, and chemical mechanical planarization.
Read Colak's full blog interview at https://www.nunano.com/blog/2021/11/18/women-in-afm.