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Meet Ayse Seda Demirel, TED volunteer translator

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Tell us about yourself.

My name is Ayse Seda Demirel and I was born in Izmir, located on the western shore of Turkey. I am the youngest of three daughters (by 13 years), and due to my mother’s devotion for her last child, she wouldn’t let me go to primary school until the age of 8.

I attended a private secondary school taught in English, and graduated from Ege University as a MD in 1997. I returned to Ege University in 2006 for my PhD in medical parasitology. In my 3rd year, my professor assigned my research and thesis topic (based more upon his interest than my own) as the serological diagnosis of Strongyloides stercoralis infections — or in simpler terms, studying blood serum to identify antibodies formed in response to this parasitic infection.

However, my real interest lied in Plasmodium immunology (malaria), particularly the subjects of cerebral malaria due to Plasmodium falciparum infections, Toll-like receptors, translational genes, single-nucleotide polymorphisms and adaptation. The divide between my interests and my thesis assignment was hard to handle, so very recently I took a huge step and quit my PhD in the 4th year.


What drew you to TED?

Well, I enjoy and find peace in Eastern philosophy, especially the works of Rumi on Sufism, Omar Khayyam and Krishnamurti. Their unique perception of the universe fascinates me, and they create paradox images in my mind that go beyond the ordinary. It’s so alluring. I felt the same effect after watching my first TEDTalk, “Jill Bolte Taylor’s stroke of insight,” so I jumped directly into TED and the Open Translation Project without hesitation.


Why do you translate?

I translate for those seeking an opportunity to face the power they already have inside. I love being a part of this huge collaboration of science, technology and compassion with many people all around the world. This gives me hope and ambition to work harder. TED is having a huge impact on my life.

When I shared Jill Bolte Taylor’s talk on Facebook, a friend of mine commented, “Now I get why my dad had those strange shifting delusions when he had the stroke.” I love learning and sharing new ideas, so in some sense, I have to translate. Also there’s always someone there to update you and illuminate different points of view in the comments below talks (Hi Colleen and Kurgan!). I am meeting new people all the time and getting richer and richer in knowledge with each talk I translate.


What are you favorite talks? Why?

The day I quit my PhD, Gary Vaynerchuk was on saying, “Do what you love, no excuses!” Determined to study malaria immunology, a few weeks later I packed by bags for Japan, destined for the Frontier Research Center’s malaria immunology lab at Osaka University. Now, in the words of Srikumar Rao, I am plugged into my hard-wired happiness while focusing on the process!

Many of my other favorite talks combine neuroscience and Eastern philosophy: Jill Bolte Taylor’s stroke of insight, Henry Markram builds a brain in a supercomputer and VS Ramachandran’s talks on the neurons that shaped civilization and on your mind.

I also love Bill Gates on mosquitos, malaria and education, as well as talks by Barry Schwartz, Hans Rosling, Raghava KK and Temple Grandin.