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Science & Serendipity: A Valentine's story from the lab

February 14, 2013

Tracey Barnett


From the left: GSBS Professor Sharon Dent, Ph.D., and Dean Michelle Barton, Ph.D., stand with GSBS students Zeynep Coban, Kadir Akdemir and Aundrietta De Van Duncan at Coban and Akdemir's wedding in Turkey. The group celebrated the couple's nuptials in the summer of 2012.

Every day students from the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences work on projects in hopes of making great scientific discoveries in their labs. Sometimes their discoveries lead to more than advancements in research – sometimes they lead to love as in the case of newlyweds Kadir Akdemir and Zeynep Coban. 

Akdemir and Coban had a grand wedding in their home country of Turkey in the summer of 2012, but they first met at GSBS while working in the lab of Dean Michelle Barton, Ph.D. in 2010. 

“We were colleagues before we started dating,” said Coban. “At that time, I was a rotation student in Dr. Barton’s lab, where Kadir was a third-year graduate student.” 

“During my application process to GSBS, I was searching through the names in different labs in order to contact somebody to have more information about the school,” said Coban.  “One of the first names I came across was Kadir’s. Also, since it is a Turkish name, it caught my attention immediately. I e-mailed to him with a lot of questions about the school and the program. He wrote me back, answering all of my questions. This was our first contact, but we met in person at school during the week of orientation.” 

The couple has worked together in the lab for nearly two years.  Then in 2012 they decided to get engaged. 

“It was a simple but very personal proposal,” said Akdemir. It was March, the night of the supermoon (an occurrence when the full moon is closer to the Earth than any other time).

“I love the full moon nights so I decided to use that opportunity and told my (our) story while we were walking outside and staring to the moon somewhere near Rice Village.” 

And while getting married while in graduate school may not be the opportune time for some, Akdemir and Coban knew it was right for them. 

“As graduate students in the same lab/school, we decided to start our married life while pursuing our degrees so that we can support each other and share the academic/non-academic duties when either of us needed some help. At the end of the day we understand what we both are going through and wanted to share it instead of try to tackle it individually,” said Akdemir. 

While studying at GSBS, they enlisted the help of their families to plan their wedding in Turkey which included a few members of GSBS: fellow lab mate Aundrietta De Van Duncan, Professor Sharon Dent, Ph.D.; and Dean Barton. 

“Since we have all of our families and most of our friends in Turkey, we wanted to be all together with them at this special event,” said Coban. 

“We were so lucky to have wonderful families, dealing with every detail about the wedding. Since we were both very busy and far away, they took charge of everything, especially my younger brother (Omer) – it was a good experience for his coming wedding and my youngest uncle (Sahin),” said Akdemir.    

“The only difficulty that we had about my wedding dress,” added Coban. “My dress was tailored from scratch in just two weeks after we went back to Turkey.” 

Also during this time, Dean Barton visited with GSBS alumnus Mustafa Ozen, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor at Yeditepe University in Istanbul. But once the dress was done, and the sightseeing was through, the party was ready to begin. 

“We had two nights for our wedding. The first one called “Henna night” took place in Izmir. At this night, I had a traditional costume. Our friends and family members sang traditional songs and danced, surrounding me. It was emotional, meanwhile, so entertaining,” said Coban. “The second wedding, a modern one, was performed in Yalova, which is Kadir’s hometown. We had so much fun with our friends and families.” 

“I was honored to be able to experience their wedding,” said De Van Duncan. “I will be forever grateful to them and their families.  It was truly a once in a lifetime experience. It was a blast!”

“We are so grateful to our advisor Dr. Michelle Barton, Dr. Sharon Dent and our dear friend and fellow graduate student Aundrietta Duncan for attending our wedding and sharing this wonderful experience with us,” said Akdemir and Coban. “Our families and we felt so honored and happy to have them in Turkey. Their presence made our wedding an unforgettable memory for us.” 

Akdemir and Coban returned to GSBS after their nuptials as they continue to pursue their career goal of becoming independent researchers having postdoctoral positions in well-established labs. 

“We have a strong perception that our postdoctoral training will make us fulfilled enough for the next step: setting our own lab,” said Akdemir and Coban. “If we can obtain a chance to have our own lab in the future, our lab will be determined to put a great amount of effort into understanding mechanisms of cancer by integrating different experimental and computational methods. We have a strong belief in this kind of integrative approach to solve various biological problems.”