School of Art, Media, and Technology

Meet The Awesome People In DT: Hilal Koyuncu

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The Design and Technology MFA program is full of energetic, unique individuals who work together to think, inspire, and create with technology. This series, by journalist Rachel Signer, provides a glimpse into some of the people in the DT division of the Art, Media, and Technology program who work that make DT such a great place to work and study. This one is about second-year student Hilal Koyuncu, who is building on her science background to reach for a wide-open “blue sky” of dreams. Read on…

What year are you and what program are you in? What did you do in college?

I’m a second-year in the D&T MFA. I studied cellular biology and molecular genetics at the University of Maryland. I’m from Istanbul, originally. I was doing research at Cornell Medical College on vascular diseases. I had all these ideas and I couldn’t implement them in a lab because it would take forever to get a grant and do the research. So I decided I would learn more about technology and design to quickly prototype ideas.

What is your favorite thing about being a student at Parsons?
I can come up with quirky, crazy ideas, and it’s okay. You can’t be crazy in a lab – they judge you for not thinking like a scientist. This is a safe environment. You can think about “blue sky” concepts – without limitations of budget or skill, just an ideal scenario – and then you follow it. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll implement it, but it opens all the doors and you can come up with interesting ideas throughout the journey of following the blue sky dream. I like seeing people who are interested in what I bring to the table as a scientist, and I feel appreciated in this environment. I’ve learned so many new things – coding, physical computing – on a short amount of time. We’re pushed to learn everything really quickly. And I feel confident about what I can do with those things in the future.

What do you like, and not like, about living in New York City?

There are a lot of opportunities. People are interested in so many different aspects of art, design, music. There are shows, competitions, communities. The crowd that I’m surrounded by is full of creatives, and I like being amongst them. But I hate how everything is a competition. Even getting a cab is a competition – you have to be there first. Everybody wants to be in New York and it makes it more difficult to get into the competition without losing your courage and motivation. It’s hard. But D&T is a supportive environment because they are used to dealing with this, and they encourage me to continue. And the weather, I hate weather.

What are you working on right now that is exciting to you?

My thesis project. It’s exciting and scary. I’m trying to invent machines that are responsive to your emotions. I’m still building the concept. It will create a safe and familiar environment where the user would feel comforted. This user is a very busy New Yorker who is too busy to socialize and comes home to be in a happy environment. I’m creating five objects for five different senses, and I hope it will be a realistic experience. I’m reading scientific studies to help me with that. I’m incorporating biometric sensors to communicate users’ state of mind through a wireless network of machines in a home setting, and the machines would respond. If I can come up with a solid methodology, and figure out how I could create these objects, I could be confident enough to take the project further and maybe get funded to work more on it.

What’s something unique about your background that influences how you work?

Science influences my design process a lot. That’s my training – to figure out systems that control other systems, and manipulating those systems to create certain circumstances. Design research is usually based on qualitative data. You look at the user, you observe, you ask questions, you make assumptions. And it works. It’s really fascinating. We don’t really do that in science – we base our research mostly on quantitative data. So this kind of thinking that we do here is leading me into an interesting place where I’m combining scientific methodology and the traditional design process, to create new frameworks of designing things

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