Meet a T-bird Transforming the Medical Field

Ayse Ulgen

Alumna, Class of 2017

My name is Ayse Ulgen, and I am originally from Cyprus. I am a Fulbright and Chevening Scholar, and I hold a BSc Hons in Computer Science with Statistics from Queen Mary University of London, a PhD in Applied Mathematics and Statistics from Stony Brook University, and a Masters in Global Management from the Thunderbird School of Global Management. A true T-bird, I have lived and worked in six countries, and I am conversant in several languages.  I think languages, especially at a young age, help enhance creative thinking capacity and improve problem- solving skills.

Growing up in a divided country like Cyprus, I experienced hardship, though I was lucky because my family always taught me the importance of loving all humankind and to be patient and tolerant. As a result, I appreciate internationalism and global citizenship, important values of what it means to be a T-bird.

My journey to Thunderbird brings to mind the saying ‘Life is what happens to you when you are busy making other plans’ by John Lennon. In 2015, I was at Columbia University as a Fulbright Visiting Research Fellow when a Thunderbird alum/mentor who lives in Paris referred me to Thunderbird, where I became a fortunate recipient of the TACAS, TIAA, and SHARE scholarships, Thunderbird’s most prestigious scholarship and executive mentorship program.

I would say that attending Thunderbird was one of the best times of my life and transformational. It was a mix of learning new knowledge, career and professional development, expanding my network, and making new friends. I was lucky to have some of the best professors in their field such as Professor Sully de Luque, Professor Hunsaker, Professor Auh, Professor Babarinde, Professor Leclerc, and Professor Inkpen to count a few.

During my second year at Thunderbird, I secured an internship at the Keiretsu Forum, one of the largest global angel networks. I worked as Research Specialist on digital marketing, survey design, and analysis for Thunderbird on the topics of influential global business leaders, business attitudes, globally admired companies, and corporate reputation. This all led me to do an internship in market research at the Thunderbird Independent Alumni Association office in Scottsdale, Arizona, and I received the Global Excellence Award.  I also found my current work at Botanisol Analytics through the Thunderbird network.

A U.S.-based innovative biotechnology startup, Botanisol has developed the world’s first autonomous disease screener.  The machine provides accurate results in seconds, is portable and low cost, has software updateable against future pathogens and threats, can be used with minimally trained medical personnel, and can be used in remote environments dealing with biothreats. This means our device will be especially helpful in developing countries with poor infrastructure and health systems where there is a shortage of trained medical personnel and access to technology.

I was recently promoted to VP of Research at Botanisol.  I collaborate with biomedical researchers globally. I manage the COVID-19 machine learning validation study of Botanisol Analytics’ medical device in collaboration with the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School in Boston. We also are conducting a field study in Namibia to screen people with COVID-19.

COVID-19 had a devastating effect on the global population and economy and still continues to do so. We don’t know when the next biothreat or pandemic will strike. We need to be prepared. At Botanisol Analytics, we understand this, and we are working on adding additional pathogens to our portfolio. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, there are at last 32 pathogen, biotoxin, or agricultural threats that could be used as biological attacks. In short, this is very important because we need to be able to quickly and accurately identify the next potential biothreat before it has a chance to pose a threat to humanity.

Our device has the potential to revolutionize the healthcare system of the future, especially in third world countries like Namibia with poor infrastructure. The device is also of interest for military and special forces; law enforcement; or at airports, large sport stadiums, or gatherings where one needs to screen people quickly and cheaply.

Having lived and worked in several countries, I have the chance to tap on my network to build research collaborations and to speak in different languages with our customers and collaborators at Botanisol. In my opinion, internationalism promotes humanitarism, empathy for other cultures, peace, and economic stability.

At Botanisol Analytics, I am able to utilize not only my analytic and research skills, but I am also able to use my presentation, communication, negotiation, teamwork, and writing skills as well; in short, I use all the good things we learned at Thunderbird.

We have a great team at Botanisol. Collaboration, teamwork, and innovation in spite of the unknown are significant values for our company. We welcome T-birds to reach out to us for internships. We always look for people who are very competent with technology, who understand health systems and sustainable development, and who have a global mindset.  It is also important to have good analytic skills; enjoy teamwork; and to be a problem solver, flexible, and creative with good communications and negotiations skills. Most importantly, it is important to be able to be adapt to changing circumstances, an important value we learn as T-birds.

Students interested in connecting with me can reach out at or connect with me on LinkedIn.

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