Necati Yesil began taking classes at Victor Valley College in 2018 as a concurrent student at Granite Hills High School, where he attended after emigrating from Turkey to escape violence related to political unrest.
In Fall, the 19-year-old will transfer to UC San Diego, where, through a $15,000/a year merit scholarship and additional financial aid, he will receive a full-ride education.
This award certainly didn’t come without hard work. When Yesil emigrated in his freshman year of high school, he had no knowledge of English. While he badly wanted to take Advanced Placement classes, he wasn’t able to because he’d failed a math class while struggling just to learn the language.
“I went to the principal’s office to ask if I could take AP math … they said if I wanted to study and take the AP test myself, I could,” Yesil said. “So I studied and passed the AP calculus test.”
This enabled him to start at VVC in Spring 2018 to take the first of four engineering physics courses. Yesil has now completed the full sequence, which covers mechanics, thermodynamics, electricity, magnetism, light optics and modern physics. The entire sequence of courses is taught by professor Michael Butros.
“Not every student goes through all four (courses), but it’s one of the advantages I have that some students spend nearly the entirety of their time at VVC with me,” Butros said. “Necati was very active in class and always challenging me, which is a good thing. He doesn’t challenge because he wants to be difficult, but because he wants to understand.”
Yesil became active outside of the classroom as well, becoming the VVC Physics & Engineering Club President and taking on an internship with the National Science Foundation (NSF).
As a club president, he helped organize trips to physics seminars, including some at UC Irvine.
“We did a lot of studying together and talked about advanced topics that wouldn’t usually be talked about in classes,” Yesil said. “(The club also seeks to) increase awareness and interest in physics for other students as well.”
The NSF internship came through a Centers in Research Excellence in Science and Technology (CREST) grant VVC received along with Cal State San Bernardino and College of the Desert.
The grant offers undergraduate research opportunities to students in STEM disciplines. At VVC, these opportunities consist of “winter-nships” and NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center projects.
Being a non-U.S. citizen, Yesil couldn’t be paid through the NSF grant, so the VVC Foundation helped with a campus grant to ensure he could take part in the winternship, according to Butros.
The four-week project that Yesil and six other VVC students worked on beginning in January dealt with the n-body problem, which involves predicting the motion of celestial objects interacting gravitationally.
“They did mathematical modeling and simulation,” Butros said. “It falls under dynamical systems and nonlinear programming.”
Yesil described the winternship as “a nice experience related to physics” that exposed him to upper-level subjects.
“It required a lot of collaboration, team skills and time management,” Yesil said. “We worked with things you wouldn’t normally see in community college … researched concepts that graduate-level students would see.”
After earning his bachelor’s degree in computer engineering, Yesil plans to pursue graduate school. He says artificial intelligence and modern developing technologies got him interested in his major of choice.
“Necati always asks me questions that make me think outside of what I teach … He’s a very outside-the-box type thinker,” Butros said. “He has a questioning mechanism that makes it interesting to teach him.”
Yesil has earned a 3.9 grade point average at VVC and was excited to recently learn of both his acceptance to UC Diego and the award of the merit scholarship.
“For students who want to get into these good schools and get scholarships, I would suggest to them to get involved in internships, clubs and outside activities that would show your increased interest in the field,” Yesil said.
Butros shared that while he’s proud of all his students, Yesil impressed him in particular as his first student to receive a full-ride.
“One of the reasons you go into teaching is to have these success stories — they’re better than any paycheck I could ever receive,” Butros said. “Necati’s willingness to work with others, his hard work and his dedication truly paid off.”