Zehra Sayers

Friday, 27 March 2020 at 13:00 in room 48e, EMBL Hamburg

Zehra Sayers, Sabanci University, Istanbul, Turkey

SESAME: a bright light in the Middle East


Science and principles of scientific conduct are universal, leading to worldwide communication of ideas and trust among its practitioners. Scientists, as much as they may compete, they also easily reach across borders and collaborate for common goals. 

In this talk I am going to introduce to you SESAME (Synchrotron light source for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East, www.sesame.org.jo), a collaborative effort for a synchrotron facility for advanced research in the Middle East. Eight countries, Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, Iran, Jordan, Palestinian Authority, Pakistan and Turkey, supported by several observer countries, have worked together to bring this facility to life and start producing results. Currently, it is in the third round of calls for project proposals for its three beamlines with two more beamlines becoming operational in the next two years.

I believe synchrotron radiation facilities offer a special research environment and in the case of SESAME there are even more special aspects that I will discuss. I will also explore some possibilities related to SESAME’s future, including its users, how it can become a truly international lab and how this scientific endeavour can reach out to society at large, beyond scientists.


Zehra Sayers, is a professor of Biophysics and one of the founding members of Faculty of Engineering and Natural Sciences at Sabanci University (SU), Turkey. She has also served as the Director of Foundations Development (Core Curriculum) Program (2010-2018) and as the interim President of SU (2018).

Professor Sayers has an international research career including working as a staff scientist at EMBL Hamburg and post doc work at the open University Oxford Research Unit, UK and the Wallenberg Laboratory in Uppsala Sweden. Currently she is on a research sabbatical at the EMBL Hamburg Unit.  Her latest research focus is on mechanisms of iron binding and release from a bacterial iron transporter.

Professor Sayers has been the Chair of the Science Advisory Committee (SAC) of SESAME (Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East) for over 15 years. She is a recipient of the Rammal Award (2017) for her scientific research as well as contributions, as Chair of SAC, to the SESAME project from its construction to maturation as an international user facility. For this she was also a co-recipient of the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s 2019 award for Science Diplomacy and she was included in the BBC list of 100 Most Inspiring and Influential Women of 2019.

Professor Sayers is the Chair of the Steering Committee for the Turkish Accelerator project at Ankara University, Turkey and an honorary member of the Science Academy of Turkey.

Read more about SESAME and EMBL alumna Zehra Sayers here.