BY MARYAM SHAHID (CS/II)
Asst. Prof. Hüseyin Can Aksoy is a graduate of the Bilkent University Faculty of Law. He holds a master’s degree from Ankara University and a PhD from Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg in Germany. In 2017 he received an Outstanding Young Scientist Award from the Science Academy of Turkey and a Young Scientist Award from the Science Academy. Currently, he is a faculty member and associate dean in the Faculty of Law and co-director of Bilkent’s Law and Economics Implementation and Research Center.Why did you become a professor?
When I was an undergraduate student, my professors encouraged me to consider an academic career. I was hard-working, very interested in the law and asked a lot of questions. Once, when he was introducing me to a colleague, Prof. Erden Kuntalp said, “He was born to be an academician.” Perhaps that’s correct. I love to read and write, but at the same time, I enjoy teaching as much as I like doing research.
Why/how did you choose Bilkent? What do you like most about being at Bilkent?
Being at Bilkent feels like being at home. And considering the fact that you have the coolest home in the country, with its campus, library and sports facilities, and the quality of the faculty, students and research, where else would you want to be?
What projects are you working on currently?
Currently I’m working on data protection law. Actually, I was one of the first lawyers in Turkey to publish on data protection when the issue first emerged more than a decade ago. I had already published a book and several articles on the issue, but now, after Turkey’s enacting of the Data Protection Law and as a result of contemporary legal developments at the EU level, the issue is even hotter and the problems are even more complicated.
What’s your best work?
I think no scientist can point to one of his works as the “best.” Once you finish and publish a paper, the next phase is self-criticism. There’s always room for improvement, and I tend to criticize myself very harshly.
What excites you about your work? / What’s the coolest thing about your work?
I very much enjoy being in the classroom with my students. I like challenging them academically, encouraging them to push their limits. And as I do this, they know how much I care about them. It’s a privilege to have the opportunity to touch young people’s lives.
Could you share a turning point or defining moment in your career?
While I was working in a “to-die-for” position as a corporate lawyer in an international law office, I went to İstanbul for a weekend vacation. Following a very pleasant concert, at 4 a.m. I got an email saying that I had to be back in the office the next morning. As I was trying to find some means of transport to get there, I realized that such work was not appropriate for me, and that life is too short to be doing a job where you feel like you’re just doing a job. Now I have a job where I’m paid to do what I enjoy.
What has been the most exciting moment of your career so far?
I would say my PhD thesis defense colloquium in Germany, but I guess I have a better moment: the time a student of mine said, “When I got into law school I wanted to become Harvey Specter, but now I want to be Hüseyin Can Aksoy!” That’s the best compliment I’ve ever received.
What’s one piece of information from your field that you think everyone should know?
The law is an indispensable part of our lives. Therefore, everybody has an opinion about it and what it must be. However, unlike math, biology, history and so on, we don’t learn anything about law unless we study it at university. Everyone should know that law is a very technical field that you must receive instruction in to understand. Unless you get such instruction, your legal deductions are very likely to be wrong. In this regard, being a lawyer is no different than being a surgeon.
When and where do you do your best thinking?
Any means of transportation is a perfect place for thinking. Thinking while on a plane also helps lessen my flight anxiety.
What distracts you?
It might sound a little pretentious, but nothing! If I’m determined to work, I can shut myself off from the world.
What are you most curious about?
I want my son Arda to grow up healthy and happy; and I’m very curious as to whether I’ll be able to be by his side as he grows. I hope life will be generous to me in that regard as well.
What’s the most common misconception about your work?
People think that lawyers memorize laws consisting of hundreds of articles and tens of pages. However, law has a logic of its own and, in fact, has a very mathematical nature. Training in the law is intended to enable students to acquire this logic, which we call the “legal notion.” Once you acquire it, you can make valid interpretations and apply the law correctly, even if the laws themselves are revised.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
These days I study French or practice tennis! I must admit that learning both at 35 is quite a challenge in itself.
Which books have influenced you the most, and why?
If I were to choose only one book, it would be “The Alchemist” by Paolo Coelho. Sometimes you must make the whole journey and return to the starting point to appreciate the treasure that waits for you there.
If you weren’t a professor, what career would you choose?
I would most probably be on the stage. In fact, I regard teaching as a performance art as well. You have to be very well prepared. When you’re on stage, so to speak, in front of a class, you need to connect with your audience, observe their reactions, and get them to pay attention and comprehend your message. And if you want a good return – on the exam – you’d better care about them and make sure they enjoy the show.
What’s the secret to leading a happy life?
I believe that happiness is all about perception, and life is a path of self-improvement. It’s our perceptions that define how we feel and, eventually, who we become. I try to take control of my perceptions and become a better person every single day.
If you could go back to your undergraduate/graduate student years, what advice would you give your younger self?
Actually, I’ll share with you a piece of advice that I give to those of my students who feel anxious and concerned about their futures: Challenge yourself! And then challenge yourself further! Take risks, but be aware that you’ll fail every now and then. Everyone does. Don’t be discouraged by your failures, and don’t be intimidated or deceived by other people’s self-promoting success stories. You have the right to make mistakes, and you are of value no matter what!