Some people find their calling at a very young age. They swear they always knew what they wanted to do. Some are inspired by a mentor, and some follow in the footsteps of a family member. But for associate professor Osman Ozaltin, it was simply a desire to make the world around him better. “I became interested in engineering when I was in high school,” he recalled. “I always enjoyed observing things around me and trying to improve the way they work.” But it wasn’t until college that he discovered his true calling.
While earning his bachelor of science degree from Bogazici University in Istanbul, Turkey, Ozaltin became fascinated by his professors’ in-depth knowledge about the subjects they taught. So captivated, in fact, that he too wanted to join their ranks.
His pursuits led him halfway around the world to the University of Pittsburgh. There he focused on earned his Master’s and Ph.D. in industrial engineering to start his career in academia. “Honestly, I never thought to work in industry with my Ph.D. degree,” said Ozaltin.
Before joining NC State, Ozaltin was an assistant professor at the University of Waterloo in Canada. Two factors attracted him to working at NC State. One was the ISE department’s diversity and collaborative nature. “First and foremost, the friendly and supportive atmosphere of our department,” he shared. “Then, the area and weather in North Carolina.” When you are competing against the weather in Ontario, Canada, Raleigh is an easy sell.
In 2013, he joined the ISE faculty as a Chancellor’s Faculty Excellence Program cluster hire in Personalized Medicine. He has always focused on caring for others, with his research focusing on public health policymaking, personalized medical decision-making and healthcare delivery.
His current NSF-funded research focuses on the world’s fastest-growing criminal economy and the third-largest overall, human trafficking. It is estimated that traffickers currently enslave between 20 and 45 million people around the globe. In the United States, it is believed that more than 9,000 illicit massage businesses are operating in plain sight, hidden among a large population of non-trafficking massage parlors. The traffickers use the internet to recruit women with false job ads to these businesses.
The goal of his research is to use data analytics to identify the traffickers. “I link seemingly disparate data points to generate intelligence with high confidence,” explained Ozaltin. “To this end, I collaborate with Global Emancipation Network, a data analytics nonprofit dedicated to countering human trafficking around the world.” They are working toward developing an interpretable risk score with industry-specific indicators to find the traffickers.
Such a noble endeavor certainly falls under his creed of caring for others and improving the world around him.