Interview with German Studies Student Cinay Dilibal about Languages, Germany, Conjunctivitis and Eyecare Technology Award

Nick Ostrau talked to Cinay about learning German at Dartmouth, the First Prize in Technology award she received for her invention of a new medical AI device that will bring portable eye care diagnosis to patients around the world, and how she gave the Turkish Minister for Industry and Technology an eye exam.

Interview with Cinay Dilibal by Nick Ostrau

May 4, 2023


Ich grüße dich, Cinay.



Du studierst jetzt im dritten Quartal am Dartmouth College. Welche interessanten Kurse hast du hier schon belegt?

Ich finde Deutsch 1 und Deutsch 2 sehr lustig und interessant, weil ich gerne neue Sprachen lerne. Auch Informatik macht mir sehr viel Spaß.


Wie viele Sprachen sprichst du heute?

Ich spreche Türkisch, Englisch, ein bisschen Deutsch und ein bisschen Koreanisch.


Wie lange lernst du schon Deutsch und warum?

Meine Tante kommt aus Berlin, Deutschland, und mein Freund geht zur Berlin Technik und studiert Biologie. Ich möchte mit ihnen Deutsch sprechen. Ich habe ein Jahr lang Deutsch in meine High-School gelernt. Also habe ich Deutsch 1 und 2 in Dartmouth belegt. Ich mochte es wirklich.


Was magst du an der deutschen Sprache am liebsten?

Ich finde Deutsch sehr schön. Schöner als Englisch, aber nicht als Türkisch, weil Türkisch meine Muttersprache ist!


Was findest du an der deutschen Sprache am kompliziertesten? Was ist frustrierend?

Die Artikel. Der, die, das. Und der Genitiv. Ja, das ist sehr kompliziert und schwer für mich.


Warst du selbst schon in Deutschland?

Ja, ich habe Berlin und Frankfurt in Deutschland besucht. Berlin hat mir besser gefallen als Frankfurt, weil Berlin so viel Geschichte, Museen und eine sehr schöne Architektur hat.


Möchtest du in Deutschland studieren?

Ja! ich finde das Berlin Study Abroad Programm sehr interessant. Vielleicht, Ja...


Du hast vor kurzem einen wichtigen Preis für ein wissenschaftliches Projekt gewonnen. Was war das?

I started my project in 2018 [in Istanbul]. Back then it was just an idea because I was going to the hospital for annual checkups, for my eye exams. And one time, I went to the doctor and asked 'Can I intern here?' because I wanted to see how the whole setup works and examine the examination room and how all these complex and big medical devices worked in the clinic. The doctor approved and said 'Sure, you can have a two-month internship,' and I started brainstorming after that. While I was examining these big devices in the eye clinic I was thinking of how I could make them more portable and accessible for every patient around the world. And I thought that these devices could use the internet and online diagnosis because it's the twenty-first century, and the field of ophthalmology really needs this. And it was all before the pandemic and before telemedicine became a crucial tool. I began researching and started this whole process. Since we have a 3-D printer at home, I would make a wearable device design and print it. I had a lot of designs, and it took a lot of prototypes and testing. 


Da warst du ja noch relativ jung.

Yes, once I had a basic prototype of the device I made this software interface that works with it and competed in a competition. I made a video for the competition and was Turkey's First Prize in Technology winner, which really motivated me. That's why I wanted to keep on pursuing the project, and throughout the entirety of High School, I kept on developing the project. I wrote a lot of publications for the project with engineers and doctors. And then after that, I got the patent for the device. It was an ongoing progression. For me, it was reaching a lot of milestones. And it was just amazing, but I had a lot of struggles, too. Since I was so young people said 'Oh my god, I don't know, aren't you too young to do this?' And then sometimes I would be like 'No, I'm not.' (laughs). 


Wie ist dein Projekt an unser College gekommen?

I really wanted to bring my medical project to Dartmouth for further development and possibly for future applications here.


In Deutsch 2 hast du erzählt, dass du über dein Projekt auch einen wichtigen türkischen Politiker getroffen hast. Wer war das und wie war das für dich?

My project was selected for the International Invention Fair in Turkey. I was provided with a stand where I could showcase my project and present it to the people that would come to the stand. And eventually, the Minister of Industry and Technology came to my stand with all these news broadcasts, and I thought 'Oh, my God, what's going on?' And then he said 'Okay, conduct an online eye examination. I want to see how your device works.' And I called the doctor and put the device on the minister, and completed the examination. After the doctor said 'Okay, you have healthy eyes but you should still come in for an annual checkup.' It was really exciting, and the minister actually said that this device has a future for it. I was really happy. And another memorable thing from that day was when an elderly patient came to my stand and said that he was going through a lot of hardship with his eyesight. And I said 'We can do an eye examination for you right here right now.' And he was so glad, and I did that examination and the doctor diagnosed the early stages of cataracts for him. And I wrote him the address of the hospital. It was after a couple of months when I heard from the doctor that the patient was cured of the early stages of cataracts. That was really memorable for me. That I could contribute to his vision.


Was ist der Name deiner Erfindung?

I named the device Mobile XMI, for 'examing the eye.' It diagnoses corneal segment diseases. For the eye, the two cases of diseases are corneal and retinal-based. And for the initial stage of my project, I aimed for the diagnosis of the early stages of the corneal segment diseases, which include conjunctivitis, glaucoma, and other diseases that are surface-based. But my future plan is to make it retinal-based as well.       


Was sind Pläne für deine berufliche Zukunft?

My plan is to combine medicine with computer science and artificial intelligence algorithms. I plan on developing more wearable devices in the areas of dermatology and ultrasonography. I have already designed prototypes that I think of developing here. I have a whole notebook of designs that I am going through right now for wearable devices in many kinds of healthcare fields, and in the future, I would like to form a healthcare hospital with many wearable devices and make them accessible to patients all around the world, even in rural areas. That's my biggest aim right now in terms of the project.


Ein bisschen Spaß muss sein: In Deutsch 2 hast du in deiner Abschlusspräsentation dem Kurs die conjunctivitis vorgestellt. Erinnerst du dich noch an das deutsche Wort für diese Krankheit?

Oh, no! [laughs] Oh… Augen…? It was a big word. Wait, I have my notes here. Bindehautentzündung! Ja!  


Letzte Frage: Wie war soweit deine Erfahrung im German Studies Department am Dartmouth College?

After coming to Dartmouth, I took German 1 and 2. And I had so much fun! Both courses were very interactive and interesting. That's why I plan on taking German 3 as well. I engaged with my peers a lot after class. We would talk in German as well. And we would do a lot of exercises together. Recently I joined the German club and I am planning to host some events with my friends. So, it's just a really good community. The Oktoberfest celebration in the fall was also really fun. And I think the German Studies classes I have taken so far and talking in German here were really valuable experiences for me. Und ich finde auch die deutschen Märchen aus German 14 Klasse sehr interessant.


Cinay, ich bedanke mich für dieses Gespräch.

Vielen Dank.