UTSA First-Year Faculty: Associate Professor Can Saygin
By Lydia Fletcher
Special Projects Writer, B.A., '07
(Sept. 11, 2007)--Can (John) Saygin, associate professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Manufacturing Systems and Automation Laboratory, joined UTSA in August 2006.
He came to UTSA from the University of Missouri-Rolla and brings his expertise in advanced manufacturing systems to the College of Engineering faculty.
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LF: What attracted you to UTSA?
CS: I was a faculty member at the University of Missouri in Rolla. UTSA's decision to develop and launch a new program in manufacturing engineering was the main thing that attracted me to UTSA. As challenging as it sounds, establishing such an infrastructure, including research and educational laboratories and hiring new faculty, as well as developing new courses -- all from ground up -- is a lot of fun. And, of course, San Antonio is a great city. Very nice people and a small-town atmosphere in such a big city were other factors that played a major role in our decision to move from Rolla to San Antonio. Well, also there is the Spurs, too!
LF: What research are you conducting or hoping to conduct at UTSA?
CS:My research is in the advanced manufacturing systems area, which can be defined as "effective and efficient integration and synthesis of automation technologies, human resources and decision-making models for design, planning, scheduling and control of production of goods and delivery of services."
I have a laboratory named Manufacturing Systems and Automation, which is focused on integration of automation technologies with operational aspects of manufacturing systems. For instance, with my lab team, which includes two graduate students and seven undergraduate students, we are working on an exciting project named "Digital Factory," which involves integrating computer-controlled machine tools, robots and other sensors, such as radio frequency identification (RFID) technologies. They are all together under one umbrella.
In this way, the lab will operate as a virtual manufacturing company with all its operations digitally visible. We completed the first phase of the project in August. After that, the Digital Factory environment will demonstrate the fundamental concepts of advanced manufacturing systems.
Recently, Dr. F. Frank Chen and I received two grants -- one from the Army Research office and the other one from the National Science Foundation -- with a total budget of approximately $900,000. Both projects complement establishing new manufacturing laboratories and the Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Lean Systems. CAMLS will bring faculty and industry together to do application-driven research and development.
LF: What courses are you teaching?
CS: Since August 2006, I have developed and taught three courses. Introduction to Engineering Design is a freshman-level course and Fundamentals of Manufacturing and Facilities Planning and Design are technical electives. Also, for this fall I developed another technical elective, Computer Integrated Manufacturing. Each of these courses is very application-oriented and hands-on with laboratory applications and semester projects. You can learn more about them at my Web site.
LF: Do you enjoy the teaching atmosphere at UTSA?
CS: Very much! Our graduate program is building up. We need to make rapid progress and attract more graduate students. Although our department has approximately 30 graduate students, they are highly motivated -- which makes a big difference. With undergraduates -- I am thrilled to be surrounded by such a mature body of students. I have seven undergraduate students in my lab group and they are working so diligently at a maturity level just like graduate students -- I am extremely satisfied. As faculty members, we cannot operate without a solid student body, and I am glad to say that we have great students at UTSA, which will help us to become a research university.
LF: What is your favorite book?
CS: My favorite book is a children's book entitled "I Knew I Could: A Book for All Stops in Your Life" by Craig Dorfman. It became my favorite book after my daughter was born. She is five and a half years old now, and I started to read to her every night. I share this book with my students, too -- especially with my graduate students who need to understand the challenges associated with finding their own track and the strength to keep going and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel -- which all resemble conducting research.