Texas Tech University

Atila Ertas

Atila Ertas

What are your current research interest

I am a design engineer. I worked on research projects that cover many engineering technical fields. Although I am deeply involved with transdisciplinary (TD) research and education, recently, a part of my research interest moved to biomedical research, specifically, designing of a polymeric heart valve – investigation of the main design parameters affecting prosthetic heart valve performance. This research inspired me to pursue a new research area - development of a Deep Machine Learning (DML) framework to replicate time extensive finite element modeling of polymeric heart valves under the time – varying transvalvular pressure.

Although above mentioned research topics are exciting and timely, my main research interest is transdisciplinary education and research: creating and enhancing innovation through integrative transdisciplinary tools and methods to develop talent and skills for students.

What types of outreach and engagement have you been involved with?

It can be more difficult for local small companies to stay in business and they are constantly looking for ways of improving their products. Locally, I have been involved with "development of a new peanut drying process' with peanut producing companies in West Texas. Drying peanut is an important step in getting peanuts to market. West Texas had tremendous volume of peanuts to handle but existing technology was not able to do the drying process job. In late 1999, I have reach out to local De Leon peanut company to develop a new peanut drying process and create a new technology transfer through Texas Tech University. Through 10 years of State and De Leon company research funding, I was able to develop a new peanut drying process and creating new plants in Brownfield, Seminole, and Lamesa in West Texas. This technology transfer has been a success – allowed peanut processors across the State to increase the number of peanuts they can handle, moving Texas from third to second in the nation, behind Georgia in the peanut production; created about 150 new jobs at the De Leon plants; and added several million dollars to the West Texas Economy. I have organized over 30 international conferences and workshops emphasizing transdisciplinary research and education all over the world.

Why did you choose this field?

For the following reasons I chose transdisciplinary education and research field:
Rapid technological change and convergence in a globally competitive economy is causing current and future upheaval in job markets. A paradigm shift in engineering education is required in response to these job market uncertainties to mitigate unemployment and prepare engineers to tackle problems requiring a convergence of disciplines (transdisciplinary integration). Engineering students need to be taught new skills for dynamically synthesizing new knowledge in response to challenges they will face, such as the Grand Challenges identified by the National Academy of Engineering and new challenges not yet recognized.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, which includes developments in previously disjointed fields such as artificial intelligence and machine-learning, robotics, nanotechnology, 3-D printing, and genetics and biotechnology, will cause widespread disruption not only to business models but also to labor markets over the next decade, with enormous change predicted in the skill sets needed to thrive in the new landscape (World Economic Forum, 2016).

The Transdisciplinary design process is defined as the integrated use of the tools, techniques, and methods from various disciplines to address issues that are vaguely defined and reach across broad swaths of traditional disciplines, but for which the consequences of inadequately derived solutions may do more harm than good for society in general. The TD design process is robustly defined for the most generic of problems and is superbly suited to address the issue of convergence and its effect on the American workforce.

The world is becoming increasingly interconnected as new opportunities and highly complex problems connect the world in ways we are only beginning to understand. When we do not solve these problems correctly and in a timely manner, they rapidly become crises. Problems, such as energy shortages, pollution, transportation, the environment, natural disasters, health, hunger, and the global water crisis, threaten the very existence of the world as we know it today. Students trained through transdisciplinary education will be ready to address a wide range of problems facing society as previously mentioned.

Over the last five years, I have completed experiments to test the transdisciplinary (TD) design education through ME 4370 and ME4371 TD Pilot design courses and published several scholarly articles. My five years of experience teaching TD Design Pilot courses showed that identifying inherently TD issues and projects, practicing with students through general analogy of TD (internet, connectivity, team work, collaboration, convergence, and synergism by interaction) not only excited students but also excited me about what they were learning -- providing me the opportunity to have a positive daily impact on young students. Every class presents an opportunity to make a difference. You never know when something you do or say will make an impact on students' professional life or profoundly impact their future. I think I can do more for the students -- teach them TD complex thinking skills and prepare them for the jobs of the future.

How do you define good teaching?

Good teaching should be to excite the students for learning and prepare them for the job of the future – that is what I try to do in class. The classroom teaching should provide students a platform for learning to be taken into the everyday world. It should allow students to blend the results of classroom learning with the reality of everyday life. As an example, in Additive Manufacturing & Design class in 2019 Fall semester, twenty undergraduate students contributed as co-authors with U. Gulbulak and A. Ertas, published journal article entitled "Boosting Just-in-Time Supply Chain Innovation through Additive Manufacturing: A Transdisciplinary Educational Experience," in Transdisciplinary Journal of Engineering & Science. Another example, twenty-one undergraduate students in Spring 2020 senior design class contributed as co-authors and published with Gulbulak and Ertas journal article entitled "Complexity of Global Refugee Crisis: Needs for Global Transdisciplinary Collaboration," in Transdisciplinary Journal of Engineering & Science. This is what I call "real-world problem solving" – a transdisciplinary philosophy of teaching and learning through which students work together create collective intelligence to solve real-life complex problem by considering public good.

What is your proudest professional accomplishment?

I am proud of many scholarly and professional accomplishments. Although it is difficult to distinguish from one another, my proudest professional accomplishments are:

  1. Publishing four interdisciplinary/transdisciplinary textbooks for students' education and research.
  2. Established Institute for Design and Advanced Technology (IDEATE) at Texas Tech University
  3. Initiated an interdisciplinary undergraduate design course teaching in the college of engineering at Texas Tech University.
  4. Developed Transdisciplinary MS TTU off campus graduate study for Raytheon Company
  5. Developed Transdisciplinary Ph.D. TTU on campus graduate study for Raytheon Company.
  6. Creator and founding President of the Academy of Transdisciplinary Learning and Advanced Studies (ATLAS)–non-profit organization to serve students around world.
  7.  Created and established George Kozmetsky Endowment (GKE) to promote collaborations in the transdisciplinary education, research, and training in the United States and other parts of the world.

Finally, as I have discussed above, "A New Peanut Drying Process", which impacted the economy of West Texas could be the most proudest professional accomplishment of mine.

How do you integrate research and outreach into teaching?

I am collaborating with the Transdisciplinary Academy of Learning & Advanced Studies to develop an open source courseware on transdisciplinary educational materials and integrated TD methods and tools -- students will learn: how to become more creative, discover a range of innovation techniques for producing creative ideas; how to decompose complex problems to understand how various parameters relevant to the problem are interrelated; how to collaborate and share ideas on achieving collective results; how to hold each other accountable for delivery according to their plans; how to openly discuss conflicting ideas; how to embrace critical dialogue and debate; and how to trust each other.

I have created a Master of Engineering distance-learning program in Transdisciplinary Design and Process in 1999 at TTU collaborating with Raytheon Company. I have expanded the program to create a Ph.D. track in TD Design, Process, and Systems in 2007 that is offered by the Mechanical Engineering Department, again in collaboration with Raytheon Company. From those programs over 130 fully supported graduate students graduated mainly from Raytheon company.
To improve the undergraduate curriculum, I have organized yearly conferences and workshops through American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), Society for Design & Process Science (SDPS) and Academy of Transdisciplinary Learning & Advanced Studies (ATLAS) on TD education and research to solicit input from the international TD community.

I have involved undergraduate and graduate students in research experience with peanut drying process resaerch. I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience working with them in or out of class. Twelve graduate students supported and graduated under this research project. Also, at least six undergraduate students had research experience through this research program.

More about Atila Ertas

Dr. Atila Ertas is Professor and Director of Transdisciplinary Studies in the TTU Department of Mechanical Engineering. He received his masters and Ph.D. from Texas A&M University. He had 12 years of industrial experience prior to pursuing graduate studies.

Dr. Ertas is a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), fellow of Society for Design and Process Science (SDPS), fellow of the Academy of Transdisciplinary Learning & Advanced Studies, Senior Research Fellow of IC2 Institute, The University of Texas at Austin (2018-2019), Founding Fellow of Luminary Research Institute, Gaya Foundation, Taiwan, Honorary Member of the Academy of Transdisciplinary Learning & Advanced Studies, and the honorary member of Center for Transdisciplinary Research (CIRET), France.

Dr. Ertas' contributions to the education, research, and professional communities have been recognized by numerous honors and awards.