September 19, 2019
In today’s class of the Energy Transition Project, our students received some training from Erik de Jonge, who has recently started at UCR and the Engineering department as our technical support! They practiced making isometric drawings, which is a skill necessary to be able to communicate ideas about design and structure precisely.
Who Are You? The Dean interviews Dr. İlke Ercan
September 16, 2019
For his weekly column, Dean Prof. Bert van den Brink interviews a Faculty member, a Staff member, or a student. This week, he spoke to associate professor Dr. İlke Ercan about her experience with Liberal Arts and Science, her values, and her ambitions. Read the interview below!
Who are you?
I am İlke Ercan, I am new engineering faculty at UCR. I am an electrical engineer by training and I have a background in physics.
Where are you from?
I am from Antalya, a seaside city in Southern Turkey. I was born and raised there. I moved to Ankara for college. I was at Middle East Technical University. As soon as I graduated I moved to the US for my master’s in Electrical and Computer Engineering. I did not originally plan to do a Ph.D. in engineering. But I was very impressed with the theoretical aspect of engineering research pursued in my lab at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, so I decided to proceed with the Ph.D. program in engineering.
What kind of lab were you working in?
It was a theory and simulation lab on nanoelectronics. I pursued my Ph.D. on energy efficiency of emerging nanocomputing systems. Since 1980s, the building blocks of modern computer processors have been shrinking in size steadily enabling us to progressively develop smaller circuits operating at increasingly faster speeds. However, there are physical limits to this trend, and numerous proposals are being set forth to overcome these limitations. In fields like medicine and engineering especially we do need more powerful computers for more advanced solutions — and they need to be more energy efficient too. In my doctoral thesis I developed a methodology that enables us to assess the performance of these different proposals, which did not seem to have a common ground at all. By using my background in physics I was able to create physical models of computing systems by which different proposals could be compared on an equal footing. My work on performance analysis of nanocomputing systems eventually led me to broader questions of energy efficiency and sustainability in Information and Communication Technologies, which is one of the things I will be working on here at UCR.
And I believe you had some liberal arts experience in the US?
I did. While I was still a grad student, finishing my Ph.D., I got an offer from neighboring Smith College to teach a course in circuit theory, but in a liberal arts context. I spent a semester there, teaching in their Picker program in Engineering, and it had such a strong impact on my academic career. I had originally planned to pursue a career at a research intensive engineering institute, however, my experience at Smith College showed how rewarding it is to work with small groups of highly engaged students interested in a broad range of topics who are eager to make research an educational experience! I loved being there and they loved having me there, so they asked me to stay a little bit longer — and I did.
My experience at Smith College has strongly influenced my decision to come to UCR. The students interested in engineering here are liberal arts and sciences students. We are not treating them as hardcore engineering students. They are more broadminded, adaptable and flexible than that — and engineers need to be in today’s world. As I noticed during my Ph.D. research, advancements in emerging technologies require us to adapt very quickly to new developments. I had a minor in philosophy of science and had taken courses in the sociology of engineering, which allowed me to make more informed decisions about my career and supported my pursuing an interdisciplinary path. That is why I believe that the breadth of knowledge characteristic of the liberal arts will make you a better engineer. And engineering can contribute to liberal arts as well; consider those interested in policy making and governance for instance. These students will benefit from a good grasp of modern technologies and their impact. The breadth of liberal arts and sciences makes engineering stronger, and specific knowledge about technology and engineering strengthens the quality of UCR’s program as a whole.
I know that when Smith College introduced engineering 15 years ago, worries surfaced that resemble those we have seen at UCR: the fear that a focus on technology and the funding available for it may cause the college to drift away from its core values. How do you relate to that?
I certainly understand these worries. A lot is about our vocabulary: students who engage in engineering at UCR are liberal arts students, just like students in sociology or art and design are. And I actually think that adding engineering is not the real problem. The college is going through some major changes with regard to the academic core and the languages. That development has made it a challenge for the wider community to welcome engineering. The two developments are not co-related, yet, the timing requires us to process both transitions simultaneously. Despite this difficulty, however, the majority of colleagues have been very welcoming; they invited us to classes, have introduced us to their ways of teaching, and we are discussing ways in which we can collaborate on a number of projects. So we are working our way around biases.
It is true that we are doing a lot at the same time. Bringing change to an institution is never easy, but we are getting there. But let me change the subject by throwing my final question at you: What is your greatest ambition?
My professional ambition is to make higher education as accessible as possible to as many people as possible. Education has changed my life. I come from what I would call a semi-educated family. My dad did not finish high school, my mom dropped out of college to marry my dad. I am the very first person in the whole of my extended family to ever get a Ph.D. I know how big of a privilege that is and I am immensely grateful to everyone who has supported me in following this path. I appreciate how much it has helped me to become myself. I want that transformational power to be accessible to as many people as possible. Education is both a personal and a social process. We need to make higher education as personal as possible, like UCR’s new motto on the website: an education built around you. I am a firm believer in one-on-one contact between students and teaching faculty. The personal connection is what enables us to help students find ways to integrate what they have learned at the theoretical level into their personal lives.
Ministries and provincial council visit the Engineering department
September 13, 2019
We were very happy to welcome a group of representatives from the Provincial Council of Zeeland, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Social Affairs , and the Ministry of the Interior today. As the Engineering department is part of the Zeeland region deal, they visited UCR during their tour to see what the new department is about and the role it plays in the Beta Campus Zeeland project.
Students Emil and Veerle, as well as Dr. İlke Ercan, discussed their experiences in the weeks they have been at the university, their expectations of the department, and what they are hoping to achieve during their time at UCR.
You can read more about the region deal here (Dutch).
First field trip
September 4, 2019
The Engineering group went on their first field trip this Wednesday to biomass power plant Duurzame Energie Sirjansland (DES) BV. They got an impression of what a power plant looks like and learned about DES’ process of using green waste (wood chips) to create heat for their glasshouses and CO2 for spurring plant growth.
As the power plant is situated on Schouwen-Duiveland, we took the scenic route and the students got to see the Oosterscheldekering, the beautiful Zeeuws scenery, as well as some cultural heritage (the Plompe Toren!).
The Engineering group will be visiting some more companies throughout their program to have a closer look at how the themes of energy, water, and food production are tackled in Zeeland.
Click here to see what exactly DES BV does.
Don’t try this at home: Setting crisps on fire to measure energy
August 23, 2019
On the final day of their Orientation week, first year students were invited to a ‘carousel’ of energy-related workshops around the UCR campus, organized by the Youth Energy Society Challenge (YESC). Dr. Ilke Ercan and Dr. Gudrun Kocher-Oberlehner presented the students with a DIY calorie measuring experiment. They burned high-fat-content crisps and, using the energy generated from that, heated up a small quantity of water. The temperature change of the water was an accurate predictor of the calorie content as stated on the crisp package! We look forward to more workshops and lectures related to energy within our Energy Transition project-course which is taking place for the first time ever in Fall 2019.
August 21, 2019
One of our new students, Emil from Oslo, spoke to the PZC about coming to study in Middelburg. Read the article (in Dutch) here.
“The streets of Middelburg are beautiful. The brick houses look so modern. The people here are quite similar to people from Oslo: very friendly and incredibly helpful.”
Welcome Class of 2022!
August 19, 2019
Today, the Class of 2022 has started their social Orientation. This will be the beginning of three years at University College Roosevelt. Six of them will be starting the Engineering Pioneering program, and will help the Faculty and Staff develop the curriculum. We wish them the best of luck!