Cagan Berker

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UC Irvine Alumnus, Cagan Berker decided five years to leave his native Turkey to discover the land of “Jupiter (the United States) and all its wonders.”  A collision of personal goals and professional studies led him to UC Irvine.

Cagan’s experiences here evoke in him the Latin phrase “temet nosce”- having had the courage to take a look at himself rather than the outside world.  For Cagan this is a notion that he carries with him when evaluating the material interactions he studies. Examining the correlation between two beings not only exposes Cagan to new dimensions, but is also at the very core of his research- shedding light on the safety issues concerning engineers.

“Safety is a crucial element in engineering design,” says Cagan.  “Airplane engines, technically referred to as “gas turbines,” are vulnerable to environmental deposits such as volcanic ash, dust and fly ash, which consist mostly of calcium-magnesium-aluminum-silicate. For instance, in 2010 volcanic ash from the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull Volcano, contributed to keeping planes from taking off in Europe. Gas turbines consume ash deposits, which in turn, deteriorate the coating on the turbine blades, thermal barrier coating (TBC).”

Cagan investigated the way chemical reactions take place in the turbine, particularly at the elevated temperatures in which turbines operate.  Exploring the particular relationship between the TBC material and environmental deposits broke new ground in airplane safety research. Furthermore, Cagan spearheaded the evaluation of a novel material developed by another researcher, as being the first to consider its high resistance to chemical attacks. 

Earlier this year, Cagan won first place among 20 other poster presentations at UCLA’s Southern California Society for Microscopy and Microanalysis. He also presented his poster at the 2013 Microscopy and Microanalysis symposium, where his poster once again stood out amongst the competition by illustrating the use of an electron microscope, an extremely simple and cost effective means of investigating material interactions.

Cagan ultimately hopes to make a difference by reuniting philosophical understanding with science. To support his goal, he plans to complete a Ph.D. program and eventually work as a faculty member at a university in Turkey.