Faculty Profile: Gokcin Cinar wants to make U-M the leading university in sustainable aviation.

Gokcin Cinar will join the U-M faculty in the aerospace department in January with a remote presence until June. (It’s not that she’s avoiding a Michigan winter, but, really, she is.)

Gokcin Cinar

Her accomplished research in aerospace systems design, optimization and integration with an emphasis on sustainable aviation systems will bring significant resources to our research focus in sustainable aviation at U-M. She comes to us from Georgia Tech, where she got her Master’s and PhD in 2018 after her undergraduate degree at Middle East Technical University in Turkey. 

We sat down with Professor Cinar to learn more about her expertise, her philosophy on teaching and research, what she’s excited about at U-M, and what she does for fun.

What drew you to U-M Aerospace and how do you hope to help make it even better?

It’s good to step out of your comfort zone, and it was time for me to grow as a researcher and teacher, and what better place to do that than the University of Michigan. U-M has global credibility and respect, attracts top students and faculty and is so well known for cutting edge research. I wanted to be a part of it.

I want to actively contribute to making U-M Aerospace the number one place for sustainable aviation. We are putting Michigan Aero on the map and making it number one. In January, I’ll begin a research lab with this focus.

What is sustainable aviation?

Things that help reduce fossil fuel consumption of aerospace systems. It may seem like a small contributor to climate change compared to other industries, but demands for aviation will increase considerably in the coming years, and everything we can do to curb this will make a big difference.

Given the critical timeline for climate change, it is urgent to act now to make the change we need and focus on sustainability in our research for all of aerospace.  Soon we’ll be past the point of no return; we have to act and can’t wait; this needs to fall on our generation to act now.

The great thing about our timing is that aviation is a multidisciplinary field. We all have the opportunity to influence sustainable aviation, and everybody needs to actively contribute. All our faculty have their own research interests but somehow are touching sustainable aviation and we need this collective work from every other discipline to make impactful solutions. This is a very hot topic in aviation so it’s a race to be on front page news. We want to be there.

What was your path to U-M?

I went to Georgia Tech to get my PhD and stayed to conduct research. I’ve been in an academic lab but my work was at the intersection of industry and academia, primarily in a research and consultation role. I’m increasingly interacting with industry and government, and there’s a lot of opportunity for me to contribute to that growth and development at U-M. 

My research area provides me the opportunity to work with industry because I’m examining whole systems – and industry is all about systems. There’s a lot of potential in this space and we have a lot coming down the pipeline to help us build that at U-M.  

Can you share with you a highlight of your career so far?

My PhD thesis was on aircraft design for electrified aircraft propulsion. Some conventional techniques/methods we almost always use in engineering don’t work for such novel aircraft concepts, and we needed new tools to address these challenges. I developed a methodology and software program to size and synthesize aircraft with unconventional propulsion systems, called EPASS. It is currently being used in research activities funded by a few government agencies and companies, and I’m incredibly proud of its adaptability and usage.

I expect one of my biggest highlights going forward will be my decision to join the University of Michigan. It’s a top school and I’m honored to be a part of the Aerospace department here. 50 years from now, I’ll say this was the moment that got me there.

What do you want Aero students to know about you?

I’m very passionate about diversity and inclusion. I’ve had a wide variety of experiences as a woman in STEM and want students to know they can always come talk to me about these issues – or any issues. I can’t wait to meet them!

What do you do for fun?

Lots of things! I love playing games – any games – board games, video games. I love going to the movies, at least before the pandemic. I really enjoy being outdoors and taking a lot of long walks in nature listening to rock music. I’m playing the guitar a little and enjoy cycling. I’m looking forward to long rides in Ann Arbor!
Learn more about Gokcin at her bio on the website.