Dr. Kaplanoglu explains the mechanics of a prosthetic he created. Wednesday, February 22, 2023.

With over two million people in the United States living with a limb amputation, UTC Professor Erkan Kaplanoglu dedicates his life to building prosthetics with the hope of giving people a piece of their life back.

During years spent in the military, Kaplanoglu saw many soldiers lose limbs and settle for simple, lower-grade prosthetics after putting their lives on the line.

“They lost their hands for their country and for us, so we have to supply them with better ones,” Kaplanoglu said. “We need to help make their lives easier.”

Kaplanoglu, also known as “Dr. K” by his students, moved from Istanbul, Turkey in 2019 to extend his prosthetic research at UTC.

In his career, Kaplanoglu takes special interest in creating prosthetics for children with amputated limbs or cerebral palsy, one of his proudest achievements helping newborn babies with complications survive. 

According to Kaplanoglu, it is important for prosthetics to be lightweight, compact, silent, long-lasting and bio-friendly, providing maximum quality of life. 

“Disabled people have some obstacles in their pathway,” Kaplanoglu said. “...that’s the main goal for my research: putting smiles on patients' faces and taking out obstacles from their life.”

Working in the field of biomechatronics, Kaplanoglu has written several journals and received two pattons to fund his work. At UTC, he leads a team of 11 undergraduates with a variety of majors. In the confines of Kaplanoglu’s small lab, the team researches, designs, builds and markets the prosthetics on top of publishing conference papers and posters. 

“I am lucky that I have really good students that have passion,” Kaplanoglu said. “...whenever they come into my lab, I don’t act like they’re my students. They are my team members.”

With his students being undergraduates, Kaplanoglu’s team is unable to focus primarily on his research, leading projects to take longer to finish.

“As undergrad students, they have another class, another project they have to do, but even in that limited time, they help me a lot,” Kaplanoglu said. “...they’re really smart. I just give a direction and some information about what they need and they can extend...they always try to find some solution for the project.”

While he enjoys watching his team’s eyes light up as they discover something new, Kaplanoglu holds onto the hope of one day being able to lead a team of PhD students at UTC. 

As biomechatronics and technology evolve, Kaplanoglu strives to advance his research, team and lab even further.

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