Faculty Director, Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship; George Tallman and Florence Barrett Ladd Professor, Mechanical Engineering; Interim Dean of the College of Engineering; Associate Dean for Strategic Initiatives, College of Engineering; Courtesy Appointment, School of Design
Professor Cagan's research focuses on design methods, theory and practice, including computational synthesis, cognitive-based design and interdisciplinary product development. His computational work on design conceptualization and product layout emphasizes computational representation, generation and exploratory search of the design space. His premise is that computational tools must support a design process modeled by lateral exploration, followed by a focused investigation of one or more good designs. Based on this premise, much of his work has concentrated on stochastic and agent-based search techniques and cognitive mechanisms, and various grammatical representations to model, generate and move within the design space. The result is a merging between design theory, artificial intelligence, cognition and operations research, giving a unique approach to addressing the conceptual design problem.
Professor Cagan's other area of focus is in user-centered design and integrated product development practice. He works closely with colleagues in industrial design and business in creating new methods for product design that emphasize product identification, strategy, emotion and user-driven realization. He also works closely with psychologists in the area of cognitive-based engineering design, seeking to understand and improve the ways that engineers create new innovations. His work has evolved from a synergistic relationship with industry, having worked with a variety of small and large companies including Navistar/International Truck, Apple, HP, Procter & Gamble, MSA, Respironics, Alcoa, General Motors, Whirlpool, RedZone Robotics, Bayer Material Science, DesignAdvance Systems and Lubrizol, among others. Professor Cagan has also served as an expert witness for intellectual property litigation.