Faculty Focus: Mike Czayka

by Cory Gray, Kent State Ashtabula Communications and Marketing Intern

Faculty Focus: 10 Questions is a new weekly feature where Kent State Ashtabula faculty members share their experiences, interests and advice for students. The next set of questions are being answered by Michael Czayka, senior lecturer in engineering technology.

1: When did you start working at the campus?
In 1996, I was an engineering manager at a local composites company. The company wanted me to take a refresher course at the university, so I took a Saturday morning polymers course. The instructor of the course would not be there for two class days, so he asked me if I would teach the class. I agreed since I had a background in physics and I held various jobs in industry before this point (as an engineering manager, director of engineering, quality manager, vice-president of two companies, and a plant manager) that gave me the experience I needed to teach the course.

While teaching on those days, I got caught by the coordinator, and was asked what I was doing in front of the class. He asked if I wanted to be an adjunct professor, and that is how I got started. Between 1998 and 1999, I was approached to apply for a full-time job here. I was a top candidate for this position because I could speak from experience instead of just from a textbook.

2: What do you teach?
I teach Physics, Engineering, and Math. Particular classes that fall under these labels are My polymers course, Physics for Health Tech, General College Physics, Circuits I and II, Intro for Electronics, Algebra for Calculus, and Trigonometry.

I teach for three campuses, Ashtabula, Trumbull, and Tuscarawas, where I teach online.

3: What inspired you to follow your chosen path of study?
I wanted to know what made things tick, and I had the aptitude to learn. My father helped me to follow that path. When I was very young, I wanted to be a train engineer.

4: What areas of research or other areas of academic pursuit do you focus on? What attracts/attracted you to that area and what do you find makes it so interesting?
I was fortunate when I came here full time because we were working on developing a program on electron beam technology. The university built a $7 million facility with an electron beam accelerator, and I was asked to join that group. I spent a long time doing research at that facility by taking high-speed electrons and slamming them into polymer-like materials, trying to figure out how to change them to make them better. I did a lot of work in that area. 

I have been involved in other areas including fuel cells, and have worked on many other research projects.

5: What did you want to be when you were growing up?
My interest has always been in research; I really like to figure out how things work. My father was a very mechanical type person, leading me to have many opportunities to learn mechanics growing up. Engineering and Physics gave me the ability to do that.

6: What is your favorite thing about teaching?
I enjoy passing knowledge onto students, and I do this job because of them. I love teaching and have fun helping students on their journey to greatness. 

A student of mine from years back recently moved across the street from me. He is doing well and is the engineering manager at a company. If I have something that needs to be repaired and I cannot do it on my own, I have him fix it for me. 

I enjoy teaching, and apparently, I am good at it. When I worked in industry, I spent a lot of time instructing the individuals that worked for me to do their job. I was criticized by the boss for that.

7: What do you like to do outside of campus?
My most common pursuit these days is golf. I used to play tennis back in the day, but the body is not willing to do that anymore. I also like to fish, and I have two grandchildren who are three years and six months old, who are more fun than anything in the world. I have three children, and it has been a joy to spend some time visiting them.

I like to travel, and last summer we went to Alaska for two weeks. Next fall, we will be going to Hawaii. I also love spending time with my wife

8: What makes this campus “Awesome”?
I cannot say enough about this campus. The faculty and staff, dean, and colleagues here are incredible. This is a great place to work, and Dean Stocker is a fantastic person to work with.

9: What advice would you give to students?
You need to make a commitment to go to school. You have to keep yourself motivated to learn and to succeed. You cannot just come to class and expect to know everything. You have to do the work necessary to understand the material thoroughly.

10. What is the most helpful advice you have received?
You must learn how to communicate successfully both verbally and in writing. This will take you far in many aspects of life.

You also have to be proficient in your discipline to succeed in it, and keep learning so you can continue to be the best you can possibly be.

Faculty Focus: 10 Questions Homepage (Coming Soon)