Leadership Message ME Annual Report 2020-2021
Ellen Arruda, Mechanical Engineering Department Chair

Dear friends,

First, I hope you have been safe and well this past year. This fall, the University of Michigan Department of Mechanical Engineering (U-M ME) welcomed students and faculty back to campus. We have been thrilled to return to in-person research activities and learning (with a remote option for approved students) while we continue to social distance and take other precautions in our labs and classrooms.

It’s been wonderful to see our students back at work since experiential learning is so fundamental to the ME student experience and to addressing the critical needs facing society in health care, energy, sustainability, mobility, and many other areas. I’m excited to share some of our news and accomplishments with you as we work toward our mission to make the world work better.

Enhancing the curriculum
Additive and advanced manufacturing are crucial for today’s mechanical engineers. We’ve hired a new faculty member, assistant professor Wenda Tan, with expertise in additive manufacturing, and we’re reconfiguring several GG Brown lab spaces to create new, dedicated instructional and research spaces. Our objective is to provide both theoretical and hands-on training in advanced manufacturing to all ME undergraduates.

We’re also enhancing our senior capstone design course, ME 450, to focus on "socially contextualized mechanical engineering design" to advance both the technical and social aspects of mechanical engineering. The next generation capstone course provides students the skills to identify user needs and to evaluate solutions and concepts as well as unintended social and environmental consequences—in addition to carrying out the full design process and validating solutions against stakeholder needs.

Impacting social justice
Our department strives to lead mechanical engineering research and education that intersects with important social justice issues. Toward this goal, we welcomed assistant professor James Holly, Jr. who focuses his research, teaching, and service on how to teach the STEM disciplines with sensitivity to racial and economic inequities. Professor Holly’s work at U-M already is underway, as he joined us this fall.

Student achievement
We are thrilled to tell you that we had seven National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellows (NSF GRFs) selected in 2021. Their projects no doubt will have an impact in many key areas of mechanical engineering. As just one example, Charlotte Andreasen’s research is taking a holistic approach to preventing the failure of soft tissues like the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the knee. You can read more about the 2021 fellows and their projects throughout this report.

Faculty recognition
This year, as in years past, our faculty continue to be recognized by prestigious institutions and professional societies for their many contributions to research, education, and service. A few examples include the NSF CAREER Award, the ASME 2021 Nadai Medal, and ASME Fellow.

I hope reading about the accomplishments of our ME community gives you the same sense of pride and inspiration as I have. Our students, faculty, staff, and tremendous alumni network continue to ask—and answer—the question at the heart of our work: How will I make a difference?

As always, we’re grateful for your time and interest.

Be well.

Ellen Arruda
Tim Manganello/BorgWarner Department Chair and
Maria Comninou Collegiate Professor of Mechanical Engineering