Alumni

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Alumni share how U-M ME shaped their careers and lives. Read more stories

Sheri Sheppard

Sheri Sheppard - PhD, 1985

Little did I think when I moved from Wisconsin to Michigan in 1978 that I would pursue a PhD.  I had just completed a BS in Engineering Mechanics from the University of Wisconsin, and was excited to dive into being an engineer at Chrysler, in combination with masters work at University of Michigan’s Dearborn campus. 

While I enjoyed engineering challenges at Chrysler (and subsequently a consulting firm), I often wanted to explore the solutions we came up with in greater depth. After completing my masters I had also started teaching at night at Lawrence Institute of Technology, and was totally jazzed by the challenges of helping others understand and own knowledge.  I was starting to realize that doing engineering research might be a good fit for me, and that I really liked teaching. 

So off to get a PhD I went. I was fortunate that there was a world-class university in my backyard---University of Michigan (UM) in Ann Arbor.  It was an excellent match.  The coursework had just the right balance of theory and application for my interests.  The faculty were superb mentors, teachers and role models, from Professor Al Wineman and Professor Panos Papalambros, to my inspiring PhD advisors Professor Jim Barber and Professor Maria Comninou. And the research was intellectually interesting and well supported.  Yes, University of Michigan was a good fit for me, and that education has served as a solid foundation for my academic career of 32 years as a faculty member in Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University.

I continue to follow happenings in Ann Arbor.  For example, innovative educational practices at UM were highlighted in a study I lead for the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (“Educating Engineers: Designing for the Future of the Field”). More recently, as part of the NSF Project EPICENTER, I collaborated with UM on programming for engineering students to learn about entrepreneurship.  And I am impressed with UM hiring several tenure-line faculty whose research focus is on engineering education; this is advanced thinking.

I am proud to say my PhD was earned at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor! Go Blue! And Happy 150th Birthday!

Sheri is the Richard Weiland Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University.

Serdar Yonak

Serdar Yonak - BSE, 1994; MSE, 1995; PhD, 2000

In 1676, Sir Isaac Newton penned a letter to Robert Hooke, writing, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on [the] shoulders of giants.” Newton humbly reminds us to think about the contributions of others to our own success, and to not forget the cumulative nature of knowledge.

Today, I lead a team of engineers in developing hybrid vehicle components for Ford Motor Company. My career began at Ford, took me to Toyota and Infineon, and I am now back where I began. Coming full circle like this brings my thoughts to where I began my mechanical engineering studies, at the University of Michigan.

As the Mechanical Engineering Department celebrates 150 years, I reflect on these experiences as a student and am left with a feeling of gratitude. My professors, especially David Dowling, my Ph.D. advisor, not only taught me the foundation upon which I built my knowledge, they truly invested in my learning. If I struggled with a concept, they were available to guide me. If I succeeded, they celebrated with me. They contributed to my growth by regularly challenging my intellectual ability and teaching me how to learn fearlessly.

Dan Hiemstra

Dan Hiemstra - BSE, 2015; MSE, 2016

The Mechanical Engineering Department has played an incredible role in shaping my passion and career as an engineer. Of the countless impactful experiences in my 5 years at Michigan, the most formative was my mechanical engineering senior capstone design project. As I headed into my senior year, I joined a group of 3 other students on a mission to build a giant, fully functional, human-solvable Rubik’s cube art piece to be installed on North Campus. The project drew inspiration from the Endover Cube on Central Campus, while adding an engineering twist.

This huge undertaking, spanning 6 semesters, served as an invaluable vessel for spurring my mechanical design interests, sharpening my engineering fundamentals, and perhaps most importantly, building long lasting relationships. One of the most humbling aspects of the project was the incredible resources that the department has available to help students realize their ambitions. From tireless mentorship from Professor Perkins and hundreds of hours spent in the machine shop with Kent Pruss, to generous funding from Dean Munson and the valuable guidance from numerous other faculty, for every road block we hit, the department helped find resources to overcome it.

The Rubik’s cube now lives on as a mechanical art piece housed in GG Brown. I hope it inspires upcoming Michigan engineers to dream big and utilize all the resources the department has to offer. My Michigan experience instilled in me a passion for engineering design and opened the door to my employment as a product design engineer at Apple. For that I am grateful, and I will proudly represent the University of Michigan wherever my career path takes me. Go Blue!

Alumni News & Newsletter

Do you have an alumni news item for publication on our website or in our Annual Report? Send your news items to me-www@umich.edu.

Gifts & Accolades

Marshall JonesJones Honored with 2019 U-M ME Alumni Merit Award

Marshall Jones is a recipient of the University of Michigan’s (U-M) 2019 Mechanical Engineering (ME) Alumni Merit Award. Jones, who was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2017, has enjoyed an impressive career filled with countless achievements and honors. He currently holds over 50 U.S. patents and 57 foreign patents, is a member of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), and had an accomplished 44-year career at GE Global Research in laser technology. In 1982 he initiated research that resulted in a laser beam powerful enough to cut steel, titanium, and nickel-based alloys, and able to weld and drill them at multiple angles. Jones earned his BSE from U-M ME in 1965 and went on to earn his master’s and PhD from the University of Massachusetts. Jones spoke fondly of his time at U-M ME when asked to reflect on it in recognition of the Department’s 150th anniversary in 2018.

“Within ME, I truly loved design, as well as the mechanics and materials of all lab work. U-M ME’s design training led to my first job in high energy physics at Brookhaven National Labs and that same training provided a great foundation for my grad studies at UMass, opening the door to my 44-year career at GE Global Research in laser technology.”

See previous alumni merit award recipients.

 

Katherine VozarVozar Honored with 2018 Michigan Engineering Outstanding Recent Alumni Award

Mechanical Engineering alumna Katherine Avery Vozar has been selected to receive the 2018 University of Michigan Engineering Outstanding Recent Alumni Award. Vozar (MSE 11’, PhD, 16’) is currently a Technology Integration Lead at Ford Motor Company, where her work is dedicated to integration emerging technology into forward model year vehicles, and accelerating systems-based, cross-functional development and implementation of relevant technologies sourced from multiple industries. Vozar also brought her unique vision and experience to assist as a Corporate-Partner-in-Residence at Techstars Mobility, a Detroit-based startup accelerator focused on funding companies with a novel approach to transportation, including (but not limited to) autonomous, connected, shared and electric vehicles.

Vozar has written more than 20 peer-reviewed articles and holds multiple patents, has co- advised doctoral students with faculty from around the world and has provided technical and project leadership on multiple government-funded multi-institution research collaborations. Giving back to her community is another passion of Vozar’s. As an alum, she became a member of the Michigan Engineering Alumni Board and a founding member of the Advisory Board for the Michigan Engineering Zone in Detroit, an innovation space where Detroit students acquire the knowledge and tools they need to propel themselves to higher education and careers in STEM. She also co-founded The Trending Up Foundation, which endeavors to raise awareness and accessibility of STEM careers for K-12 students from historically excluded groups through hands-on workshops, classes and scholarship opportunities.

Peter K. Schoenfeld Scholarship Fund endowed

Franziska I. Schoenfeld (AB ’53, DDS ’55) has made a gift to endow the Peter K. Schoenfeld Scholarship Fund. Established in honor of her son, Michigan Engineering alumnus Peter K. Schoenfeld (BSE ME ’98), the fund will provide need-based scholarship support to undergraduate students in the Department of Mechanical Engineering who are residents of the state of Michigan. Preference will be given to transfer students, either from other academic units within the University or from outside the University, and students who are United States citizens or permanent residents of the U.S.

After graduating with her DDS in 1955, Dr. Schoenfeld owned and operated a general dentistry practice for 30 years, retiring in 1985. After her retirement, she served as a dental editor for the Michigan Dental Association Journal, authoring and editing dental articles and dentist profiles.

Ken SnodgrassKen Snodgrass (BSME ‘69, MSE ‘71) - 2014 Distinguished Alumni Service Award

ME Alum Ken Snodgrass (BSME ‘69 and MSE ‘71) Receives 2014 Distinguished Alumni Service Award

Ken Snodgrass is a mechanical engineer, automotive professional, and co-founder of the Michigan Engineering Zone (MEZ) in Detroit. After graduating from the University of Michigan College of Engineering (BSME ‘69 and MSE ‘71), Ken accepted a position in Light Truck Engineering at Ford Motor Company where he would work for 30 years in a wide variety of management positions in product development including international assignments and joint programs with various Asian and European auto manufacturers.

 

Theodore T. Tanase (BSE ME ‘63) and Priscilla B. TanaseTanase Scholarship Fund

Theodore T. Tanase (BSE ME ‘63) and Priscilla B. Tanase of Seattle, Washington, with a $100,000 gift, have endowed the Theodore and Priscilla Tanase Scholarship Fund to provide need-based support to full-time undergraduates at the College of Engineering. They desire that first preference be given to students from the State of Hawaii, followed by the State of Washington. Ted is the founder of Ensocare, which provides web-based care coordination solutions to help manage patient care transitions, reduce length of stay and reduce readmissions. Priscilla enjoyed an early career in the fitness industry, and more recently as a family therapist.

 

Sheri SheppardSheri Sheppard (PhD ‘85) - 2014 U.S. Professor of the Year

Sheppard is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University.

The U.S. Professors of the Year program salutes the most outstanding undergraduate instructors in the country—those who excel in teaching and positively influence the lives and careers of students. Sponsored by CASE and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, it is the only national program to recognize excellence in undergraduate teaching and mentoring.

In her role at Stanford, Sheppard teaches a wide range of undergraduate and graduate mechanics courses, courses on teaching and workshops on professional development. She also advises new lecturers and tenure-line faculty on their course design, serving as a faculty sponsor on several of those courses.

 

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