Tell us about how U-M ME shaped your career and life! Please click and give input: ummecheng.in/me150-shareyourstory
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Sarah Flynn - Staff
After twenty-six years I recently retired from the University of Michigan. I was able to spend time in Student Affairs, Administrative Services and Academic Affairs, before spending the last twelve years in the academic area, Mechanical Engineering. A major influence and mentor in my early career was working in ME at the time; I jumped at the opportunity to work with her again on the financial team within the department. I had no idea how many long-lasting relationships I would make. Yet the talent and the dedication within the department is what awed me the most. I’m always excited to see and read about the research ME’s faculty are doing, and the students’ ideas and projects are beyond amazing. There’s something bigger and better each year. In support for the faculty and students, I’ve been able to be a part of a team that always wants to go the next step and help push the vision and current strategy of the department. All of the different staff areas ME personnel are assigned to have consistently found a way to work together to deliver our service. Of that I’m proud! I hope every staff that works at UM has to opportunity to be part of an incredible team and strong department like Mechanical Engineering. I can’t wait to read about what ME is doing next. Go Blue!
Toby Donajkowski - Staff
I started working for the university in 1989 and it has been a wonderful experience. I spent my first 10 years on central campus working for the department of Biology. The next ten years I spent working in the medical school. Throughout the twenty years I worked on developing prototype devices used in research and patient treatment. I felt so humbled to work with so many outstanding people throughout the university.
In 2009 an opportunity came available to work in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. I actually had longed to be on the engineering campus for years. I accepted the offer to work directly with students who are undoubtedly the best the world has to offer. When I first arrived to mechanical engineering, my role was to provide support as a mechatronics systems engineer for the undergraduate design and manufacturing program. Most recently, I have been given the opportunity to lead a highly talented and dedicated group of engineering technicians within the department.
It is hard to believe nine years have passed so quickly. During the years, I have met and interacted with so many outstanding individuals who have left an impact on my life. I feel fortunate to have an opportunity to exchange knowledge and play a small part in developing a better engineer. Working directly with young engineers has been a gratifying and humbling experience. I am appreciative to the Department of Mechanical Engineering for their continued support throughout the years.
Lisa Rogers - Staff
My Master’s degree is in Higher Education and Student Affairs. As I began looking for jobs, I gravitated toward those in academic advising despite applying for numerous jobs from events to housing. I started at U-M in 2015 and joined the ME Department as the Graduate Coordinator in Fall 2016. Though not an engineer myself, I have always had an appreciation for those in STEM fields. Engineers are among those who are going to change the world for the better and I admire the effort that it takes to do so.
When I got the position here, it was a no-brainer. Graduate students are the absolute best (though I might be a bit biased since my fiance is currently finishing his PhD next door in Civil). From Master’s students to PhDs, they are all driven to pursue their passion. They choose to be here and they work hard. Being a small part of these students’ careers and successes means the world to me.
In addition to working with the students, working with my fellow staff in the ME Department has been nothing but a joy. We get a lot of work done, but we also have fun doing it. I am so glad I get to spend 40 hours a week with the faculty, staff, and students who make it all worthwhile.
Amy Zhou - Current Student
When I first arrived at the university, I was originally an undeclared freshman in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts. I had applied to colleges across the country, but ended up at the University of Michigan because of the amazing programs and departments all across campus. During the Fall semester of my sophomore year, I had finally decided that I wanted to transfer to the College of Engineering and into the Mechanical Engineering department here at UofM. I really enjoy understanding how things work and wanted to make a difference in the world while doing work in sustainability or in the biomedical field. I expected that it would be pretty difficult and that I would have to put in a lot of work to succeed, but I did not expect to make so many friends, have so many design and hands-on project experiences, and be granted so many amazing real-world work opportunities.
In the classroom, I’ve really enjoyed the design and manufacturing courses offered in the curriculum, and I have also found that these classes have been the most educational for me. Although the courses are very intensive, they give you a hands-on experience in a group setting. They bring you through the design, prototype, manufacturing, and test phases of creating and developing an end product. Not only have the courses developed my technical skills, but they also force you to develop your interpersonal skills. For my senior design project, we are in the process of creating a mechanism to attach to the wheelchair of a child who suffers from cerebral palsy to allow him to play soccer with his friends. All the design projects presented in these courses are very educational and personally fulfilling, which is something I truly enjoy and are experiences I will never forget.
Outside of class, I am the president of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers chapter at the University of Michigan. I really enjoy this role as it gives me the opportunity to network, mentor younger students, get more involved with the department, and have fun with my friends. I have also been very fortunate to have gained real work experience through summer internships. I had the amazing opportunities to work at NASA Glenn Research Center and Daimler at Detroit Diesel. I am currently looking forward to road tripping to Reno, Nevada in May where I will be working for Tesla at the Gigafactory 1 on the production engineering team. Overall, I have loved the time I’ve had with Michigan Engineering and I am very thankful for the experiences I have had, the things I have learned, and the opportunities that this education has presented and will present to me in the future. Go Blue!
Jessica Goshorn - Current Student
Ever since I was little, I’ve loved the concept of design. My younger brother often had to cooperate with me playing with his Legos and other building-oriented toys. During middle school, I took a design technology course that exposed me to engineering for the first time. I attended two events held by the Society of Women Engineers here at the University of Michigan and realized that Mechanical Engineering was the field that best encompassed my passions. I’ve always wanted to be a Wolverine, and the Mechanical Engineering department here is one of the best in the world. I set my mind on becoming the first Mechanical Engineer in my family.
My Mechanical Engineering courses have allowed me to enhance my intuition for design with skills including critical thinking, problem-solving, and collaboration. The group-focused classes have provided a real-world experience within my collegiate curriculum. I am also a member of Supermileage, an engineering design team that strives to build the most efficient vehicle possible. As the sole female technical lead, I especially focus on creating an environment that fosters collaboration and innovation for all our members. This design team has allowed me to take skills and topics I’ve learned in the classroom and utilize them on an exciting project with fellow Michigan engineers.
Following graduation in April 2018, I will be joining Robert Bosch LLC as a Mechanical Engineering Professional Development Trainee. This two-year rotational program will allow me to apply the skills I’ve learned here in the University of Michigan Department of Mechanical Engineering to business units across the globe.
Andrew Toennies - Current Student
Ever since I was young, I have always tinkered - duct tape was a commodity always in demand, and I constantly took things to apart to understand how they functioned. Throughout high school, I was involved with robotics as well, so naturally, it was never a question of whether I would go into engineering, but rather, which discipline. For me, mechanical engineering was the obvious choice.
What drew me to UM ME was its emphasis on extracurricular learning, namely through student-run project teams. In my tours of campus I was always in awe that a space like the Wilson Center existed. Upon matriculating to Michigan, I quickly joined the Solar Car Team, where I quickly took up the reins in a mechanical engineering capacity for the team, designing suspensions, steering mechanisms, and more. I have been hooked ever since, being fortunate enough to be able to drive Aurum (our car constructed in 2015) in the 2016 American Solar Challenge and to serve as the interim engineering director in Fall 2017. Along the way, I was pushed beyond what I thought I was capable of, learned industry-specific skill sets, and forged long-lasting friendships.
In combination with my work with the Solar Car team, the knowledge base I have acquired through ME coursework such as ME 250 and 350 has prepared me well for my product design co-ops and internships at SpaceX, Tesla, and Apple. Though I don’t quite know where I will end up a little more than a year from now upon graduating in April 2019, I'll know that UM’s mechanical engineering program helped get me there wherever I go.
Joseph Saginaw - Current Student
Both my parents and some of my family went to the University of Michigan, but they managed to be non-partisan during my college decision-making process. What I thought set Michigan apart was the well-rounded education it offered, from excellent academics to student project teams and of course football games in The Big House.
As most engineers I loved Legos as a kid, and also helped start my high school robotics team, deciding early on that I wanted to be a Mechanical Engineer. After arriving at Michigan, I became involved with the Hybrid Racing team and the Entrepreneurs Leadership Program, becoming passionate about both electric vehicles and startups. In my classwork, I became interested in electromechanical systems and expanded my undergraduate curriculum to include a minor in electrical engineering. After taking ME 360, I developed an interest in controls and will hopefully continue to pursue the subject through my undergraduate and potentially graduate degrees. These experiences and the relationships that were built opened up more doors for me and have given me the incredible opportunity to intern at the most awesome electric vehicle startup in the world: Tesla. Mechanical Engineering at Michigan has enabled me to do things I once only dreamed about, and I am very grateful for that. My focus for the next year is to make the most out of my fleeting time at the University.
The picture is from the one time I got to drive the car I helped build, I'm not actually a talented race car driver (yet)!
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.
Anna Hardig - Current Student
Applying for colleges, I knew I had a love of math and art. To pursue both, the University of Michigan was the only university in the running, and I applied to both the College of Engineering and School of Art & Design. Whenever I tell someone about my dual degree, they are surprised, thinking that nothing could be more opposite, but it is at the intersection of art, design and engineering where my passion lies.
It was the hands-on aspect of Mechanical Engineering that drew me in. Courses like 250 and 350 helped me develop my designing and teamworking skills. Courses like Artist and Designer as Citizen, Discursive Design, and Sci Fi Prototype inspired me to think about my own motivations for designing, the ethics involved in the products I create, and the way users will interact with the product. In ME 455, also known as Analytical Product Design, I designed a device to aid hard of hearing and deaf students in the classroom using mechanical engineering, design science, and design skills. What I’ve learned in my mechanical engineering courses has altered my way of thinking in art and design; statics, circuits, heat transfer, and many others influence my art and design practice in ways I wouldn’t have imagined. Through Mechanical Engineering, I am able to understand my work at a different lens adding another layer of function and problem-solving.
After graduating in April 2017, I accepted a position as a User Experience FCG with Ford Motor Company.
Michael Hendrix - BSE, 2004
As a young kid from Detroit, MI, I was exposed to mechanical engineering at the University of Michigan through summer experiences in DAPCEP (Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program). Over several years I was exposed to the greatness of U of M and I knew it was where I wanted to pursue my engineering degree. As I matriculated throughout the school, I found two key things that made my experiences in mechanical engineering so amazing: the rigorous curriculum and mentorship.
The curriculum taught me skills that have been beneficial to my career even to this day. Strong analytics, root cause analysis, structured problem solving, and systems integration are just a few competencies that helped me to accomplish things like launching new model products at Ford Motor Company or optimizing operations at Tech startups.
Ultimately, I wouldn't have progressed through my undergraduate years at U of M without the help from many students and staff. For example, during my freshman year I had a senior mentor, Jason Forton (BSE '00), who gave me the "blueprint" to navigating engineering life and the intricacies of mechanical engineering. Additionally, Dr. Noel Perkins provided me with guidance and personalized leadership which helped me to grow and gain a passion for engineering.
Today my leadership and experience are rooted in how the ME department pushed my intellectual limits and drove me to approach areas of my career with the same precision and rigor I developed at U of M. Therefore, I am thankful for the academic accomplishments and personal growth that U of M afforded me.
Michael is currently an eCommerce Operations Manager for Newell Brands.
Tim Murphy - BSE, 2008
I graduated from Michigan nearly ten years ago. Despite having never worked professionally as an engineer, I use my engineering skills every day.
As a patent attorney, I help secure patents for my clients’ inventions. I also litigate patent disputes in courts around the country. My job requires me to use a combination of legal and technical skills. A good patent attorney must be capable of communicating persuasively to different audiences—from a specialist patent examiner to a judge or juror with no technical background.
I originally chose to major in engineering because of my aptitude for math—I did not love writing! During my time at Michigan, however, I realized I had a knack for presenting highly technical concepts in a way that could be easily understood. My senior year, I took ME 450 with Steve Skerlos. Professor Skerlos pushed my class to analyze a set of data, make a conclusion, and present that conclusion confidently. This is not unlike the practice of law. As a patent attorney, I analyze a set of facts, take a position, and work to convince a judge or patent examiner to take my client’s side.
Needless to say, the technical and analytical skills I acquired at Michigan served as a great kickstart to my career in patent law.
Tim is currently a Patent Attorney and Partner at Carlson, Gaskey & Olds, P.C.
Stephen Dyer - MSE, 1994; PHD, 1999
After growing up in Ann Arbor, I spent many years away for school and to perform volunteer service in Taiwan. When I came back to attend graduate school at Michigan in the Mechanical Engineering Department I gained a new perspective about my hometown and “home university”.
I found that expectations were high but the support was just as high within the ME department. I recall speaking to a professor about a particularly difficult mathematical problem for a project. I’ll never forget his response when I expressed doubt about whether the problem was tractable. He said, “This is Michigan!” and pointed me toward the symbolic math software packages that were just coming into vogue.
After I accepted a full-time position at BalaDyne, a local industrial technology start-up, and switched to part-time student status, Professor Jun Ni graciously brought me into affiliation with the S.M. Wu Manufacturing Research Center, which he led. Professor Ni embodied the type of encouragement and support provided by the faculty and staff in the ME department when he suggested that I pursue a grant for my research through the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Advanced Technology Program (ATP). To my great, and pleasant, surprise, our proposal won a grant for $2 million, which funded BalaDyne’s development of advanced vibration control technology, my own Ph.D. research, and that of several other students. Thus began my long and enjoyable collaboration with Professor Ni and his team.
While conducting research and development at BalaDyne I began getting involved in more of the company’s strategic deliberations and felt that I needed to know more about business. After finishing my MBA at Michigan’s Ross Business School, I embarked on a new career chapter in management consulting, eventually serving as a Partner at A.T. Kearney and then at Bain & Company, before recently coming back to “industry” as Asia Pacific Vice President for Business Strategy at Ford Motor Company.
After many years in consulting and business leadership positions, which don’t necessarily require deep engineering expertise, people sometimes ask me, “Do you regret the time you invested to get a Ph.D.?” My consistent answer is, “Not one bit.” My time at Michigan with the world-class faculty and classmates of the ME program trained me in the problem-solving skills I still use every day – how to identify the key fundamental questions and break the larger issues down into smaller ones that can be attacked systematically through a deep understanding of the underlying “physics”. I wouldn’t trade my experience at Michigan for the world.
Ben Siegel - BSE, 2009
Choosing to attend Michigan's Mechanical Engineering program was one of the best decisions I've ever made. I entered the program as a freshman who was infatuated with cars, and exited an engineer ready to achieve my dreams since I was 13 - help design sports cars. My work in the automotive field actually started while I was still a student. Our ME450 Senior Design team worked with Professor Diann Brei and a sponsor from General Motors to research how Shape Memory Alloys could fit in the automotive world. This project prepared me for my career in so many ways. Today I lead a team of engineers who designs automotive components and the pattern fits exactly what I did in ME450 - designing to customer requirements, hosting regular meetings, working with a cross-functional team - I still use these skills that I developed as a student.
I'm a third generation Wolverine, the child of two Michigan Alumni, and someone who married a fellow Michigan Alum on campus. I owe so much to Michigan's Mechanical Engineering Department. As a 13-year-old, I wanted to design sports cars. As a 30-year-old, I design parts for everything from sports cars to heavy-duty trucks to aircraft. And that project I worked on in ME450? Shape Memory Alloys made their automotive debut in the 2014 Corvette. Go Blue!
Ben is currently employed as a Product Engineering Supervisor at BorgWarner Automotive.
David Moore - BSE, 2014; MSE, 2015
It was always my dream to attend the University of Michigan but I never could have imagined the profound impact that it would have on my life. I began my studies as a student interested in learning about the engineering field and left as a problem solver who is more curious than ever. The Mechanical Engineering Department and College of Engineering as a whole became my learning lab with new ideas and theories bouncing around every day. I loved walking through GG Brown and seeing all the student and professor projects come to life from ideas to prototypes. I found my passion in product design and was given more opportunities than I could have ever imagined to better my skills.
What I think is most unique about this community of professors and students is that they didn’t just encourage me to pursue my passions but also pushed me to expand my horizons. While at Michigan, I was fortunate enough to compete on the swim team. While most outsiders discouraged me from trying to do both engineering and swimming, the ME department and CoE said I should go for more. I was pushed to new heights and the Michigan Difference was obvious. At the end of four years, I not only had more than a degree worth of knowledge that I was excited to use, but I also learned the values of teamwork and leadership with the swim team winning four Big Ten Championships and the NCAA Championship. The Engineering Global Leadership Honors Program supplemented my curriculum with business and global perspectives, and my master's program gave me the time to dive a bit deeper into design as well as teach my favorite class (ME250) and inspire future design engineers.
But Michigan kept pushing me. I was still curious to learn more so I applied for the Rhodes Scholarship and was honored to receive it and study for two years at Oxford University in the UK. This experience wouldn’t have been possible without the opportunities, experiences, and support I received from the University of Michigan. I was able to explore new topics in environmental science and business while focussing on energy and technology applications from a social perspective. This experience supplements my engineering background and I am loving applying these skills in my current job as a product design engineer at Google.
Michigan has taught me that if no one doubts your goals, they aren’t set high enough. Luckily, in Ann Arbor, you have to set your goals pretty high to follow this and that is what makes us the Leaders and Best.
Essam Albahkali - MSE,1997; PhD, 2003
The first step to success in your future career is to join an institution you will be proud of forever. As a student who liked to continue his graduate study, I searched for the best mechanical engineering department in the world, one that had the most to offer. I found the Mechanical Engineering Department at The University of Michigan to be the best candidate as it’s known for its distinguished faculty, excellent world-class facilities and strong scientific programs.
After graduating, I became a faculty member at the Department of Mechanical Engineering at King Saud University, Saudi Arabia and over the years I’ve taught a variety of different courses, served on multiple committees and as chairman of the department for the past four years. I am currently a full professor at the Mechanical Engineering Department as well as a part-time consultant for Saudi Standards Metrology and Quality Organization.
Whether it is in the past, present day or in the future, I am proud to be a graduate of the Mechanical Engineering Department at The University of Michigan.
Mike Hess - BSE, 1991
While I was at U of M, I became a Cooperative Education (Co-op) Student at NASA. For my last years at Michigan, I alternated semesters between school and working at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The space discipline in which I worked was Extravehicular Actives (spacewalking) operations. I was involved in the planning of missions, training of astronauts in zero-g aircraft or underwater in the water tank, and supporting missions in Mission Control. On Space Shuttle Mission STS-37, during the spacewalks astronauts tested future concepts of translation trollies that could be used for assembly and maintenance of the space station. The technical name of the trollies are Crew and Equipment Translation Aids (CETA) Carts. In preparation for this mission, I remember relying on excellent instruction from Michigan Mechanical Engineering Professor Barber in mechanics of materials and from Professor Scott in loads and fasteners in order to work out devices and mechanisms the crew would actuate for successful evaluation of the space trollies. The mission was a success and CETA Carts are used on all of the International Space Station spacewalks today for successful maintenance of the station.
Mike is currently the Associate Director of Engineering at NASA/Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
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.
Deanna Hoffman - BSE, 1994; MSE, 1996; PhD, 1999
I joined the mechanical engineering family at The University of Michigan as Deanna Winton and left it as Deanna Hoffman having transformed in profound ways that have shaped my very being. I selected this university because it provided me the opportunity to sample two different career passions: music and engineering. I brought a love of oboe performance, physics, and calculus with me. Walking the halls, classrooms, libraries, and practice rooms underscored my comfort in digging into all things technical and realization that I can enjoy music performance with a little less digging. A career in mechanical engineering ultimately prevailed, and I leaned headlong into my engineering studies. The best engineering education, of course, has many facets, and one I needed to solidify quickly was hands-on experience. Strengthening that facet required getting out of my comfort zone and stepping into designing and building with confidence. I devoted many long hours into the 1993 solar car team and drove Maize & Blue across the finish line in both the U.S. and Australian races. The technical and personal lessons I learned with my teammates founded the engineering feats I have achieved since.
Ultimately, my passion for music, and more specifically sound and vibration, thrived in my studies. The pleasure of learning these subjects, although hard earned, were forged in the fire of Dr. David Dowling’s formidable acoustics class. I managed with what I thought to be an average performance but was thoroughly content with my earned knowledge. However, when Dr. Dowling offered a research assistant position, my first instinct was to look over my shoulder to see if he was speaking to another student. I was delighted to learn that he was indeed offering me the position and spent a fortunate four and a half years researching engine vibration under his watchful and compassionate eye. After securing both an MSME and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering during those four and a half years, I was well poised to join the ranks of engineering research and development at Ford Motor Company where I continue to contribute to the evolution of product development. I help shape and am proud of the noise and vibration our customers experience.
Reflecting back on these early years of my life highlights the genuine influence of The University of Michigan on the marvelous journey I continue to travel, pushing Ford Motor Company with me every step of the way.
Ashwin Salvi - MSE, 2009; PhD, 2013
The Mechanical Engineering department is one of the more unique departments at the University of Michigan, where students and faculty work in extremely broad disciplines – anywhere from injury prevention in biomechanics to thermal efficiency and emissions in combustion to systems optimization and operation in controls and many more. The interfacing between researchers in various groups brought a systems level approach to individual efforts where each group contributed their strengths but the entire collaboration learned as a whole. This is best exemplified by the Internet Distributed Hardware in the Loop experiments that connected over the internet a driver in a six-axis ride motion simulator located 50 miles away to a real internal combustion engine consuming fuel and producing emissions in the Michigan Auto Lab – that was the first time somebody actually “drove” that engine! This project utilized the efforts from the controls, optimization, biomechanics, dynamics, computation, combustion, and emissions groups in order to reduce vehicle fuel consumption and emissions while preserving human health.
The comradery between researchers in various groups and my desire to expand education beyond the laboratory defined my experience at Michigan, and motivated me and a couple of other Mechanical Engineers to found the Michigan Energy Club – where we discussed topics ranging from electricity markets to nuclear power. The research, education, and freedom offered in the ME department instilled confidence in my ability to understand technologies outside of my research area and ultimately led me to an interdisciplinary and multifunctional career path in energy. I went on to be a Fellow at the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) at the U.S. Department of Energy, where I worked on high risk, high reward energy technologies, and am now currently Director of Application Engineering at an advanced energy technology startup company, Achates Power.
Gillian Henker - BSE, 2011
The faculty, staff and resources in the mechanical engineering (ME) department enabled me to find my voice and pursue my passion. In my junior year, I applied to participate in a new multidisciplinary design program that would focus my senior ME capstone on maternal and infant health challenges in Africa. I was lucky enough to be chosen by Prof Sienko to join the first cohort of students in Ghana and during that summer, we interviewed and observed medical staff and patients at a large hospital seeing challenges from lack of equipment to witnessing a hemorrhaging patient with no transfusions available. The projects we chose included a labor and delivery bed, an infant respiration monitor and a manual autotransfusion (recycling one’s own blood) device.
Through the program within the ME dept., our cohort designed medical devices to meet these needs while also being encouraged to explore the commercial viability of these products. By the end of the program, a group of us decided to launch a startup company to further develop these devices with the help of UM connections and resources. This included a startup grant through the ME dept that funded our early stage prototypes, testing and travel for user feedback. The company has evolved over the years to become Sisu Global Health. Our first product Hemafuse, the manual autotransfusion device, has been successfully trialed in Ethiopia, has regulatory clearances in Ghana and Kenya, and is set to launch on the market in 2018. With the professors and staff in the ME dept., I was propelled forward to develop these much-needed medical devices and co-found a medical device company for emerging markets.
Suyi Li - BSE, 2006; PhD, 2014
I joined the ME department when I was 21 years old. G.G. Brown when I first saw it was a massive and confusing collection of fancy classrooms and research labs. Little did I know that this building would become another home for me over the next 10 years. It became a home for me to experience the American culture. I still remember Professor Ellen Arruda, in her ME382 exam, asked a bonus question on how the Red Socks can win the next game. Being a new international student that time, I could only scratch my head and wonder: what is Red Socks? G.G. Brown became a home for me to mature into a seasoned engineer and researcher. When my PhD research get stuck and refuse to progress, I always have a group of world-class professors and lab mates to rely on.
I left the ME department when I was 33 years old, and became a young professor at Clemson University. I feel proud every time when I give my students the homework assignments and exam questions from my own class notes from Michigan... even though they keep complaining about how difficult they are.
Michael Jocz - MSE, 2016; PhD 2017
I was raised in a family of University of Michigan graduates. When I enrolled in the Mechanical Engineering department in the fall of 2012, I joined my sister as a 5th generation Wolverine and the 4th consecutive generation in the College of Engineering. I grew up with the full appreciation of the significant challenges that I would face as a Michigan student and that it would be through these challenges, both those in which I succeeded or failed, that would prepare me for life.
In addition to the academic challenges, Coach Brady Hoke offered me a position on the Michigan’s football team....a top 20 program. It was definitely a challenge being a student athlete at a top academic university and playing on a top 20 football program. As extremely difficult as this was for 5 years, there was no place else I'd rather have been
In both the classroom and football field, I was blessed to be taught by some of the top educators in the world and surrounded by the top students – both pushing me to realize and develop my potential and to ready me for life after college.
The University of Michigan Mechanical Engineering Department allowed me to combine my passions for engineering and athletics by contributing to research on a football helmet design for concussion prevention. Working as a Research Assistant under Professors Ellen Arruda and Michael Thouless, I fabricated mechanical testing equipment capable of applying an array of impact accelerations for various helmet design configurations, and tested impact absorbing properties of different helmet foams affording me the unique opportunity to give back to the game that has been a huge part of my life and make the sport safer. I have seen the harmful effects of concussions through the experiences of my friends and teammates and hopefully this research will help future generations of players.
After graduating in May 2017, I accepted an engineering position at Rivian Automotive, an electric vehicle startup company in Livonia, MI. The prestigious education that I received at Michigan went far beyond the classroom or football field – it was an education in how to solve engineering and life problems under the most challenging environment.
Brandon Patterson - MSE, 2014; PhD, 2017
My time as a Mechanical Engineering student at UM has helped me discover my professional interests and passions and driven me to a better understanding of myself. When I first came to UM, fresh out of my bachelor’s degree, I was full of energy and excited to start my graduate career, but I really didn’t have a lot of direction. I knew I really enjoyed math and human mechanics, and I wanted to combine these interests to help people, but I still wasn't sure how. When I arrived at Michigan, I seized an opportunity to work with Professor Eric Johnsen, studying the fluid mechanics that described how bubbles could lead to unwanted biological effects during certain medical ultrasound procedures. The idea was that a better understanding of the physics could lead to useful surgeries and evidenced-based regulations. Moreover, the project united my interests perfectly and was both personally motivating and technically challenging. But as research goes, the months passed and buried in day-to-day technical issues, I lost sight of the purpose of my the work and my motivation dwindled.
In the hopes of making a difference I could see, I joined the Mechanical Engineering Graduate Council (MEGC), which at that point was just starting. Through MEGC I began creating and organizing STEM outreach events for ME graduate students to work with local schools and students. As part of these events, myself and others volunteers would talk about what we do and why it was so exciting. In organizing these events, I felt like I was making a positive difference in my community. And in sharing the story of my work, I met lots of intrigued and inspired young students who helped me remember why I was doing the work in the first place -- because better medical ultrasound really has the potential to make a difference in peoples lives. This passion for work and outreach has continued and soon I will start a postdoctoral position at the University of Michigan Medical School, where I intend to continue my ultrasound research and outreach.
The ME department gave me the opportunities to do impactful and meaningful work both in my technical field and in my local community and ultimately I learned that I am a happier more productive person only balancing the two.
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!
Kelsey Hockstad - BSE, 2015; MSE, 2016
When I first came on campus, spirit full of optimism, I expected great things from the University of Michigan. By my first week as a Michigan engineering student, I had heard about the time-consuming, challenging, and stressful senior design project, and I was intimidated to say the least. Fast forward three years, and I was standing in the brand new BorgWarner Galleria, scanning through the list of projects, one of which would soon consume my life for the semester. One project title immediately grabbed my attention. It read, “Giant Rubik’s Cube.” Several months earlier, two of my classmates had imagined this engineering twist on the Cube by the Union on central campus—a giant, human solvable, fully functional Rubik’s cube sculpture for north campus. That day in G. G. Brown, I decided to join the project to create the giant Rubik’s cube. None of us had any clue how challenging this project would be.
Senior design was over after one semester, but the Rubik’s cube project was not finished yet, so the four of us continued our work, overhauling the design twice over the next year and a half. We faced long hours of computer modeling, manufacturing components, and assembling cubelets (our word for the 26 small cubes that comprise a Rubik’s cube), and at times we weren’t sure our mechanical art piece would ever become reality. Those moments of doubt might have halted our project permanently without the support of the department, the Dean, and our encouraging and incredible mentor, Professor Noel Perkins, who never stopped believing in us. We were lucky to have him, as we were lucky in so many other ways. Chance brought the four of us together when we selected our senior design group, but hard work and outstanding mentorship transformed us into a great team that could accomplish what I had thought might not be possible. My teammates are all talented, bright, and innovative, and together we were greater than the sum of our parts. We had everything: a safe and inspiring space to share and create, an ongoing stream-of-consciousness line of communication, and humor to keep us sane when our endless hours of work threatened to drain our motivation.
One year after the four of us had graduated and three more students had joined the team, we unveiled the finally finished giant Rubik’s cube, a permanent fixture in the mechanical engineering building. Showing our project to the world was surreal, as we remembered how far we had come since we started. We solved the cube for the first time, then watched as the Dean, fellow students, and some of our favorite professors scrambled it again. As we had hoped from the beginning, this Rubik’s cube brought people together, its scale requiring cooperation as opposed to the original puzzle, which is usually meant for one person to solve alone. Our cube is meant to inspire teamwork, to show that some problems are better solved together. For me, the giant Rubik’s cube represents great teamwork and indispensable leadership, the paragon to which I will compare all future teams. I am forever grateful that I had the opportunity to participate in this project, with these incredible people.
Tyler Tallman - MSE, 2012; PhD, 2015
I loved my time in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Michigan, everything from playing on ME-student softball teams in the summer to meeting with friends for coffee-fueled late nights of homework at Mujo’s in Duderstadt. However, with regard to shaping my future career, the single biggest influence was undoubtedly the mentorship I received from my PhD advisor, Dr. Kon-Well Wang. So much of what I do now as a junior faculty member is based on what I learned from Dr. Wang. This includes everything from always making time for weekly one-on- one meetings with my graduate students to even little nuances in how I deliver lectures. The value of good mentorship cannot be understated. I have a lot of personal friends who pursued doctorates in science and engineering at other institutions and had much worse experiences largely due to neglect from their advisors. Fortunately, I never had to experience a lack of direction. I could always count on Dr. Wang to patiently guide and teach me. I’m very grateful to have had my graduate experience at an institution that values and cultivates such a developmentally-salubrious environment, an institution like the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Michigan.
Tyler is currently an Assistant Professor of Aeronautics & Astronautics at Purdue University.
Caroline Bono - MSE, 1999; PhD, 2002
When I look back at how my graduate years at Michigan shaped the person I am today, two things stand out. I discovered a new way of approaching problems where math and theory are only tools to an end, and I remember a great sense of academic freedom. Even today, whenever I come to a block in the road, I still recall one of the favorite questions of my thesis advisor, Professor Perkins: "What do *you* want to try?" As for my most memorable experience, it has to be finding the drag coefficient of flyfishing flies for my numerical code. Instead of giving me the drag coefficient value, Professor Perkins simply handed me a box of flyfishing flies. So, I went to the EECS building with a friend and a stopwatch on a late Sunday night and dropped the flies from the top of the atrium to measure the data I needed. Not the data in the table I was expecting... From Michigan, I took with me many more data acquisition stories all involving flyfishing, memories of endless bike rides and the beauty of nature, the smell of apple cider in the fall, and a hand-y map of Michigan.
Christopher Coyne - BSE, 2015
I'm grateful in many ways for my experience in Michigan's Mechanical Engineering Department, but two opportunities stand out amongst the rest for me. Firstly, I found incredible mentorship, specifically through Professor Allen Liu. In working in Professor Liu's lab, I had the opportunity to explore fields that I'd never before had the chance to even experience, learn about subjects that had for long piqued my interest, and work on challenges that I'd always imagined shaping the course of my career. My experience as an undergraduate research assistant opened my eyes to the impact that a great team of incredible minds could have on the world, and I instantly knew what a fantastic opportunity I had before me in joining such a team. A few short years later, I had earned a summer fellowship in bottom-up synthetic biology, co-authored a publication on microfluidics, and - most importantly - found a new family.
The second opportunity that quickly comes to mind is the series of project-based Design & Manufacturing courses, ME 250 through ME 450. Not only did these classes strengthen my practical understanding of applied engineering, but their underpinning of innovation strategies, problem-solving techniques, and team-based success changed the way that I tackle real-world challenges in my job every single day. No matter where my career may take me or what life has in store, I'm grateful for the confidence that I'm privileged to carry knowing that I'm a Michigan engineer.
Samuelina Wright - BSE, 2015
Less than 48 hours before a one-way flight to begin my new career in Seattle, there was a lone light on in a GG Brown lab. Many late nights have been spent in that building — exam cramming, robot trouble-shooting, presentation rehearsing. This night was different. Four friends were huddled around a mechanical contraption, etching our names into a thick aluminum slab that would later become part of a giant Rubik’s Cube to be installed just down the hall.
As a freshman, I would not have believed that four years later I’d be etching my name in something so big to leave behind in my hometown, on my hoMe campus. I would not have believed I’d have the opportunity to take an idea and run with it alongside three friends, being cheered on by family, friends, the College of Engineering, and an unbelievable mentor. Sometimes it’s still hard for me to believe, but what I do believe is that the project would not have been the same rewarding, challenging, or successful learning experience at any other university. The people and resources in the Mechanical Engineering Department fueled the creativity of a project that ultimately shaped my undergrad experience and gave me the space to explore a growing passion — the intersection of engineering and artistic design.