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Message from the Chair

It is a true privilege to write this Chair’s message as the University of Michigan Department of Mechanical Engineering (ME) reaches a remarkable milestone: its 150th anniversary. As we reflect on the past, and at our celebratory events in 2018, we also look to the future with the clarity of vision only a storied and unshakable foundation can provide.

With 72 tenured and tenure-track faculty; 19 research faculty; 55 staff; over 500 graduate students, including more than 250 PhD students; 800 undergraduates; and a network of over 16,000 living alumni, the ME department is well positioned for sustained growth and success.

As we mark our 150th year, we also mark another milestone in our history, as longtime faculty member Ellen Arruda, who holds the Maria Comninou Collegiate Professorship in Mechanical Engineering, assumes the role of ME’s 18th Department Chair on September 1, 2018. Suffice it to say, the Department could not be in better hands.

Transitions often lead to reflection, and as I prepare to complete my time as Department Chair after two five-year terms, I find myself thinking about the myriad of changes that have taken place since 2008. Many of them involved our world-class facilities. In 2014, we completed a major $46-million project that established a new 63,000-square-foot research complex, guided by a vision of the future of mechanical engineering. This new addition to the ME department is a multi-award-winning facility dedicated to research at the intersection of core ME disciplines and emerging areas, including nano-, micro- and bio-systems. The Department completed a second major renovation of GG Brown to create a student-centric educational facility. Our aim was to provide collaborative and innovative spaces for our renowned pedagogic paradigm and a welcoming home for our students, and the project achieved that goal – and more. In addition, we renovated the Walter E. Lay Automotive Laboratory, also known as the Lay Auto Lab, to create a more welcoming, productive environment both for occupants and the Auto Lab’s many visitors.

Since 2008, we have developed a comprehensive and visionary strategic plan, covering all areas of research, education, faculty, staff, facilities and external relations. Twenty-seven new faculty members have since joined the Department, across the strategic disciplines we have identified, gaining international renown for their accomplishments. Many of our faculty have received highly prestigious awards in the past decade, including top honors from various professional societies. In addition, several were elected to the esteemed National Academy of Engineering. Our faculty have led their professional organizations, as well as served as editors of top journals and played key roles on the national policymaking stage as leaders in governmental organizations, including the National Science Foundation and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

With clearly identified strategic research directions and a highly collaborative climate, centers and institutes under the Department’s purview have also thrived. The U-M Automotive Research Center renewed its contract for $40 million. A first-of-its-kind Mobility Transformation Center and MCity autonomous vehicle test facility is making headlines around the country with ME faculty heavily involved in both research initiatives and leadership. In addition, we’re shaping the future of emerging manufacturing technologies through faculty leadership of the Alliance for Manufacturing Foresight (MForesight) and the U.S. Department of Defense-funded LIFT Lightweight Innovations consortium. ME faculty have also provided strong leadership in various other large-scale initiatives on campus, including the Robotics Institute, the Exercise & Sports Science Initiative and the Michigan Institute for Computational Discovery & Engineering.

On the educational front, we’ve increased curricular flexibility for our undergraduates and created the novel RISE (Research, Innovation, Service and Entrepreneurship) program, which emphasizes independent student projects. We have implemented several initiatives to enhance our graduate program, including adding a number of additional and well-received academic and career-focused mentoring events and programs. Our PhD students received highly competitive National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships – among the highest number of recipients from a single department in the county. We launched a new two-year dual degree combining the Master of Science and Engineering in Mechanical Engineering degree with the Master of Management from the Ross School of Business. Our students also have a number of opportunities globally, with unique programs in China, Germany, Ghana, India and Japan.

Our alumni continue to amaze and we are ever grateful for their incredible support. In 2012, the Department received a significant endowment from loyal and distinguished alumnus Tim Manganello, former executive chairman of BorgWarner Inc. and the BorgWarner Foundation. This generous landmark gift established the first endowed department chair in the history of the College of Engineering.

We’ll celebrate our rich history, flourishing present and ambitious future during special events on September 21 and 22, and we hope you’ll join us. Visit for a full schedule of educational (and fun) events.

It has been my great honor to serve as Chair of University of Michigan’s Mechanical Engineering department for the last 10 years. To friends far and wide, thank you for your unwavering support over the past decade.


Kon-Well Wang

Tim Manganello/BorgWarner Department Chair
and Stephen P. Timoshenko Collegiate Professor
August 2018