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Living in Michigan: a hub for culture, exploration, and comfort

The morning sun rises on the Grove at North Campus of the University of Michigan.
Photo: Levi Hutmacher/Michigan Engineering, Communications & Marketing

The U-M Department of Mechanical Engineering is located on the University of Michigan’s North campus in Ann Arbor, a vibrant mid-sized city known for its sprawling greenery and exposed-brick facades, its array of enticing eateries and historic theaters, and, of course, Michigan Football!

Across Ann Arbor, like-minded people find their way to each other. Graduate students at Michigan, especially, have access to an expansive menu of student organizations and events, like the U-M Quidditch Team, the Student Sustainability Coalition, and Arts Chorale. Whatever your interests, Ann Arbor is home to a community here to welcome you!

Pure Michigan and Beyond

Proximal to every major town and city, the great lakes are the heart of Michigan culture. When the snow melts, many Michiganders drive up north to visit the surreal Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore on Lake Michigan, or they drive further and walk the Bridge over the Straits of Mackinac into the Upper Peninsula (a Memorial Day tradition). Whether shopping at the Great Lakes Crossing Outlets or stopping to stare out over Traverse Bay, while the National Cherry Festival crowds the electric downtown streets of Traverse City, the pride of being a Michigander feels intrinsically tied to the water.

Throughout the holiday season, many in Southeast Michigan visit the historic Henry Ford Village for a haunted park experience, the Detroit Zoo for a holiday lights show, and shop downriver at the many artisan shops in Wyandotte, MI. Everyone waits excitedly for the many Polish bakeries of the Detroit Metro Area to announce the coming of Paczki Day, the sign that spring flowers, like the peonies and the tulips, will soon fill the gardens and the roadsides with vibrant colors. From Ann Arbor, U-M graduate students have access to these traditions and to all of Michigan’s many wonders, though home is never very far away.

Situated less than a thirty-minute drive from the U-M campus, the Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW) is a hub for major airlines, like Delta, AirCanada, AirFrance, Spirit Airlines, and American Airlines. Flights to Europe, East Asia, and to every corner of the United States run often. From Ann Arbor, the Michigan Flyer and D2A2 are very accessible bus services that connect the UM-Ann Arbor campus with DTW and all the offerings of downtown Detroit, like the Detroit Riverwalk, the Detroit Institute of Art, and the world-class eateries in Hamtramck.

Ann Arbor Living

Life here at the University of Michigan is not all tied to campus, however. Ann Arbor is a distinct locale, with a storied history and hidden gems everywhere. On any sidewalk, you might happen across the chalk drawings of Ann Arbor’s Banksy, David Zinn, or you might discover one of the many hidden fairy doors that lay tucked in the corners of coffee shops and into the wall of the timeless Michigan Theater! From Restaurant Week and the Ann Arbor Art Fair to the twice-weekly Kerrytown Farmers Market and the Festival of Fools, opportunities to enjoy downtown Ann Arbor are always in ample supply.

A video from one of our many research collaborators, Michigan Medicine, created this video highlighting what we love about Ann Arbor and Michigan.

Whether strolling through the peony gardens of the Nicholl’s Arboretum in early May or sipping coffee in the window of the hip java house, Comet Coffee, in late November, Ann Arbor feels equally cozy and exciting, year-round.

Summer in Ann Arbor can be especially beautiful. The warm weather inspires many kayak trips down the Huron River and strolls through downtown to the iconic Blank Slate Creamery for lavender lemon honey ice cream! From early May to late September, many students make their way out to the docks at Bandemer Park, climb into hammocks strung up in West Park, and lay out on picnic blankets in the Matthei Botanical Gardens, where they can watch the annual production by the local theater company, Shakespeare in the Arb

Colorful and lively, Ann Arbor is a source of pride for the Great Lakes State. In each distinct area of town, Michiganders are finding new ways to connect with nature, to have fun together, and to explore greater Michigan.

Department Climate

Within the Department of Mechanical Engineering, support for students is a top priority. Students admitted to the PhD program are offered full funding packages to pursue their studies, including a monthly stipend, tuition and registration fees waived, and health and dental benefits. Additional support is offered in the form of several fellowship options, like Graduate Student Research Assistantships (GSRA), Graduate Student Instructorships (GSI), and Graduate Student Staff Assistant (GSSA) positions, in which students have many opportunities to gain experience in teaching and research. While taking part in world-class research projects there are exciting experiences necessary for lab work as well, like attendance at conferences across the world or a trip to launch an experiment to the International Space Station.

To promote each student’s unique perspectives and research goals, class sizes are kept small and personal, in spite of the largeness of the department, and the curriculum is designed to encourage creativity when engaging with the material. With renowned faculty leading in thirteen distinct research areas to guide them and close relationships with other U-M Engineering departments to foster collaborations, ME graduate students are always well-equipped and supported in their research pursuits, and the same can be said for their personal interests.

The department is home to several student organizations that support the convergence of research and opportunities for building community, like the outstanding Mechanical Engineering Graduate Council (MEGC) and the burgeoning ME DEI Alliance.


The purpose of the Mechanical Engineering Graduate Council is to serve the University of Michigan ME Graduate Community through three main objectives:

1) Build a strong sense of community within the department.

2) Organize programs that promote academic and professional development, social wellness, and DEI objectives.

3) Serve as a means of communication between graduate students and department administrators.

The MEGC hosts social and outreach events throughout the year. From volleyball tourneys, trips to the Dexter Cider Mill, and ice cream socials to tech workshops and networking events to help build relationships between graduate students and industry professionals, the MEGC is a home away from home for many of the department’s bright young scholars, especially those joining the department from outside the U.S.

ME DEI Alliance

An offshoot of the MEGC, the ME DEI Alliance was started by several international students and is primarily focused on promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout the ME department. Their main initiative has been a series of multicultural events that highlight and celebrate diversity in the ME Community. From Asian Food Cultures to Greek amphitheaters and karagiozis to an ancient Indian university and linguistic idiosyncrasies of Latin American countries, the multicultural events series has explored the many home cultures from which our graduate students bring their unique perspectives.

Whether you love to hike or go to concerts, read the classics or bike along the water, stare for hours at a painting or play pick-up basketball, there are opportunities for you to thrive at the U-M Department of Mechanical Engineering, while you pursue the research that will make the world work better.

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community student life