The University of Michigan has a long-standing record of being home to some of the leading innovators, entrepreneurs, and world-changers. Since 1817, when the University of Michigan first began with the College of Literature, Science, & Arts, students and faculty within this institution were itching with a need to impact the world and improve upon what they already had. With this mindset, the past 200 years have been packed with some of the most innovative thinkers and entrepreneurial problem-solvers the world has seen.

The need to improve is still alive and well among University of Michigan alumni from around the globe. But what have our Engineering alumni been up to? Why they are out changing the world, of course! Did you know that…

  • In 1929, Elsie MacGill graduated from U-M’s College of Engineering with an MSE in Aerospace Engineering, going on to be the world’s very first female aircraft designer. MacGill was deemed the “Queen of the Hurricanes” after leading a highly-productive aircraft production line during WWII, where she oversaw 4,500 staff and became the leader of production at just 35 years old.  
  • The founder of Photoshop, Thomas Knoll, received his PhD in Computer Vision from Michigan in 1980, when he created one of the most powerful and popular pieces of software to ever be sold by Adobe. Starting out as working towards improving factories robots and machining, Knoll worked algorithm by algorithm to create Photoshop to compliment Adobe’s Illustrator and PostScript softwares.
  • After receiving his BSE in Computer Engineering from Michigan in 1991, Tony Fadell went on to become the “godfather” of the iPod. Creating a cultural tech phenomenon, Fadell worked as the Senior Vice President of Apple’s iPod Division. Around the world, Fadell is named as one of the biggest names in technology and innovation, as he co-founded Nest, which was purchased by Google for over $3.2 billion. Today, Fadell is speaking at events across the country to spur innovation in computing, investing, and sitting on Magna International’s board of advisors.
  • Mechanical Engineering professor, Ellen Arruda, discovered a way to protect the brains of football players around the country. Arruda, along with a team of other designers and engineers, has created a football helmet made of a trio of polymers that absorb pressure waves upon impact, which then results in far fewer concussions and other brain injuries. Arruda and her team recently won $250K from the NLF for their research. Their helmet prototype is currently being modified to better protect players, as well as soldiers.

While 200 years have come and gone, innovation is still being driven by some of the leaders and best within Michigan Engineering. From navigating the future of augmented reality to saving the lives of thousands of infants, our students are going above and beyond to make the world work for everyone:

  • Receiving his PhD of Neuroscience this past January, Ramses Alcaide is off in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where heis working with a team of Michigan graduates on the future of augmented reality technologies. After starting his AR startup- Neurable- Alcaide joined the University’s student startup accelerator, TechArb, which provided Neurable the connections and experiences, including capturing second place at the Rice Business Plan Competition, where they won over $200,000. The team recently secured a seed round of over $2 million.
  • As a freshman in the College of Engineering, Keiana Cave secured an internship with Intel Ventures, was named a fellow in CFE’s Entrepreneurs Leadership Program, and was named one of the Michigan Daily’s Students of the Year. In addition, Keiana nabbed a spot in Forbes 30 Under 30 most recent cohort in light of her development of a molecule…which of course, was turned into a startup – Mare- which is funded by Chevron, who recently gave Cave $1.2 million to continue her research.
  • From taking first place in the Michigan Business Challenge to saving thousands of infant lives, Walker McHugh is no ordinary Master’s student. A current graduate student studying Biomedical and Medical Engineering, McHugh co-founded PreDixion Bio, where he created a diagnostic device that helps doctors and other medical professionals provide precise, specialized patient treatment. PreDixion Bio led their 2016 cohort in the CFE’s TechArb student startup accelerator.

It’s safe to say that the University of Michigan’s College of Engineering is on the verge of some of the most innovative ventures and research in the world. If you’re interested in meeting more of our student victors, check out the recent edition of Made at Michigan, where the College of Engineering hosts a variety of student startups, including 16 teams that have been involved with CFE’s programming.

Looking to get involved?
U-M is booming with potential and opportunity. If you’re interested in taking part in forming the next generation of entrepreneurs and world-changers, please contact Eric Bacyinski at to learn how you can support Michigan’s innovation across the country. Eric is located in Ann Arbor, MI and will be in the San Francisco/Bay Area the week of June 5. Reach out, Eric is happy to meet with you.


By Kate Toporski, Content Development Intern