Faculty News

Year in Review: Michigan Research

The University of Michigan continued to lead innovative and impactful research and scholarship endeavors that address important societal challenges, which of course included COVID-19 this year. Researchers from across the university began studying how to understand it, inform people about it, and address it. But that wasn’t the only monumental research topic at U-M in 2020. Researchers across a wide variety of disciplines launched projects to address racial disparities, including how coronavirus brought those disparities to the forefront and what can be done to combat structural racism. Additionally, driverless vehicle technology, sustainability, and firearm injury prevention were important focus areas for the U-M research enterprise in 2020.

Here are a few highlights of research projects in those focus areas from the past year:


Personal cold plasma air curtain design for COVID-19 protection moves forward 
The next generation of protective masks—under development at the University of Michigan—could harness the power of nonthermal, or cold, plasma into a small headset that both blocks and neutralizes airborne pathogens.

U-M researchers, others examine ways to scale up COVID-19 testing to meet demand
Boosting incentives to speed turnaround, real-time monitoring of testing operations among public health officials and coordination across state lines could save more lives, according to a University of Michigan study.

U-M Center for Drug Repurposing searches for coronavirus therapy 
Launched late last year, the Center for Drug Repurposing (UM-CDR) is already taking on the challenge of finding a drug previously approved by the FDA – or more likely a cocktail of several drugs – to battle COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.



Exposure to coronavirus explains racial disparities is COVID-19 mortality rates 
Large variations in exposure at home, in the community and at work may explain the racial disparities in COVID-19 mortality during the first wave of the pandemic last spring, according to a new University of Michigan study.

U-M study: 2016 election negatively affected mental health of Muslim college students
The 2016 presidential election was linked to considerable mental health declines among Muslim college students, with religious Muslims seeing the largest declines in mental health, according to University of Michigan research.

Conversational assistants could be used to improve African American health around COVID-19
University of Michigan researchers say employing a conversational assistant—think ‘Hey, Siri,’—could be one way to narrow the gap in health disparities impacting the African American community, particularly around the current COVID-19 pandemic.



Mcity Driverless Shuttle reports research findings after safe project conclusion
Results from the nation’s first driverless shuttle project to focus primarily on consumer acceptance and data collection show high levels of trust and satisfaction among both riders and nonriders of the Mcity Driverless Shuttle.

State initiative to design ‘road of the future’ connecting Detroit and Ann Arbor

The University of Michigan is a partner in a major mobility initiative to develop a first-of-its-kind corridor for connected and autonomous vehicles. The corridor is designed to improve transportation for communities in Southeast Michigan and continue the state’s leadership in smart infrastructure and future mobility.

2020 Mcity Test Facility Video Tour 

Take a tour of the Mcity Test Facility at the University of Michigan, which opened in 2015 as the world’s first purpose-built proving ground for early-stage testing of connected and automated vehicles and technologies. Many new features and capabilities have been added since then.


More than 1.3 million jobs, $82 billion in wages directly tied to Great Lakes

The Great Lakes support more than 1.3 million jobs that generate $82 billion in wages annually, according to an analysis of 2018 economic data by Michigan Sea Grant. The coastal counties of the eight Great Lakes states produce 21% of the gross domestic product in the region and 5.8% of the US GDP.

U-M, community partners tackle energy insecurity in three Detroit neighborhoods
Some Detroiters spend up to 30% of their monthly income on home energy bills. A new University of Michigan-led project, in partnership with four Detroit community-based organizations, will try to lighten that load a bit by improving home energy efficiency.

Key to predicting future climate: Look back millions of years

An international team of climate scientists, including two from the University of Michigan, suggests that researchers using numerical models to predict future climate change should include simulations of past climates when evaluating model performance.



Firearms research at U-M gets $4.6M boost with CDC grants
In a milestone of research funding, three teams of University of Michigan researchers have received funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to address issues related to firearm injury.

Seizing military weapons does not increase violent crime nor risk police safety 
If police no longer used weapons and tactics previously connected to the military, there is little evidence that this would impact violent crime or officer safety, according to a new University of Michigan study.

How active shooter drills affect students
According to a new national poll by University of Michigan researchers, active shooter drills have a negative effect on students’ emotional health and yield questionable results.