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Home > Feature Articles >

The Virginia Engineer's Feature Articles

Sensors Monitor Athletes Inner and Outer Body For Safety

October, 2006

Biomechanics innovations ranging from a computer model of a pregnant driver to a head injury monitoring system for the Hokie football team have earned Virginia Tech researcher Stefan Duma a place among the world’s top young technology developers.
Duma, an associate professor of mechanical engineering and founding director of the Virginia Tech-Wake Forest Center for Injury Biomechanics, was named by Technology Review to the 2006 “TR35” roster of the top 35 innovators under the age of 35.

The editors of Technology Review, a publication of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the oldest technology magazine in existence, selected the TR35 honorees from among hundreds of nominations submitted by universities and industries around the world. Profiles of Duma and the other honorees will appear in the magazine’s September/October edition.

Prof. Duma and the other honorees in the 2006 TR35 class were honored during Technology Review’s Emerging Technologies Conference, recently held at MIT. Speakers included Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeffrey Bezos and AOL chairman and CEO Jonathan Miller.

An alumnus of the University of Tennessee, Prof. Duma completed his first automobile safety project, “An Experimental Study of Airbag Induced Injuries,” in 1996 as his master’s thesis at the University of Cincinnati and realized that the subject of human impact injuries was largely uncharted research territory. Since completing his Ph.D. at the University of Virginia and joining the Virginia Tech mechanical engineering faculty, he has laid the groundwork for a wide range of research.

One of his unique contributions to the field of injury biomechanics is the world’s first computer model of a pregnant driver. His inspiration came in 2001 when was his wife, Christine, was pregnant with their first child.

“If a pregnant driver is in a car accident, there are a number of increased injury risks,” Prof. Duma said. “The risk is primarily fetal mortality.” A study by his research group estimated that about 1,500 fetuses in the second and third trimesters are killed each year in automotive accidents.

Using Christine as the human model, Prof. Duma developed a computer model simulating a uterus and fetus at the seven-and-a-half month stage. The model is being used by automakers to test new restraint designs for pregnant drivers and also can be used to study injuries to pregnant women and fetuses in cases of domestic violence and falls.

Another first is a study of head impact injuries that began during Virginia Tech�