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Brain injury expert begins role as interim director of the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science

July 3, 2016

Concussion researcher Stefan Duma fits his son Brock with a football helmet.

Duma Brock helmet
Stefan Duma, the Harry C. Wyatt Professor of Engineering, will serve for two years as interim director of the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science. Here Duma, an expert on concussion biomechanics and creator of the Virginia Tech Helmet Ratings, fits his son Brock with a football helmet.

Stefan Duma, the Harry C. Wyatt Professor of Engineering in Virginia Tech's College of Engineering, began his role as interim director of the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science July 1.

Duma, who is internationally recognized for his pioneering work in injury biomechanics and traumatic brain injury, will serve as interim director for two years. At the institute, which is known on campus as ICTAS, he will focus on fostering strategic research collaborations across campus, expanding educational opportunities in interdisciplinary research to undergraduate and graduate students, and building international partnerships.

Duma succeeds Roop L. Mahajan, the Lewis A. Hester Chair of Engineering, who had served as the institute’s executive director since 2006 and announced earlier this year that he would be stepping down.

“ICTAS has a strong track record of catalyzing creative, high-impact research and supporting both young and established faculty, and I am honored to continue the excellent programs Dr. Mahajan has developed,” Duma said. “I am looking forward to transitioning our activities to support the Beyond Boundaries and Destination Areas initiatives with the kind of cross-disciplinary collaboration where ICTAS has always excelled.”

Among many initiatives, Duma plans to increase the institute’s shared research spaces, where undergraduate, graduate, and faculty researchers from different disciplines can work together and exchange ideas. He will also develop experiential learning opportunities in interdisciplinary research across the Blacksburg campus, as well as in Roanoke and Northern Virginia. And the institute will continue to increase its global impact, deepening relationships with partners in India, Chile, Japan, and around the world.

Duma has served as the head of the Virginia Tech Wake Forest School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences since 2009, and of the department of biomedical engineering and mechanics since 2014.

“Not only has Stefan successfully led the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics and the Virginia Tech Wake Forest School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences from an administrative perspective, but has also been an instrumental leader in research,” said Don Taylor, acting dean of the College of Engineering. “With Stefan’s guidance, ICTAS will excel during this transitional period.”

During his tenure, both programs rose quickly in national rankings and sponsored research activity. The Virginia Tech Wake Forest School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences improved its national ranking more than any other comparable program in the country and tripled its research expenditures.

Over the past two years, the engineering science and mechanics program of the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics rose to fourth in the nation, while increasing research expenditures by 35 percent.

“His track record of exceptional success in research and leadership will be a great asset to the institute,” Mahajan said. “Under his guidance, the institute is well-positioned to play a key role in achieving world-wide recognition for Virginia Tech in interdisciplinary research.”

Duma’s landmark research in sports-related concussions and mild traumatic brain injury has led to development of the Virginia Tech Helmet Ratings, a five-star rating system for hockey and football helmets that gives athletes, coaches, and parents the information they need to choose helmets that best reduce concussion risk.

The founding director of the Center for Injury Biomechanics, Duma has also studied injuries to pregnant woman in car crashes, the biomechanics of eye injuries, the risk of upper-extremity injuries from the deployment of airbags, and the biomechanics of blast injuries suffered by the military.

Duma has received more than $45 million in external research funding from agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Transportation.

He also works with industrial sponsors, including Toyota, where he helps design airbags and seatbelts, and Hasbro, where he helps design Nerf toys and Super Soaker water guns. He has published more than 300 peer-reviewed articles.

A member of the Virginia Tech faculty since 2000, Duma received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee, a master’s degree from the University of Cincinnati, and a doctorate from the University of Virginia.

During Duma’s service as interim director of ICTAS, Pamela VandeVord, a professor of biomedical engineering and mechanics and the chair of the biomedical engineering program at the Virginia Tech Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences, will serve as the interim head of the department of biomedical engineering and mechanics.

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