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Stefan Duma named a Fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society

September 26, 2017

Stefan Duma helmet lab soccer headgear

duma helmet lab
Duma started the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab, where sport-specific impact testing has fueled the development of a five-star rating system for football and hockey helmets and driven the production of safer equipment. Duma, the Harry Wyatt Professor of Engineering, is expanding the rating system to other sports, including soccer.

Stefan Duma, the Harry Wyatt Professor of Engineering and interim director of the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science, has been named a Fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society, or BMES.

Duma is the first BMES Fellow at Virginia Tech. The award recognizes society members who have demonstrated exceptional achievements in biomedical engineering and a record of membership and participation in the society; fewer than 150 of the society’s more than 7,000 members have been selected for this honor.

“This year's class truly exemplifies what it means to be a BMES Fellow. In addition to conducting groundbreaking research, BMES Fellows are leaders in education, promoting diversity and supporting all fields of science,” BMES President Lori Setton said in a statement.

Duma’s internationally renowned research on impact biomechanics has opened new frontiers in the understanding and prevention of head and eye injuries and driven the development of safer equipment for sports, defense, the automotive industry, and consumer products.

Duma has authored 483 publications, including 144 journal papers and two books, and won more than $51 million in external funding from sources that include the NIH, NSF, DOD, DOT, FAA, and industry sponsors.  

In 2003 Duma became the first researcher to include wireless acceleration sensors in football player helmets to measure head impacts that result in concussions. Over the next 14 years, his characterization of head impact exposure in college, high school, middle school, and youth football led to national changes in football rules and regulations. In youth football alone, these changes have prevented an estimated 150 million head impacts per year.  

He has also facilitated a broader understanding of gender differences in the biomechanics of sports-related concussions through landmark studies on head impacts in women’s soccer and women’s lacrosse. That research is part of a $30 million research partnership between the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the United States Department of Defense, for which Duma serves as Virginia Tech’s principal investigator.  

Duma was also the founding director of the university’s Center for Injury Biomechanics, now the world’s largest injury biomechanics program with more than 60 students and staff. He recruited 10 primary faculty, designed the center’s 10,000-square-foot biomechanics lab, and secured state, federal, and private funding for the project. Through a partnership with the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, Duma expanded the center’s research to include military blast injuries, automobile safety devices, and high-rate tissue characterization.

One of Duma’s best-known projects is the Virginia Tech Helmet Ratings, which he released in 2011 in  collaboration with Steven Rowson, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering and mechanics. The five-star rating system was was the first tool to offer consumers quantitative information about how well a given helmet reduces concussion risk. Their test methods and rating system have spurred the development of safer designs for helmets for football, as well as hockey, which was added to the ratings in 2014.

“I feel incredibly honored to have been nominated as a BMES Fellow,” Duma said. “The society does a tremendous job of advancing a field that has really unparalleled potential to impact human health and well-being, and it has been a privilege to be involved. There are so many people in the organization doing inspiring work, and to be recognized this way by my peers is humbling.”

Duma’s service to BMES has included a seat on the editorial board of the Annals of Biomedical Engineering, the society’s flagship journal, since 2009. In that role, he has spearheaded a drive to increase the journal’s coverage of injury biomechanics, an initiative which has boosted both the journal’s academic citation metrics and the media coverage of its papers, leading to broader public recognition of the society and of biomedical engineering in general.

As a faculty member at Virginia Tech, Duma has been an enthusiastic advocate for student and faculty engagement in BMES. During his tenure as head of the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics in the College of Engineering, he actively encouraged and supported participation in the society’s annual conference. Virginia Tech is now a regular and prominent fixture at that event, and has set an example for increased investment by other universities.

Meanwhile, with Duma’s support and leadership, the university’s student chapter of BMES has grown significantly and has been consistently lauded by the society with a variety of honors and awards.

The 2017 BMES Fellows will be formally recognized Oct. 12 at an induction ceremony held during the BMES Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona.

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